Contemplating a New Normal

As I watch the COVID-19 vaccination effort grow and see the number of people vaccinated increase as the number of new infections decreases, I’m growing cautiously hopeful.

I can begin imagining a day where social interaction will be more frequent and easier, where going out of my home won’t feel like a carefully orchestrated production.

Pandemic re-entry anxiety

But when I hear many people talk about “going back to normal,” I grow fearful and anxious because I don’t want to go back to that life.

It was exhausting for me. I spent so much energy commuting and performing and trying to fit in. In so many ways, the pandemic life at home has been easier on my body.

What I don't want

I don’t know exactly what my new normal, post-pandemic life should look like, but I do know that I want it to be different. I know many of the things I don’t want.

For example, I don’t want to commute every day. It was terrible on my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I didn’t know until I was home every day how hard the one-hour jolting of motoring, busing, taking the train, and dodging people twice a day ratcheted up my pain and fatigue.

No wonder I had to take so many sick days — I was wearing myself out just to get to my job, which I learned, I could do just as well from my desk at home.

Parts that I do want to keep

I also want to maintain flexibility in hours. When I need to take a break to rest, eat lunch, or do some physical therapy, I want to be able to do that.

I don’t want to be tied to a desk for a strict period of hours. The work still gets done but, with some reasonable flexibility, I can also take better care of my body.

And as much as I love my friends and family, I don’t want daily in-person meet-ups. I want fewer in-person demands on my time so that I travel about less and have more rest time. I love them and want to stay in touch, but I don’t want to exhaust myself as much going to and fro.

The old normal was wearing me down

Although I knew it before (and didn’t want to admit it), I was way overstretched before the pandemic. And, my body suffered for it.

When I was literally forced to stay home and slow down, it was a huge realization. I just can’t go back to how it was.

Focusing on what's most important to me

I want to do less and focus more on what’s most important to me. I don’t want to stretch and exhaust myself performing to try to please others and satisfy arbitrary rules or expectations.

What is more important: quantity or quality? Well, I have realized that less is truly more. I can’t sustain myself on anything else or I will truly wear my body out.

Choosing a new normal

I think my big fear is that people won’t understand when the world re-opens; everyone will call me out to meet or work or what have you. And I will start having to say no or that I need to do it on video or I need to do this another time — there will be confusion and anger.

It may not be as bad as I fear, but I do know there will be people who won’t understand. I hope to explain that my previous life was an exhausting performance. That I was sacrificing my health in order to fit in and meet expectations. Now I am choosing a different way.

Living more on my own terms

My goal is to live more on my terms, on my real amount of energy.

I don’t want to fake it anymore. I don’t want to pretend that I have energy and abilities that I really don’t have (did I ever?).

It’s my hope that some people will understand and that we can create a new normal that’s better for me and for other people who need a slower, quieter life.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.