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.

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