Nourishing in “the New Normal”
Many people are calling this time “the new normal.” It makes sense. We’ve made swift changes and begun adapting to them. Schools who have never offered non-traditional instruction have had to come up with a plan fast. People who’ve never worked from home are trying Zoom meetings and new project tracking processes. We’ve gone from people who had to touch and smell produce in person to crossing our fingers to get a grocery delivery spot.
My husband and I have joked that we’re suddenly living in a quaint European village. Everyone is baking bread, tending their gardens, riding bicycles, waving at neighbors, spending time having real phone conversations, getting into bed at a decent hour and generally staying out of trouble.
I’ve done nearly all of these things in the past four weeks and I can say I have never felt so...nourished. This crisis has made me realize how depleted I was before. As I’ve settled into a new routine, I can’t help but think about what parts of this I want to keep.
I saw a social media post that summed it up for me:
Nothing should go back to normal
Normal wasn’t working
If we go back to they way things were, we will have lost the lesson
May we rise up and do better.
How Do We Rebalance When Things Go Back to “Normal” ?
A friend shared an article that notes that the way we engage with a crisis can create tremendous “post-traumatic growth.” It describes how you must engage in “... active cognitive and behavioral processes to produce meaning from the event.” It goes on to detail three factors that can help you move forward. They include social support, a sense of something bigger than yourself, and a decision to accept what you can’t change while simultaneously making a bold determination that it won’t destroy you. I love that.
Because of this crisis, I have a clearer vision than ever of my support network. When this is over, I’ll remember having time for a two hour video call with dear friends in England or my father-in-law’s daily quiz “to keep the grandchildren occupied”, or the friends who texted out of nowhere to check in. These are the people who have my time from now on. Who has nourished you through this time? What friends and family were the ones who fed your soul when you needed it most?
Shattering Old Illusions
Has there ever been a more visceral lesson that there is something bigger than us? If I go to the grocery store, meet with friends or get my hair done - it matters. We’re doing this to flatten the curve, but when a whole society stays home for the sake of the whole, we get incredible results like animals roaming cities and drastically reduced pollution. The idea that our choices don’t make a difference was an illusion - and it has been forcefully shattered.
This is a bitter pill to swallow, but the lesson is clear: Our actions matter. Normal was not working. What does that mean for the future? How do we “rise up and do better.”
For that answer, we can look to Wendell Berry. This prescient retrospective summarized his philosophy beautifully: “...to imagine a good society as a great chain of being that links people and households and the earth into a single pattern. Through this image of wholeness, Berry asks moral and ecological questions in ways that conjoin what is often held apart: What harm am I involved in? What change in life could possibly redress it?”
I’m asking myself this question today. What harm did I knowingly or unknowingly do in the world? How can I reduce that moving forward? How can I nourish, rather than deplete myself, my community, and my planet? For me, it will come down to thoughtfulness before action. Before this I was running after so many things because they felt “necessary”. That idea of “necessary” has been completely obliterated to a list of a very few people, places and things. I’m asking myself more often:
“Can I reuse this?”
“Can someone else use this more than me?”
“Does this support my community?”
“Who does it hurt if I do this?”
These are incredibly powerful questions when you have the time and space to think about them.
The gift of “post-traumatic growth” is that we learn what we can accept and become brave enough to move forward. What felt too hard before has become a habit. It is up to us to accept the gift and make lasting changes that support ourselves and our community. If we can do that, we have the potential for phoenix-like emergence into exciting and brighter lives.