Friday, June 5, 2020

Normal Feels So Far Away

The things that look and act normal right now just feel strange. 
The county where I live went Green on May 29th. My husband is back to work four days a week at his dental practice.  My daughter is on Actual Summer Vacation.  From where I sit, everything seems like it's back to the way it should be. 

Or does it?

Back in March, when everything shut down, and then in April when everything started looking so hopeless that I restarted this blog, I thought I'd be celebrating BIG by the time we got to whatever Reopening was going to be.  I remember raging against the closures, raging against the virus, but maintaining some hope that it was just a Pause, a Reset, and we'd all emerge wiser and more appreciative than we were when we went into this.

If that's where we're headed, apparently, we have some journeying left to do.  It isn't as though we're butterflies emerging from a cocoon, better than we were before we all went into Pandemic Purgatory.  I've watched so many things fall apart.  Our hearts are as hellbent and bitter as they ever were, and we're lashing out in fear and anger.  

And it's like many of us are opening our eyes and realizing that the people driving this bigass struggle bus are all drunk and senile, and it's quite possible that they're going to drive us right off a cliff before this is all over.  

All of that aside, because I really don't feel qualified to talk any deeper about that subject, I'm not celebrating things opening back up like I thought I would, when everything shut tight two months ago.  It still feels like we're in Purgatory.  We can't just hop in a vehicle and go somewhere and make a fun day of it.  We have to wear masks and the oddest things in stores aren't on shelves.  Would you believe that on Saturday, I spent an hour in Target looking for a one-or-two-gallon plastic pitcher?  Like a simple Rubbermaid one.  There wasn't one to be found in the store.  At the time, it didn't make sense to me... why were there no basic plastic pitchers?  And then I remembered... they all come from China, I bet.  Things from China are held up and backed up.  And there were a lot more shelves empty besides where there would have been plain plastic pitchers.  It wasn't panic-buying.  The water's just not running through the supply-pipe yet.

What a dumb thing to sort of lose my mind over, but I did, just the same.  Not in the store.  I cheerfully went around, mask and all, and gathered up the other things I ran in for, seriously sticking to the confines of a hand-held basket instead of a cart.  And when the cashier said she'd take my basket, I chirped that I really appreciated that, because in Life Before, I never knew what I was supposed to do with the shopping basket.  It seemed like a pleasant moment, anyway. 

I went into Target by myself, though.  My little shoppin' shadow Zoe wanted no part of going into that store with me.  She didn't want to put on her mask and opted to stay out in the truck with her dad.  I missed her walking along with me, asking me to take her to the toy department, even though I bought her an LOL set over at Sams Club not an hour before I ventured into Target.  

Zoe and I would go on lots of little shopping trips and run-outs in Summer Vacations Past.  And we always had car shows and a vacation to look forward to.  Everything, everything, everything has been put on hold until 2021.  Summer still feels like Pandemic Purgatory.  I'm not being depressed or negative about it, but I am sitting here with a furrowed brow.

Here's why.  In the afternoon yesterday, I was walking outside with my dog, and I looked at that little red maple in the picture.  It's exactly the same as it's been, every summer since we planted it in the yard in the spring of 2016.  The sun was slanting high in the sky the way it does at Afternoon Bus Time right at the beginning of the school year, and I got to thinking about all the Afternoon Bus Times in kindergarten, first, and second grades.  

For a moment, I had a breath of elation that come August, the buses will return to the Bing, and things will go back to Normaler Normal.

But then I remembered there's talk of a Second Wave.  Tinfoil Hat April thinks of that as General Pandemic, as opposed to Primary Pandemic, but maybe there's nothing to that.  It has been easy to let the imagination run away with a kid, though, that maybe it wasn't just about a virus.  I got to panicking, seriously, about what if we start school and then we have to close everything down again? 

They say this is "New Normal."  I reject "New Normal."  It's worse than Old Normal was.  At least for now.  It's hard to stay optimistic when it feels like you're living in one of those weird dreams where you swear you're awake and you can see your surroundings just the way they are, but you can't move, or there's something just off enough to alert you to the fact that you're dreaming.

I think we'll get there, Friends.  I don't think we'll stick around in New Normal forever. I think we have a lot of stuff we have to get out of our systems.  It's probably going to take some time for us to get back to ourselves after everything.

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