The New Un-Normal
Hey it’s not like I haven’t been working on things.
What things, you say?
What changes, you say?
Well for one I bought a truck.
Nashville didn’t exactly ‘require it’ but ya know. . .
And then I sold the Honda.
And the old convertible.
I know. This last one stings a little for me too.
But hey — 22 years.
That’s my longest serious relationship.
And not bad for an automobile. Especially one built BEFORE the Summer of Love. February 1966 to be exact.
Besides, I’m trying to grow.
I think it took most of us by surprise
That’s right. Stranger Things. That perfectly cast came-from-nowhere NF series about a missing kid and his frantic Winona Ryder-of-a-mom trying to find him in a small town in Georgia in the 1980's.
I haven’t watched it since but man that first season was good.
So what does that have to do with moving to Nashville and buying a truck?
The Upside Down
You’ll remember it was the dark world of monsters in Stranger Things. Inside the walls, under the forest, inside the lab, you get the picture. And we all got the picture. It was an upside down world, where the rules and — in this case — safety and law, of the modern world, didn’t exist. Couldn’t be counted on.
It was the feeling a kid might get without a dad.
Without protection. Without a mom who could be present. In other words, it was a great metaphor, and the latchkey kid phenomenon of the 70’s and 80’s meant it was incredibly perfect for the time in which it was set.
March 17, 2020
Don’t worry. I’m not going to bore you with a recant of the past year, we all lived it. Albeit in different scenarios and work situations.
But regardless of whether you viewed the “stay home, stay safe” mantra as strangely close to propaganda (I didn’t until Mancini Sleepworld started telling me a discounted box spring would help me get through ‘these challenging times,’ along with a host of other businesses on almost the same day), you’d have to have been checked out or too checked in to not notice “something” was awry.
Of course (for the millionth time) I wasn’t the only one who noticed:
Funny right? Or chilling?
But even if you didn’t have a nagging feeling to go re-listen to the original War of The Worlds, you certainly remember the first time you heard the term.
The New Normal.
What does the new normal mean, you thought? As did everyone.
Hey it was a fair question.
Would it be like The New Coke?
Taste great but fizzle out just as quickly?
Or is the new normal closer to the Upside Down?
And can we choose?
Or maybe you didn’t think about it that much. Regardless — you probably quickly understood a few things — along with most everyone in the westernized world:
1. The idea of “what if we never go back” entered your mind.
2. Maybe going back — ie.. the “old normal” wasn’t so great (lots of truth to this actually).
3. Why are there suddenly so many who want to tell us what “normal” will look like, going forward, ie.. maybe my normal isn’t their normal?
(After all didn’t Kurt Cobain actually just want a “normal” life?)
4. We’re going to have to wait to find out. Ie.. would two weeks to flatten the curve really be two weeks? Would a reopening be for all restaurants or just some? What about the street protests? The crowds were somehow invisible to our epidemiologists or impervious to the airborne virus?
Seriously? These were our options?
No surprise then that my response was simple:
Was this the worst?
At least the absurdity of this first idea -cardboard faces in place of actual humans — was so painfully silly I don’t even have to comment further.
The other attempts at a new normal — what were they?
Let’s quickly run through (see how even revisiting them is annoying):
- Social bubbles.
It’s funny how quickly people forget, but just one year ago if you wanted to see your friends in the summer of 2020 you were instructed that would only be possible if they were part of a “social bubble,” a bubble you would create and keep going forward.
Part of the new normal.
- Hugging. Yep there were actually LOTS of articles and opinions educating you on when (and if) you might be able to safely hug your loved ones. Here the Today show chimes in, and struggles to not actually “order” you either way: https://www.today.com/health/older-adults-covid-19-risk-it-ok-hug-your-grandchild-t188795
- NBA bubble. Yep even the high paid players of the NBA had a bubble. And (shocker alert), they didn’t like it. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2020/09/07/nba-players-grapple-with-mental-health-inside-nba-bubble/5742849002/
- Remote learning. Good for a few. Failing grades for many. Tragic for some.
- Ditto remote work. Good for a few. Failing grades for many. Tragic for some.
New Normal Final Scorecard:
Cardboard fans? Fun for about a week. Mostly stunk.
Hugging? Maybe should be left up to each family (esp. to people who have made it to 80, 90, 100 + . . pretty sure they’ve figured out how to survive).
NBA bubble? Ratings down, players hated it.
Remote learning? Good for upper class families, lower grades for many. Tragic for a few.
Remote work? Again, good for some, not possible for others. Maybe a hybrid version emerges.
Will the new normal include birthdays?
I went to a baseball game for the first time in.. maybe three years. And you know what? It was fun. It was Steve-O’s 50th birthday.
But it wasn’t normal.
And that’s when I realized the dilemma. Sitting there in our club level seats, watching the same talented players, but looking down at the vaccinated sections, right next to the unvaxx sections, watching the dance cam during the seventh inning stretch, trying to sing “take me out to the ballgame” like I would have sung it before March 17, 2020..
It wasn’t awful. But it wasn’t right. Something was off.
It was. . .
Is it the new normal?
Is it a slap in the face to the old normal?
Is it The Upside Down?
For some of my detractors here’s a reminder of my thoughts regarding our collective health — my very first hypothesis was “maybe we were sick long before the virus.”
So where does that leave us?
Can’t go back.
Can’t go forward, not with a split reality.
And yet life is asking us to go on.
To seek adventure.
To give birth.
To celebrate a friends’ birthday with 40 ish others — some friends who go back 30 years — or more.
In other words?
To go on living.
It’s gonna be an un-normal normal.
But of course, remember who decides what normal is –
And lest you get depressed at the state of the world — remember there’s nothing truly new under the sun.
How fitting that Solomon’s poem starts off talking about generations:
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
but the earth remains forever.
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be among those who come after.
- Ecclesiastes 1:4–11
I take some small comfort in the things that are constant. Things that don’t change:
To wrap here’s a 50 year old song that’s strangely relevant today (and this video version is awesome):
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up world a shook up world except for Lola. . . La-la-la-la-lollla
I guess that’s it.
Maybe since I never knew “normal” the idea of a new normal was repellant from the get-go.
With a dad like J.O? Yeah normal never entered the building.