When on the road going back to normal, with catching up in mind, as if trying to find the old furniture, the old clothes, the old shoes waiting in the cupboard, we may find that the place is not there anymore. What happened to normal? We will feel cheated. Normal was not waiting for us.
Maybe that normal was not really normal, we will say, scratching our heads in consolation. We had smelled one or two abnormalities, after all. Maybe that is why.
Much better to put the energy into shaping what people often call ‘a new normal’ (a linguistic irritation that wants to be smart). A new house, the new reality, the new game, new space in the world. Better to shape a future, now that we can, than being given one later, one that we didn’t want.
This would be terrible: that we were distracted finding our way back to normal and we missed the fork in the road to that future. How did that happen? We did not notice, busy as we were travelling the old road back and imagining what normal had kept safe for us.
But normal was not waiting for us. How inconsiderate.
Back to normal is for true survivors. These are the only ones for whom normal is waiting. Normal will be kind to them. Because they need a space to breathe to keep going. We must respect them big time.
But, if you are anything like me, we are in part pseudo-survivors, maybe with a bit of impostor syndrome. We feel a bit guilty for occupying the same surviving space as the real ones.
It’s a crowded place around here.
Those who were never under any threat other than in their minds.
Those who were under some threat but they could control it.
Those who won a battle that they never fought.
Those who usually defend themselves against no attackers.
Those who suffered unsettlement, disruption, discomfort, even loss, but are still standing.
Those who were a bit scared, a bit worried, a bit shocked.
People like me.
A mixed bag. Who am I to catalogue?
We need to feed-forward. Not feed-back. We don’t need a thermostat. We need a compass. Move North or East or West or South, but never back to normal. Because normal is not waiting for us.
The so called ‘new normal’ (this thing is sticky) is for creators, makers, builders. Not for decorators of the same old room. Not going back to the pot of paint to finish the ceiling, that was left behind. And, when thinking about it, that dark blue was really horrible anyway.
For some of us, we can say that we are not on a Sabbatical.
We are not working from home. We are working at home.
We are not on pause.
We are not waiting for a reality that sits in the past.
We are not in suspension mode.
We are not in rehearsal for when we are back to the streets, kids back to school, when we meet again in the office, when flights take off once more.
There is no if, there is no green room, there is no intermission, there is no when. It’s now and next. And, you know what? I am beginning to see all sorts of possibilities!
Once in a generation we have a lot of blank space on the canvas. (And your chance to drop that dark blue, for goodness sake).
Granted, we don’t know what this terra incognita truly looks like, but one thing is for sure, it’s Hernán Cortés all over, the ships are burning in the harbour and there is only one way, up the hills to explore and build.
Because normal is not waiting for us.
Like the Barbarians of Cavafy, (waiting for them, dressed in their best robes, preparing to impress them, but they never came, what are we going to do now – he says – those Barbarians were a kind of solution), this lock down is ‘the solution’ to our extreme ability to postpone.
But normal never waits. We only have its photograph.