Do we have to go back to normal?

My tin foil hat photoshoot

This blog was written pre new lockdown measures, please bear with me, but the sentiment is the same.

In the wise words of Zadie Smith when asked about the pandemic, “I don’t think anyone sane wants to go back to normal”

The idea of a  ‘new normal’ makes my soul shiver. I’ve never liked the term ‘normal, it feels so limiting, confining and quite frankly, boring. Yet it’s a term I’m hearing again and again amidst the backdrop of this pandemic. I can understand why, it’s a very confusing and often bleak time for us humans. Normal can be seen as a comfort, normal is safe, secure and not what we’re experiencing right now.

It has felt like we’re under pressure to move on, even though we are very much still in a pandemic. I was very pleased to be told by Kirstie Allsop to ‘get back to work’, daughter of a Baron who clearly understands what it is to be a ‘normal’ person. 

People’s reactions to this pandemic have fascinated me, including my own. It turns out I’m far more risk averse than I thought. I will recklessly cycle through San Francisco at rush hour following a man I don’t know, but I won’t risk mine or others health during a global pandemic.

UK Gov’s fantastic approach

The UK Government, like dear old Kirstie, really wanted us to get back to ‘old normal’, I’m thankful to be a Welsh citizen where health is devolved and we follow a plan for relaxing restrictions that I find more measured and sensible. 

A consumer focused marketing ‘gem’ from the UK Government was the ‘Eat Out to Help Out, (snigger) scheme which offers a 50% reduction on meals for diners for a limited time period. The announcement was accompanied by a crap PR stunt as Chancellor Rishi Sunak was filmed waiting tables ‘at Wagamamas in London looking every inch the idiot.

In being told to ‘spend, spend, spend’ to boost the economy we must face the possibility that we’re risking the health of ourselves and others. This amplified by the overcrowding of bars and people returning from holiday and not bothering to quarantine.

Even though Wales has taken a steadier approach but I still feel anxious, a bit vulnerable and scared of what the future holds. I fear we’re nowhere near over the worst of it, infact local lockdowns are now in place and Cardiff is landlocked by it!

The old normal was rubbish

Don’t @ me, it was and I’m glad it’s over.

I’m not sure how conscious I ever was, we would scurry around, proud to be ‘busy, so busy’, ram down a terrible £3 meal deal, be stuck in traffic, forget to text back, check instagram and see your frenemy has popped to Santorini the weekend, forcing us to wail ‘I WANT TO GO TO SANTORINI’ and immediately book a short break to Santorini and buy an ethically dubious sarong from TopShop, force ourselves out on the weekend (and put it on social media because otherwise it didn’t happen) because heaven forbid we rest, we burn out, then start again.. What’s the definition of insanity?

This pandemic has forced us to slow down and I for one am glad. 

Since lockdown restrictions came into place I’ve heard birds sing loudly and clearly. Their song is like a symphony to freedom. 

I started exercising again, at the start of lockdown slow but methodical runs took me down the middle of roads, I shunned the pavements because there was hardly any traffic. In Cardiff, air pollution dropped by 20% during shutdown.

I became determined to support local, favouring fruit and veg boxes over pre packaged sterile lettuces from chain supermarkets.

I did my best to support friends with their businesses and charities in need of aid. I practically stopped using the car and struck up conversations with friends, old and new. I also donned a tin foil hat and did a ‘fashion’ shoot in the garden but the less said about that the better.

Kindness has bloomed, I’ve seen it all around me, in actions, deeds and words and my heart grows fuller.

I feel the most positive attribute the pandemic has given us is time, which to me is a precious commodity. What a luxury and privilege to be bored, to have ‘nothing’ to do and nowhere to go. What you rue now, you will miss when it’s no longer available to you. 

It has forced us to be present, which I know for many people (my self included) is not a pleasant place to be. We want distractions and breaks from our reality but honestly, sitting with yourself and your feelings is truthful and human.

Time is a gift

Time was one of the biggest factors to me becoming freelance, I longed for freedom and the ability to create a day in my image and not that of someone else. My idea of productivity is not the 9 – 5 and I’m not entirely sure who that timeframe actually serves.

My hope is that businesses and organisations have seen that working remotely and different hours is still productive and useful. A happy and healthy employee is likely to be someone who has some autonomy over their time and can actually achieve a work/life balance.

Ultimately I don’t want to go back to a world where capitalism is king, even the rich have struggled with lockdown, this is the power of what a virus can do – strip you down to your very humanity. You may have a Lamborghini parked in the driveway and 200 acres but you are as vulnerable to a health crisis as most other people. 

The world collectively gasped when Tom Hanks announced he had coronavirus, “Not Woody?!” we exclaimed, but yes, a rich, powerful white man got the virus.

If we were to go back to normal, it would mean we will have learnt nothing from this experience which is quite frankly depressing. Kindness, flexibility and more freedom should surely prevail over a life lived less consciously. 

Let’s start how we began, with the wisdom of Zadie Smith, “I was living thoughtlessly, I want to remain in conciousness“.

Amen.

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