The New Normal



The new normal.

Will it ever be normal?

It’s anything but normal.

I hope it’s not here to stay, this new normal.

I don a mask and armed with my grocery list, I march into Publix. I double and triple check to make sure I am using the appropriate door and then I wait for a cart, while it is sanitized before my very eyes.

Once inside, I spend the entire time looking to see if I’m headed the right way down the one-way aisles. Am I following the rules correctly? (There are so many rules now.) I rarely look up.

I hold up each item, trying to survey it despite the homemade mask obscuring part of the view. I feel it: the mask. I see it in my peripheral. It’s hot. It’s distracting. I can’t focus.

Feeling simultaneously self-conscious and judgmental toward those not staying six feet back or wearing a mask, I make my way to the checkout. I chat, as best I can, with the cashier. But that, too, takes more concentration than usual because we’re both wearing masks and a plexiglass shield stands between us.

And then, once I load up my groceries, there’s an entire hand sanitizer routine that follows. (If I’m being honest, the hand sanitizer routine was part of the norm before COVID-19 made it the popular thing to do.)

This simple trip to the store is anything but simple. It’s a trip I look forward to all week and, simultaneously, dread. All this togetherness time at home is draining and I jump at the chance to escape. But then I have to go out — because all these people occupying my home need to eat — and I’m exhausted at the very thought. It’s the pandemic paradox. One grocery trip out and I’m ready to spend another week in quarantine. Who would’ve thought?

Emboldened, I did make another quick stop at Trader Joe’s. I stood outside on my X, enjoying the nice weather and trying to smile with my eyes at the others waiting near me.

Again I say: It’s not normal. It’s just weird.

I wonder what parts of our new normal are here to stay and what will be abandoned when the threat of COVID-19 lessens. The thing I most look forward to going away is the masks. I miss seeing the smiles of strangers and familiar faces.

What normalcy do you miss the most from your life pre-COVID-19?

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Kate Rhea
Kate is a self proclaimed news geek who has worked in radio, on the air and behind the scenes, for the last 17 years. She and her husband moved to Columbia in 2011 with the intent of staying just five years...but they never ended up leaving. Originally from upstate NY, Kate has also lived in Chattanooga and Los Angeles. (Notice the theme? She moved away from the snow and never wants to deal with it again.) Kate stays home with her three children and homeschools the oldest two. Her work from home gig includes editing audio for a radio program that airs worldwide. She is active in her church, is passionate about orphan care and will never turn down chocolate. When stressed, you can find her baking or crafting while singing along to the Hamilton soundtrack.


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