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In my volunteer work with Hospice, we refer to the life we live after our loved one has passed as “The New Normal.” I am hearing the same phrase used for the life we are living now as we shelter in place due to the coronavirus and for our lives going forward. I think it’s appropriate, as there is much to grieve over. In addition to all the people who have died, I am also losing my old lifestyle – one that was varied, rich, and scare-free.

As I was walking to our local feed store the other day with my mask in place, I passed others with masks on as well. We greeted each other, which was not always the case before we sheltered in place. We’ve learned to talk a little louder so that we sound less muffled. We’re using more hand gestures to communicate what our facial expressions can no longer say. When I arrived at the store, everyone was wearing masks, and we were giving each other room to move about so that we could all keep our social distance. Basically we were showing care and respect for ourselves, each other, and for the policies set forth by local leaders. It was beautiful in that way.

It is also sad for me. On the walk home, I wondered when I would feel comfortable having friends in my home again or going to parties. When would I go out to a restaurant for a meal, hang out at a coffee shop with a good book, go to the movies, or attend live events? What about vacations and travel? When will I feel comfortable gallivanting about in other states and countries? A lot of what I did for fun is now unavailable to me. As for my work, a hands-on healing modality, when will I invite my clients and students back? I felt the grief of the lifestyle that I have lost. Who knows when or if I will return to that lifestyle completely. Now I am faced with my New Normal: a life without all the experiences and carefree nature of my former life.

I did have someone come out to my property last week to give me some landscaping advice. We spent two hours together, wearing our masks and keeping our social distance. Normally, I would have given him a hug goodbye…or at least a handshake or pat on the back. Our smiles would have communicated so much. Instead, I found myself awkwardly doing a sort of “Namaste Bow” and speaking words of thanks. That needs to be enough in this New Normal. Many years ago, my nephew worked in a country where the women covered their faces. Only their eyes were visible. He said that they communicated so very much just with their eyes. This is what we will learn to do as well.

To honor my own beliefs about this virus, I’ll be practicing safe distancing, mask wearing, and sanitizing even when those around me are not. Before I invite someone to my home or go to another’s home, I’ll need to inquire as to their philosophy about the virus. If they are utilizing the same precautions as I am, then we can get together. I won’t be going to parties or anywhere where people are gathered. This feels so insular – not in concert with how I like to live my life. But until I feel that I am safe – and keeping others safe – I just can’t be cavalier about this. I understand that our county’s rate of active infection and deaths are very low. I will watch and see how other countries, states, counties, and cities are doing after relaxing the shelter in place protocol. If I see that the risk is indeed low, I will modify some of my policies. Until then, I will live my New Normal – being more insular, but giving myself comfort in knowing that I’m doing what is right for me. I look forward to the day when I can join the rest of my fellow humans in gathering, celebrating, hugging, and sharing life.

I know that not everyone feels or believes the way I do regarding my New Normal. I know that some – perhaps many- feel that their lives will go back to the way they were before, once everything opens back up. In fact, their lives are already starting to return to their old normal - no need for masks, distancing, or other precautions. For a variety of reasons, they believe they are not at risk for contracting this virus.

DESIGN - MAKE THIS A CALL OUT – LARGER FONT than the rest    This is my New Normal as well – knowing that others will have a much different mindset and lifestyle than I will. And yet, I need to not be intimidated or embarrassed for living my New Normal. This is where tolerance comes in. I cannot condone those who are not following the protocol, but I am choosing not to be angry or to belittle them.

We are of two mindsets: the virus is here, it is harmful, and we need to take radical precautions vs. the virus is no different than the flu and herd immunity will save (most) of us. In the end, we probably will never know who is right. But what is right for me is to continue to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, be loving, gentle and kind, wish everyone good health, and, at the same time, live the New Normal in the way that makes most sense to me. May we all be well.

During our shelter-in-place order, Joyce is now helping clients via telephone. Joyce Leonard is a Life Coach, Reiki Practitioner/Teacher, and Hypnotherapist, living in Ben Lomond, with a passion for helping people live awesome lives. www.SantaCruzReikiWorks.com

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