Fumbling Around for a New Normal

by Tom Swift

Yesterday, I admit it, your honor, I touched my own forehead. Now, it was in the middle of the afternoon … I was trying to focus while on the phone at work … a moment of mild stress … and I bent over and rested on my elbow on my desk and put my hand right across my face, just above my brows, like it was nothing at all.

I’m sorry.

I didn’t mean to do it.

I swear.

Seriously, this virus really has a way of bringing out a person’s neurotic side.

I’m not OCD. But I am OCD-curious.

You have to learn a new way to scratch your nose, for example. Here I thought I had that covered when I was four months old.

You have to wash your hands the right way. There is a right way and let’s go now to the video. As you can see, pretend you are preparing to perform open-heart surgery. Now do this once an hour. Or more frequently if you, say, openly touch the microwave in the break-room or finger your phone after it buzzes unexpectedly.

You need to stay home. You you need to practice social distancing. You need to help flatten the curve.

All of which is to suggest that you have some control here. You have the power to stave off — or at least significantly reduce the risk of the spread of the contagion. Do this for you as well as for the kind old lady that wants to stop you on the sidewalk and pet your dog. What you do affects her and millions of others who are vulnerable.

Of course, you can do everything the CDC is asking of us and still get Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Or you can be one of those boobs huddling in bars on beaches in Miami and not.

We have some control. But by no means not total control.

(I am, by the way, grateful for the men and women who spend their lives trying to solve problems like those caused by the current pandemic. This is one time when we should heed what we are told –by scientists, if not all politicians –knowing that being perfect isn’t possible — not for us and not for the experts — but that perfection isn’t necessary to do a whole lot of good.)

For those of us, which seems like most of us, trying to do some good at this time, I think it’s important to remember that the process of learning a new normal is draining. We acknowledge, as we should, the stress of potential illness — a new-to-us disease — to ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors. But’s also worth noting the layer of energy-zapping stress building below the surface as we become conscious of actions we have not before needed to think much about. It’s tiring finding a new way to be. I don’t know about you but by the end of the day I am ready to sleep.

A man in Minnesota palms his forehead and someone on the other side of the world gets sick? Not sure if the butterfly metaphor works here or not. But no doubt our actions have a new level of responsibly attached to them. And that can wear a person out.