The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. The impacts have reached so far into our lives in areas we never thought we’d see. An entire system? Shutdown. Our livelihood? Forever changed. The future? Unknown.

Never in our lives would we thought we’d see something like this, even if scientists have predicted it before. The last time something like this happened, it was the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. That was something people in my grandparents lived through or were born shortly after. In my age, most of our grandparents have passed on so we’ve never heard their stories. Now we’re dealing with something like it.

No one knows exactly when this pandemic will end but one thing is for sure. At some point, all of us will be returning to our lives. The question I want to pose to you is not what are we going to be returning to, rather, what do you want to return to?

This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for awhile. I see a desire for some people to get back to normal and it’s starting to happen. Here in the United States, some states have been slowly beginning to reopen with restrictions, such as my current state of Nevada. Even recently, I’ve noticed more people out on my walks and hikes. While I understand a want or even need to return to some sense of normalcy, I really think we need to go beyond what that normal was to truly to get the best out of this restart.

For starters, we aren’t going back to normal. The normal we had is no more. So much will change because of the pandemic. What we’ll be entering into is a new normal. That new normal will take some time to adjust to. I think about how the US looked pre and post 9/11 (I was in high school at the time and I can still remember that day).

While we’re not experiencing another 9/11, the coronavirus has definitely attacked our current modern way of life, which is why we can’t go back to normal. So what are we going to return to…?

Quarantine Observations

Since we’ve all be quarantined, I’ve noticed some common themes mainly through social media. I see challenges… challenges all over the place! I see people’s constant state of panic and fear. I see people constantly posting about the virus, conspiracy theories, and so much more. But through all that noise, I’ve also noticed how many people are very afraid to be with their own thoughts. I’ve noticed how many people are very afraid of change, how many people are trying to ignore their feelings and emotions by staying busy. This is very unhealthy.

If you were fortunate to be in a safe space during quarantine, you may have notice your mind beginning to wander. You may have noticed your mind going back to other things like the “dark side” of your mind to old traumas and triggers. While it seems frustrating, it’s actually a natural process. A wandering mind is a natural mind. Our brains actually weren’t designed for constant stimulation or busyness. We need time off to restore a healthy brain function. Because we’ve had so much downtime, our brains are bringing things up. This is normal.

It’s also healthy because the things that are coming up are things that we need to heal and have been dormant for too long. The bigger why this is important is that it helps us to figure out what we want. This is critical in the creation of a new normal and one that’s needed right now more than ever.

Business As Usual Or Create A New Normal?

First off, what is normal…? Really think about that. What is normal to you may not be normal to others. Think about what culture was like from the 80s to the 90s. Not to bore you with that but think about what we consider normal.

What we call normal is what I call “business as usual.” It’s people waking up to go to work, driving their cars, hopping on planes, going shopping, maybe going to a bar or club and so many more things we’re used to seeing. Sounds like something we all would like, right? It does, until you think about the bigger picture. The “what is” rather than what we think it is.

The jobs people work, many people dislike. It’s estimated that 70% of people do not like their jobs and that’s regardless of education level. The cars and planes create mass amounts of pollution that damage the environment. The shoppers, bar and club hoppers are filled with people who, while they may look like they’re having a good time, are highly insecure and hurting inside, using these things as tools for escapism. Not sure about you but this doesn’t sound healthy.

Many of these things people complained about before being quarantined. Now you see them trying to rush back to them. But why are you trying to rush back to something you didn’t like before? Are you that afraid of something different that you’re willing to run back into an unhealthy environment?

Creating A New Normal Starts With You

Dr. Gabor Mate, a therapist in Western Canada, coined the phrase ‘The Myth of Normal.’ It states that there’s a belief that some people are dealing with mental health issues and then there’s everyone else, when really, everyone is dealing with something whether they’ve been diagnosed or not. How does this apply to this situation? When you apply it from the micro to the macro, it’s not much different. In fact, it’s the exact same.

It’s not just people who are sick, it’s everything that sick. Our planet is sick. Our system is sick. Our thought processes, belief systems, and collective consciousness is sick. A return to normal is a return to sickness. That sickness at some point, will bring us right back to where we are now.

Just because it was familiar doesn’t mean it worked.

I don’t believe that this is a time to jump back into the saddle and ride back into the office, go back to mindless shopping, head out to salons and spa dates so we can return to business as usual. I truly feel this is an opportunity to create a new normal, one that truly works for everyone. One that serves and feeds people’s souls. One that people worldwide are genuinely excited to participate in without having to be coerced into. I believe that this kind of a new normal is necessary and long overdue.

The new normal that we really want isn’t going to come from any government, any politician or bureaucratic process. It’s going to come from you. This means that the most important thing you can do is to know thy self. This means you really need to start asking yourself challenging questions. It means you have to get involved in healing and resolving your traumas. A new normal means a new you. So ask yourself: Who are you…?

This isn’t the time to run from yourself and into a social media challenge that feels good for 2 seconds. It’s a time to genuinely dive deep into you. Get to know you, all the good and bad parts of yourself (there really isn’t a bad part of you, just unhealed trauma as, you aren’t broken). Get intimate with yourself and learn you.

Some important questions you can ask yourself right now is: What do you want? What do you want to experience? How do you want to feel? What do you need? Why is this important? These questions are only the surface of things we need to ask but they can be a starting point to something greater.

A New Normal Is Overdue But Won’t Be Easy

Just because we have an opportunity to create a New Normal doesn’t mean that it’ll be an easy transition. For many of us, we’ve become accustomed to how things work we aren’t willing to change. Most of us are very attached to the familiar even if we do want change. I think back to a scene in The Matrix. When Morpheus was training Neo in one of the programs, he said that people are so enamored, so dependent on the system, that they will fight to defend it. Don’t just look to your neighbor or to the people with a certain political affiliation or philosophy, this is you too. It’s all of us. No one is exempt from this.

“You have to understand that most of these people are not ready to be unplugged and many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.”

While we say and truly do want something different, at least the familiar, as messed up as it is, provides some comfort. But that comfort is a trap. In order for us to bring the new normal we really want, we have to be willing to let go of what we know and have, and be open to not only a new possibility, but the possibility of it being greater that what we have. We have to be willing to take a leap of faith into that unknown. I know that phrase may not sit well with everyone, but no change is made without it.

The (Extremely Frightening) Leap Of Faith

The next few months are going to be very important. As more states and countries begin to open up, the return to business as usual is going to be very tempting. Most people will do just that, go back to what they were doing, even if they complain about it. If you’re reading this, know you don’t have to. Yes, you may have a job, a family to provide for, friends to reconnect with, activities and you missed dearly, but you may not have the same relationship with them.

One of my friends recently said that, while she doesn’t miss the old normal, the quarantine showed her that she didn’t realize what she was missing. She was able to run her business from home and spend more time with her family. I’ve seen so many things from other people. People who’ve taken time to cook more, spend time with family, get in shape, or simply rejuvenate. These new relations are going to clash with your old one, so be prepared for a shock to your nervous system.

It’s ok if you don’t want to return to business as usual. It’s ok that you don’t want to go back to normal. Why should you? What has the old normal really done for you? You don’t have to buy into business as usual. You don’t have to buy into the culture of busyness. You don’t have to buy into working yourself to death. And you don’t have to buy into the collective conscious about how things are supposed to work or be run.

For as many bad that has come from this pandemic, there are a number of beautiful and amazing things we’ve seen. We’ve seen the air quality improve around the planet. We’ve seen nature show up in cities without lots of traffic. The water quality has improved in so many areas in the world. It’s also had positive effects on us. We’ve seen some of the worst… and best in people. We saw people share food, prayers, music, assistance, and so much more. It’s shown us how much humanity we still have and it’s not lost.

Collectively, this has given us time to rest, rejuvenate, and reflect. It’s given us the opportunity to challenge what we believe, or think we believe. It’s given us time to think about what we really want and what we need. If you were able to have time off and in a safe space, these gifts were beautiful. The sad part is that people had to lose their lives and livelihood in order for us to realize how much things didn’t work but they did. What we choose to do moving forward is up to us. The frightening leap of faith into a new normal is going to require constant rest, rejuvenation, reflection, and community connection, as we can’t do this alone.

In my opinion, we never had a normal. What we had was a familiar. That familiar has been disrupted by the pandemic. That same normal is what led us to this point. The question I want you to continue to ask yourself that I ask is: What is the familiar I want to go back to?

Personally, I’m not ready to go back to business as usual. I’m enjoying this slower pace of life. I’ve been able to be a peace through most of it doing the things I’ve shared with you (though the first two weeks were challenging for me). When things do speed back up, I’ll be able to carry this peace forward with me and share it with others.

I know a new normal isn’t going to be easy for us but what we can create from it can be exciting. It is also ok to mourn the loss of the old normal as there are many things to mourn in addition to the loss of people (I did a grieving meditation that addressed this a few weeks ago).

My hope for everyone who reads this is that we truly look at the possibilities that can come from a new normal that doesn’t look like the familiar we know and (don’t) love. Otherwise, we’ll be complaining about a normal so many people desperately wanted to return to and we’ll be right back in this situation. Once again, it’s not just your neighbor or certain political affiliations, it’s you too.

Maybe we’ll have to experience another pandemic for people to receive this message. I hope not. I really want to believe people want a new normal but we have to be willing to let the old one go. Take some time today after you read this to do some reflection. Don’t share or comment, just reflect.

What do you want the new normal to look like? It’s up to you. Much more than you realize.