Back to Normal

by EUU Vice President Karen Kyker

My mother, Melanie, just wrote to me about walking on the beach barefoot yesterday in Southern California, how good the sand felt, gritting between her toes and on the bottoms of her feet. She said there were quite a few people there with her, alone or in small groups, walking. I close my eyes and imagine walking there along with her, with sunny warmth and salty wind and her hand nearby. This is not new; this seems familiar. I’ve had many occasions to imagine being there, as she paints the scene – and I’m sometimes envious, as her home usually has an abundance of sunshine, fresh air, and outdoor odors, whereas mine, in Paris, is more limited.

But further details in her recent telling are newly familiar to all of us: she wore her face mask (one of the only ones doing so). Nobody was sitting and picnicking at the beach. It was easy to keep a good distance from everyone she passed.

What else has entered your daily life as a ‘new normal’ in the past few months? For me: fewer but louder conversations with neighbors, leaning out our windows in the back courtyard; 8 p.m. clapping and banging of pots every night; front page pandemic news updates every day; minimized grocery shopping trips, and lines to get into stores; appreciating my introverted baseline comfort with being alone; finally practicing yoga on a regular basis (and with Mom!). I am fatigued not only by video-conferencing, but also by the loss of human contact with my students, my friends, strangers who might sit at a cafe table next to me, and the uncertainty of what will come next.

The news is full of concerns about returning our economy (which seems to have a near-deity importance in news reports)  to ‘normal’. We are concerned about people much less fortunate than ourselves (the tiny % who are fairly comfortable, even now). We are worried about those who lack water for hand-washing, privacy and personal space, food, caring contact. We want a return to the normalcy of our freedoms. We want more normal access to goods and services, even as we are grateful for what is possible even under these constrained circumstances. We are worried about when – or if – our lives can return to ‘normal’.

Yet, ‘Back to normal’ is a frightening thought as well. And ‘NOT back to normal’ is taking more space  in my thoughts, in news reports, in shared articles and videos, in conversations. We understand that what we personally consider ‘normal’ is not shared by most of the Earth’s human population, nor by most of life on Earth today. We see how ‘normal’ life is not a good life for many others. We understand that our natural, non-living environment – our cradle, our home, our life-support system – is being damaged by our ‘normal’ human behaviors. We have desires for using this moment as a fulcrum on which humanity can pivot.

Within our EUU community – with our shared concerns and values – I hope that we all will be awake and courageous, and will always speak up and speak out, to share our concerns, our hopes, and our energy, to help move us (humanity) toward a new world that is ‘not so normal’ after all.

In Fellowship,