It’s lovely when you actually see or speak to people these days but it’s weird too isn’t it? On a walk through a park this morning a work colleague spotted me and we talked from a distance about how odd it all is and how we’re managing.
In these times I am getting used to going to the shops looking like a bank robber, I am holding virtual committee meetings with city councillors from my lounge and doing previously unthinkable things like nagging my wife to cut my hair.
Life is not normal. We are getting used to it being abnormal and to people using the phrase ‘a new normal’. This in itself is odd for me because it’s a phrase I picked up from Care for the Family’s bereaved parents work and used in the concluding chapter of my book, ‘What Happens Now?’ about the loss of our son Ben.
Our vicar, Mick, spoke about this idea of the new normal during our online church service last week (1). He made the point that people assume the new life is a negative thing, that it’s automatically a worse, restricted version of life but for all of its difficulties that doesn’t have to be the case.
To be absolutely clear that is not to say that things aren’t difficult – they are and all we will all experience that in different ways at different times. As a family we know we are fortunate to have a comfortable home, stable jobs and good health. But even with these blessings we’ve found it a real struggle – work is more difficult and at times we grieve the things we used to take for granted, particularly not being able to physically meet together as church.
So this is not about pretending that it’s all okay and putting on a brave face. It’s about seeing that good can come during and through this time.
When I think of my previous use of the ‘new normal’ the fundamental point was about the need and means to adapt. Nine years ago our precious boy, Ben went to heaven and we were devastated. There was no option to get back to normal – normal had gone and we needed to learn how to build a new life. Truthfully building that new life is still a work in progress – the option for life to just be a certain way was taken from us and we are still in rehab, trying to figure out how it’s all supposed to work. We do that through the grace of God and the love of great people around us.
The comparison with what we all going through now is this – the new life is not automatically a certain way, it is something that can be shaped. With very good reason we can look back at the old life we’ve lost and feel sad but we have no option but to enter the new one and do what we can with it. Sadness and frustration are inevitable but we need to see what is possible in what is ahead. We need to do what we can with what we have. After we lost Ben I realised that even when he was weak and in pain that’s what he did till the end.
The lockdown of course will not be forever but we don’t know how long it will last and what we will find as we emerge. There will be fear and challenges ahead. I don’t want to downplay any of that or the suffering people are going through. What I do believe is that there is hope – that as we grudgingly accept the reality of what is going on we can find help to adapt to it well. The surge in neighbourliness we are seeing at the moment points to a better society that is possible. It shows we are stronger together. Beyond the help of our neighbours I believe there is a God whose heart breaks for all of this and is there to help us manage and move beyond all this.
So yes having to navigate the new normal can be rubbish but we have no choice. Amidst the challenges good can come. Whatever we face, we don’t have to do so alone.
To end here are a few top tips for managing & adapting in this season:
-Don’t think it’s just you that’s struggling, it’s not and it’s not a sign of weakness or failure – this is really tough
-Talk honestly to people you can trust about how you’re really doing
-It’s great to support others but let others support you too
-When life is overwhelming (especially work), accept that your best is enough and that you can only do one thing at a time
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 (New Living Translation)