What kind of “normal” are we going to bring back?

We’re being tested in a novel way, both in the kind of test that we are facing and in the duration of it.

Because of the unique nature of this challenge, the difficulties of public policymaking and everyday societal failure points that lead to inequity are becoming VERY visible. Even with very good leadership functioning with honest intent, public policymaking is exceedingly difficult and cracks that are irritating in normal times become catastrophic when emergencies strike.

Beyond that, we’ve somehow also managed to politicize a pandemic, which on its surface is just plain stupid. To be clear: the debate and concerns are not stupid, but rather HOW we’re debating – that civil discourse isn’t widely possible during a fucking outbreak is mind-numbing.

Above all else, our current situation is demonstrating the need for two very important traits:

  • Good, clear, concise communication with honest intent
  • Grace (for ourselves and others)

As Stay-At-Home orders are lifted in Colorado and “Safer-At-Home” makes a few more options available to everyone, the impatience and pressure increase to re-open businesses and get back to “normal” life.

On one end of the scale, some folks are taking the lifting of “stay-at-home” to mean, “go do whatever the hell you want with whoever you want”. And the results of that are going to be devastating to at-risk populations and any chance of getting back to a “more normal normal”. I’ve personally seen comments wondering if the playgrounds are really open and the City just forgot to take off the caution tape… wondering when it’s OK to start arranging playdates again…

It’s been two months. Two. Chill out. Have patience on getting back to anything that involves being directly around and nearby other people.

What’s also becoming very clear is that both statistics and epidemiology is poorly understood, so clear education and demonstration on how to operate safely (and what “safely” means in context) is vital.

It’s not likely that things will go back to normal for a while – in some cases reports say two years or more. And for a lot of folks, “normal” isn’t something they’re even ready for (that’s both OK and to be expected) – with 16% of Americans not sure they’ll ever be comfortable going out in public again.

Many business owners would tell you that “normal” won’t be happening for a long time – based just on the checklists of safety procedures they need to implement in order to conduct business right now.

That’s to be expected with a new virus that has a high symptomless transmission rate and very little available testing. Imagine the terror that could be unleashed by an accidental transmission to a hospital worker or a caregiver at a nursing facility – nobody wants that weight on their shoulders and a laissez-faire attitude toward a pandemic is downright foolish.

Beyond just taking a breath before diving right back toward “normal”, it’s very much worth a pause to consider what kind of “normal” we want to bring back.

The bare-bones basic improvements over “life before corona” are obvious:

  • Hygiene and handwashing is now a matter of public safety (I’m looking at you, gross dudes who don’t wash your hands after taking a leak).
  • Good leadership + good communication are the defining characteristics of which businesses and communities will survive and thrive.
  • Technology + connective tools are being adopted quickly society-wide, which means…
  • More at-home virtual activities that previously required a commute (Zoom workouts/Zoom meditation/Zoom yoga/educational opportunities/free streaming things…)
  • Less driving, fewer accidents, more walking/biking/exercise time.
  • Working from home (if you’re able!)
  • Thanks to Zoom, attention drift + waste are much, much more visible. Fewer stupid meetings as a result… and meetings/conferences, in general, can be recorded and re-watched at 2x speed.
  • More time with immediate family/kids – without a slew of after-school activities and events to go go go to all the time, we get to enjoy each other’s presences more and kids get more access and more exposure to “real world” activities like cooking, baking, cleaning, balancing a checkbook, etc.
  • More personal distance – be patient and wait for your damn turn.
  • Contactless payment systems – I don’t ever want to have to touch paper money/a screen/touchpad/keypad ever again.
  • Grocery and other shopping curbside pickup – aside from being wicked convenient, the time saved by not having to shop, the stress of having to “pick” so many things, getting JUST what I have on my list…

There are downfalls, here are just a few:

  • Parentpreneurship has never been more difficult, especially in households with two earners that have to choose who gets to teach and who gets to work that day. Work-life balance has never been more skewed.
  • Poor communicators, poor planners, and bad leaders are failure points that have a high likelihood of endangering the public.
  • Personal identities were severely disrupted when both the 2nd and 3rd places (hangout/chill space and work) became inaccessible – but some folks are ill-equipped to the extreme identity disruption that came along with losing both their 2nd and 3rd places and the depression and anxiety that come along with life during a pandemic.
  • What used to be automatic/simple/every-day activities (and even simple, common goofs) are now potentially life-threatening and carry a high level of anxiety, pre-planning, and forethought.
  • Not everybody follows the public safety rules consistently, endangering themselves AND their entire community (anyone they interact with if they’ve been exposed and become contagious).
  • Some folks are quarantined in sub-optimal situations (abusive relationships, especially, but also things like living with a disability and not being able to acquire safe, timely help). Support structures still exist, but are taxed more now than ever.
  • Front line workers are still marginalized, not everybody can have a “comfortable quarantine” and division lines are both present and growing in certain directions, not easily fixed, and hard sometimes to even identify.
  • Stable, high-speed internet is not universal… so even distance learning is hard to accomplish without significant effort for many.
  • Long-term shockwaves in operations and logistics (some that are even now still pending) are going to create irritations and additional shortfalls in almost every aspect of life, potentially for YEARS – including TV and movie production, raw materials, manufacturing, and so much more.

Diving back into what used to be normal is probably not optimal. All things considered, this would be a great time for a societal reset and re-examination of our priorities – it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often and we’d be really foolish to not at least consider what could be possible.

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