“Normal is just a setting on your dryer.”

Erma Bombeck

What is this…. Normal?

I hear a lot of talk about “going back to normal.” People are getting vaccinated, some things are opening up, (many prematurely, as evidence by the consequent numbers, but ok,) schools are bringing students back in-building with modifications… Are in this quest for “normal.”


Normal, frankly, was not going well for a whole lot of people. I don’t want that.

COVID Thriving and guilt

I can’t begin to tell you how many times in the last years I’ve heard someone start a sentence with, “I feel really guilty saying this, but… the pandemic has been weirdly good for me.” I understand the guilt in that: As of this writing COVID deaths in the United States stand at more than a half million people. We have now had more deaths than the entire population of Albuquerque, Tucson, Fresno, even Atlanta. Think about that. If a bomb dropped and wiped out the ENTIRE POPULATION OF ATLANTA, it wouldn’t represent that number of COVID deaths we have had in this country.

That is a lot of pain, suffering, grief and loss. 

And really, it’s worse than that. Almost 30 million Americans have had documented cases of COVID. They might very well have long term damage to their organs throughout their lifetimes. 


Remember when I wrote about the power of “And?” This is all genuinely horrible. So overwhelming.   


We have been giving an amazing array of gifts, right here, right in the middle of the suffering.  I’ve been telling you all for a long time that grief brings “gifts wrapped in barbed wire.” 

Here is a brief list if the barbed wire-wrapped gifts people have told me about:

  • Recognizing that their employers were not looking out for them, giving them the impetus to leave and either get new jobs, or create their own businesses. 
  • Relationship clarity! Couples in the crucible of COVID have amped up their communication tools and found either that the person they were with is not really compatible, (better to know than not know,) or that the person they are with is more right for them than they ever dreamed.
  • Socially anxious kids without executive function challenges have had a year-long reprieve from having to go in-building and deal with draining, painful, unhelpful social chaos. They have come more into their own, and do things much more confidently on their own terms, even with those same peers. 
  • Some people’s small business have actually done better than ever before, either because they are in an industry in higher demand during a pandemic or because their customers were more accessible and consistent because they did not travel the way they usually do. 

These are just a few of the many examples.  It’s not an either-or:  The pandemic has been horrifying. The pandemic has come with gifts. Both are true. 

Two edged swords

The pandemic has provided us with ample opportunities to look at ourselves more critically. People have been pushed to be more self-less, more thoughtful toward others.  We wear masks even after we’ve been vaccinated for the sake of protecting others, just in case. We’ve learned to communicate what is and isn’t ok with us and to make room for others doing the same, even if we land in different places on those choices.

Some have learned who their neighbors were for the first time and have been reaching out to help:  Giving their neighbors care packages, or finding safe ways to engage school-aged neighbor kids in unconventional activities that break up their academic day (like music times, story times, outside art classes.) Some with more time have busied themselves looking after aged or health-challenged neighbors, making sure that people have food, medicine, socially distanced company. Some people have really stepped up to care for others.

Some have chosen instead to become more isolated, more fragile and more selfish. Some responded to their perceived lack of control early on by hoarding supplies like toilet paper and hand sanitizer so badly that it caused unnecessary shortages.  For reasons I can’t fathom, an apparently large number people have apparently decided that they are anonymous-enough while driving that they can drive faster, more aggressively and more dangerously than ever before. I’ve never seen this much “wasping,” (when people drive 30 or more miles over the speed limit, tailgate and weave through traffic in astoundingly dangerous ways,) in all my life --  And I learned how to drive on the Capitol Beltway, where people don’t seem to believe that the laws of physics apply to them! 

This has been a whole ‘nother level of selfish. Some of the humans are really not humaning well. 


How about we don’t go back to “normal” on acting as though our behavior doesn’t affect others? How about we don’t go back to ignoring our neighbors? How about we don’t go back to exploitive economics that demand that our bottom line is more important than caring for the people who work for us? How about we don’t go back to this idea that not seeing to it that all persons have access to affordable healthcare is dangerous to everyone in every dimension? How about we don’t go back to pretending that the Democracy will take care of itself so we can continue to imagine that “politics” is some optional hobby instead of something that profoundly affects all of the humans who live under those political decisions?

How about if we don’t return to our fierce national commitment to an insistence on “my RIGHTS” over “my RESPONSIBILITIES” and hang onto this idea of making choices that consider how we affect one another?

How about if we learn our learns and bring them forward with us into whatever the “new normal” turns out to be?

Can we just leave the old one up as a dryer setting?


If you’d like help navigating the “new normal” as it unfolds, contact Tiffany here.