“The most damaging phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way’.” – Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
There is so much that is uncertain in these times of pandemic. So many have tragically died, and many have suffered. Millions of people are experiencing growing economic hardship as a result of worldwide lockdowns. We have learned new phrases such as, “social distancing”, “flattening the curve” and “personal protective equipment”. We are quarantining, self-isolating or sheltering in place. We have come to call the spring of 2020 a new normal of sorts. But I suspect that the term new normal will take on a whole new meaning in the weeks and months to come. That’s because the majority of us who have been staying at home these past few months are about to experience something called “opening up”.
Businesses and retail operations, restaurants and garden centres and a host of services are slowly starting to come back to life. We are being told that gradually we can come out of our homes and start re-engaging with the world again. But what kind of a world are we going back to? There was a certain sense of security, comfort and safety while we stayed at home. Will we feel the same way when we start going back to our familiar stores, healthcare providers and barbershops? Will we be able to relate socially to our neighbours and friends like we did before, or will things seem strange and different? How well will we adapt to the changes that we are about to experience as we leave our homes to restart our lives again?
Recent surveys have shown that people are feeling very nervous about this next phase. It’s going to be complicated. Social distancing will not always be an easy thing to do such as a visit to the dentist, getting your haircut or working near your colleagues at the office. New rules and restrictions will be the norm. We will need to wear a face mask and we will be washing our hands like never before. Social niceties such as kisses, hugs and handshakes may not return in many social settings for some time to come. February 2020 will seem like such a long time ago once we start fully experiencing this new world that we’re about to explore.
So if you are feeling anxious about re-engaging the world you’re certainly not alone. I feel this way and most of the people I speak to are expressing the same sentiment. There is still so much we don’t know about Covid-19 and the medical world is grappling to come up with treatments and ultimate solutions. In the meantime, we will have to figure out how to stick handle through the months and possibly years ahead. We have to prepare ourselves for new and unpredictable challenges. We have to adapt, and we have to become adept at being adaptable.
The good news is, over the past two months we have proven already that we have the capacity to adapt to change. When the lockdowns started, a lot of things happened very quickly. Think back to your own personal experiences from a couple of months ago. Within days you were told that aside from going to a supermarket or pharmacy you were to stay home 99% of the time. You were not to leave your home. You were not to physically meet with friends or any relatives outside of your nuclear family.
We will always have the pictures of empty streets, squares and highways seared in our memories. We had never experienced anything like this before in our lives and there was a lot to absorb. For many, these changes were emotionally and financially traumatizing and this has taken a toll on their mental health. For many others as the days became weeks the unique, innate ability of human adaptation kicked in and people started to become used to the new routine of being at home. As I have written in previous blogs and as I have learned from the many people I have corresponded with in the past few weeks, many have learned to take advantage of this time. People are learning skills that they’ve always wanted to try but never had the opportunity or at least they had an excuse: ‘I’m too busy’. People are utilizing incredible technologies to stay informed and stay in touch with those they love and cherish. People have improved their creativity levels by writing books, songs and poetry. Music, cooking and baking lessons are all the rage. And people are telling me that they are enjoying the quiet (and sometimes quite noisy) time that is a benefit of cocooning and being together.
People have adapted because people are adept at adapting. This is good news because as we enter this brave new world, we will all be facing new and strange challenges. We will have to wait for many services, and we will have to adhere to many restrictions. We will have uncertain and likely nervous moments in various situations. All of us are about to experience this and there is only so much that can be planned for. And until there is a cure for Covid-19, people will still get this virus, and some will become extremely sick unfortunately. We will all take the right precautions and continue to listen to our public health officials and government leaders. Some would say that it really will depend on our luck and certainly some things are determined by chance. That is true in all realms of life. But at the end of the day what each of us do to reduce the risk for ourselves and others will make a huge difference.