Emily Kirschenbaum

Unprecedented Times or the New Normal?

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

It’s been around 6 months or so since the pandemic originally started in full-force, at least here in Israel. So are we still in “unprecedented times” or have we entered “the new normal”? I’m trying to hold on to the idea that maybe, just maybe, things will go back to how they were before. But considering that in mid-March I thought I was still going to Florida for Passover, and in April I thought for sure we would be in America in the summer and in July I was optimistic about my nephew’s bar mitzvah in Toronto in the fall, I may not be the best judge of when this is going to end!

I think it might be time to accept that these unprecedented times are, in fact, going to be the new normal for some unknown amount of time. If I try to compare it to the 5 stages of grief, I would say I still vacillate between denial and acceptance with a little bit of anger thrown in here and there. 

The main things I want to remain in denial about AND that make me angry are:

  • This is an actual real disease. And no one knows enough about it to explain why some people have no symptoms and some people die. So, I can probably more or less assume that because I’m (relatively) young and healthy as are the rest of the people in my immediate family, if any of us were to get it we would probably be fine. But what if we weren’t? And what about other family members and friends who aren’t as young or as healthy? That possibility is something I can’t just ignore. 
  • There are people who really and truly just don’t care enough about other people to be willing to do something as simple and easy as putting on a mask when they go out. Does it actually protect against the virus? Who knows for sure. But it’s not like it’s SO difficult to just put the thing on! And on the off chance that it might save someone’s life or help end this pandemic sooner, I just can’t understand why anyone would refuse. And when it’s refusal on the grounds of – “it’s a violation of my human rights” – well that’s when my anger comes out!
  • We already missed Passover with family. And we didn’t have our annual summer trip to visit family. My dad is turning 75 next week and we will celebrate via Zoom. My nephew’s bar mitzvah is in September and we won’t be there. My in-laws’ 50th anniversary is in November and I’m guessing there isn’t going to be a party.  My niece’s wedding is in January and who knows whether or not we will get to dance with her. In the 13 years that we’ve lived in Israel, I have NEVER not known when I was going to see my family next. Whether it would be us going there or them coming here, there was always a date to look forward to. I’m no longer in denial about the fact that I have no idea when I will see them next, and maybe angry isn’t the right word, but I’m definitely sad about it. And I am nowhere near the acceptance level. 
  • My kids’ loss of innocence in a way. I guess every generation experiences some sort of collective event that bursts the bubble of innocence. For me, it was 9/11. Even though I wasn’t a child, it still changed my perspective on the safety of the world at large and my world as an individual. I’ve got an entire separate blog post in my head about this topic, so I’ll just leave it here as something I wish I could just stay in denial about, but the truth is that Corona has shown kids that the world is not necessarily as safe as they may have thought. There are positive and negative lessons in that, of course, but I wish they could have had a bit more time thinking that the world is perfect. 

Just like the 5 stages of grief are not truly linear and one can flit back and forth and pretty much ride the roller coaster of emotions, the same can be said about dealing with this “unprecedented new normal.” And there are some things that I have come to fully accept:

  • Masks. I’ve added a 4th basket to the 3 by my front door that house keys, sunglasses, and other random things. The new basket holds an impressive collection of masks, and more can be found in the car, in my purse, and usually crumpled up in someone’s pocket in the laundry. Sure it’s annoying and hard to breathe, but I understand the need and accept the fact that this is just a part of life now.
  • Socializing and entertaining looks completely different than it used to, and that’s ok. Gone are the days of 3 families coming over for a Shabbat dinner or lunch. No more massive quantities of food for everyone to share. I’m not a huge crowd-lover anyway, so this one was easier for me to accept. I can appreciate sharing a Shabbat meal (or a weekday afternoon) with just one other family at a time. It’s so much more relaxed and enjoyable, and our backyard has never gotten as much use as it has in the last few months. I used to feel a lot of pressure to invite people just to be polite or because “I owed them,” and although I actually let myself let go of that pressure several years ago, I now am really and truly able to not feel guilty about only having over people I actually want to see and spend time with. 
  • Zoom is here to stay. I have mixed feelings about this one, but I have fully accepted it and am choosing (at least for the purposes of this blog post) to look at the positives. I hate not seeing my family in person, but at least I can see them on Zoom. It’s hard to grow a business without face-to-face meetings, but at least Zoom is a step-up from awkward phone calls. I think kids need the socialization that comes from school, but if they have to learn from home sometimes, at least on Zoom they can see the teacher and their friends. 

It’s likely that the list of things that we must ultimately accept as part of the new normal is going to grow. At the same time, I think it’s perfectly ok to grieve the loss of all that we used to take for granted and now don’t have anymore. Let’s just hope that these unprecedented times will eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) come to an end and the new normal will start to look much more similar to the old normal.

About the Author
Emily Kirschenbaum planned to spend one year in Israel 16 years ago...She now resides happily in Ra'anana with her husband, 3 Israeli-American kids and the cutest dog in the world. In her professional life, she runs a content marketing business ( with an awesome partner!
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