July 2020: Priority Shift

The “new normal” that we are all getting used to is quite an adjustment.  What is the “new normal” really going to look like in the next year? There is no definite answer other than we all have to continue to take it day by day and go with the flow, that it is a work in progress.  How is this “new normal” affecting our families? our jobs? our priorities in life? This pandemic is pulling these answers out of us whether we like it or not- ultimately, it all comes down to answering the question, “How have your priorities shifted?”  

I don’t like to camp, but camping does force you to simplify and prioritize what is needed.  Maybe we can look at the circumstance of socially distancing as a form of camping away from what was our everyday life?  This is a very long camp out, and I would like to go back to my everyday life just like everyone else. I want to go back to doing the simple things, like walking the dog with my son and then stop to pick up a tea latte with the morning bustle of the city amping up, head back home and put the baby down for his morning nap, giving me a little bit of quiet time. Tea at home is my new normal and I’m fine with that, but I imagine I will always enjoy having someone else make me that latte in the morning. My new normal also means there is no babysitter, so I cannot take a break, run out and do some errands or go out to a quick drink or lunch with a friend. Babysitters are just not happening. 

What is happening, though, is my family life is getting stronger each day, because my husband and I have no choice but to lean on each other, and no one else, for whatever we need. Then, I think of how lucky my son is to have his dad at home working; when my husband is able to take breaks throughout the day, my son can see his father. I think of how the family structure and the priorities of families are having light shed on them, just like the extremely bright spotlight on your cell phone that you reach for when you are in the dark. That flashlight illuminates what you need directly in front of you, just like this forced social isolation is shining a light on what our priorities and limitations are in life, reshaping not only how we live, but how we show up in our families and relationships. 

All of our relationships have shifted. Who do you now facetime with every day or once a week? Who do you check on out of sincere concern? What groups of friends or family do you zoom with?  Where is the silver lining in all of this isolation and loss?  

I think this camping out and flashlight spotlighting our priorities is a big part of the answer.  Families are spending more time together than they ever have before. Sure, they can sit on their devices, but no one can keep that up for this many weeks in a row. It forces human interaction with those closest to them whether we want it or not. As a result, families are going to bond differently and relationships hopefully will be strengthened more than harmed. Parents are making hard choices about their careers because the state of daycares and schools is unknown. Companies are completely restructuring how things are done, realizing much of the workforce can in fact work from home.  We are also making more small decisions, like when my husband decided to cut my son’s hair.  As my husband said after the attempt, his limitations are clear.  My son will wear a hat for a while and we will forever laugh about it. 

I am curious though, after all that society is experiencing, will we go back to the old times, when one parent stayed home more than not with children or when a relative lived with a family in order to help take care? Perhaps we will, partly out of necessity and partly out of choice. Will people be happy to go back to the old fashioned ways of society, or will people have morphed into a new way of choosing to live their lives? Once a vaccine is found, will people have missed the old ways so much that they will try to cram even more into their lives, or will they let things fall to the wayside and choose to simplify and fill their days with less in order to recharge?  

I suspect people will realize how much they were not allowing themselves to recharge and how they were filling their days with too much “stuff” that they felt had to get done.  We cannot ignore this new sense of gratitude for how easy things used to be. Perhaps people will slow down and really enjoy and listen in a way we have forgotten to since the invention of the internet. Our children have never been so stressed as they are today, and as much as this situation is not easy for our children, perhaps getting through this will start to heal a part of our youth.  Maybe having to be at home and figure out how to be creative with their time within the confines of the home with family will ultimately have positive outcomes. The social time they are missing out on has been substituted with an emphasis on family. How can we use this time to actually give our children  what they need to emotionally heal?

My hope is that by the time we have a vaccine, as much as we have lost in this tragedy, we will have gained through renewed priorities within our daily lives, our families, friends, and especially our youth … all from a forced “camp out.”