Two months ago, COVID-19 was barely on my radar. Then, suddenly, it was all I heard about and seemed like all I talked about. I knew things would be changing, but I had no idea how much or in what ways. There were some things that I expected – like concerts and races being postponed or canceled. When everything started, I feared the changes that may happen with my job. Now, I have embraced them. There have been some incredible silver linings in all areas of my life, as well as some ugly clouds that I have tried to avoid. (Ennegram 7, anyone?)
My new normal isn’t a whole lot different from my old normal, but it is different in ways that are very impactful on my mental health. I am still working but instead of seeing patients face to face and teaching a room full of eager new clients, I am sitting in front of a computer screen talking to them through virtual means. Every conversation involves COVID-19, whether I am asking my patients how they are coping with the changes it has brought to their lives, or I am discussing with coworkers our plan of action as new information comes trickling in.
I am still running, but I am always running alone. I did a lot of my runs alone before the pandemic, but once a week at least it seemed I was running with at another person or in a group. The last time I ran with another person was on March 16th, the day that we were supposed to have our local chapter of Still I Run’s group run. At that time, Michigan had not issued a Stay at Home order – social distancing had been strongly encouraged and we debated if we should cancel the group run or not. Ultimately we decided to cancel the group run. A week later the Stay at Home order was issued, and although outdoor activities and exercise were permitted, the order stated that gatherings of people living in different homes of any size were prohibited. So instead of mostly running alone, I am always running alone, which is a bit of a change for me, but it has really taught me a lot.
I have not seen my closest friends or any of my family since late February/early March. It is hard. Although we contact each other virtually more now than we ever have before, and we have had some really fun interactions (like playing in an online Euchre tournament, playing Cards Against Humanity, having a virtual dance party, and playing The Game of Things) it really sucks to not have the in person connection. I find myself feeling super empty and sad when the screen goes black after a FaceTime call.
Four of the races I was planning to do have been canceled, postponed, or gone virtual, and I have found myself adjusting my goals and plans multiple times. I have continued to run following a plan, training for a 33 mile run in August (an at home “ultra race” for my 33rd birthday), with little to no hope of any other races continuing as planned for this year. This past week I realized that there are a lot of things I want to do with this extra time I have, and so I have decided not to do the backyard ultra race I have been training for. Since I have put in the work and the miles, next weekend I will run a 25k – that was the next race I would have been doing if it wasn’t for COVID-19 getting in the way of my plans.
The first concert of the season that I had tickets for has been postponed. It was scheduled for this coming up Tuesday, and instead of going to that show I will be closing on a refinance of our mortgage. While going to the concert would be a whole lot more fun, I am very excited for the opportunities that refinancing our house is going to bring us. Stay tuned for my beautiful bathroom remodel, coming as soon as it is deemed safe for that sort of thing to happen!
It feels like life has become a constant feeling of “hurry up and wait”. Wait to find out how many new cases, how many deaths, what policies are changing, what new ones are coming out, whether or not there is toilet paper, whether or not we can buy meat, whether it is okay to go to certain places, what races are canceled or postponed, what concerts are canceled or postponed. At this point I almost wish that someone would just say… all of the events you had planned for 2020 are canceled. If miraculously things get better, we’ll let you know that they’re back on. But instead we hurry up and we wait.
So my new normal is not a whole lot different from my old normal. I have really learned a lot about myself in this time. I have made progress on goals and set new ones. I will approach the world differently when it opens back up. My priorities have changed, and they probably will change again, but I don’t see things going back to the way they were. Don’t get me wrong – I really don’t say that in a negative way. I think I needed this… I think the world needed this… maybe not the horrible disease and death part, or the crushing blow to the economy part. I wish that the silver linings that have come of this for me and others could have come without all of the other dark cloud stuff. But here we are… this is the new normal.