These are strange times indeed. I want to talk about the return to normalcy in a hopefully deft manner, but it seems rather tone-deaf to attempt to be clever about something that is still killing hundreds of Americans every day. After all, I don’t want to be mistaken for a politician or the Duchess of Sussex.
With that disclaimer, we’ll move forward. All of us have experienced this past year in our own particular ways, and we’ve written our own rules to deal with defining our behavior. Some folks worked hard to glean the truth from the misinformation, while others picked the mixed message that fit best with justifying what they wanted to do anyway.
With vaccines finally beginning to fall like manna from Heaven, there’s a really good probability that each of us will get through this thing intact, assuming we haven’t been and don’t start acting like a damned fool now.
Autumn has always been my favorite season. I love the colors, the sweaters, and the slight chill in the air, but even I understand how almost transcendently fitting it is the vaccine will be available to most Americans this spring. Technically, it’s not yet spring, but it is in the air. That sense of birth, renewal, and promise that the season offers has never seemed so ubiquitous.
The tradition of spring cleaning is centuries old and isn’t just about Ajax and Brillo pads. It’s also about cleaning out—getting rid of unneeded things and perhaps replacing them with the useful or at least pleasurable. And that may be why all this talk of normalcy is living me a tad cold.
Should we collectively return to February 2020 without identifying specific changes that we need to make in our daily lives, then we will have learned nothing from this experience. How sad that would be.
Now that’s not to say I’ve got this thing all figured out. In my head is a laundry list of things that I’ve truly missed and want to return to, as well as a similar catalog of those things that provided too little return on the time, energy, and money invested in them. Whether or not I shift my priorities and act on them is my big personal question of 2021. That, and remembering to be appreciative when I get to do something on that first list.
Most of us will have some overlapping priorities around family and friends, and there will be others that are particular and personal. That’s as it should be. The challenge probably will be keeping those priorities in focus once the first flush of having options wears off, and the return to the familiar—normalcy, if you will—starts to feel inevitable. It has a lot in common with dieting to lose weight without actually changing one’s normal eating habits, a cycle I readily admit I’ve not learned how to break.
To be sure, there have been at least two major signs that normalcy is just around the corner. It’s not that the “guvmint” has passed legislation that is very popular with Americans and is designed to actually help ordinary people in their ordinary lives. That is about the most “unnormal” thing I’ve seen happen since Trump left office.
The first sign is that interview. When the American people actually have time to worry, discuss, disagree, and argue about the British royal family, I take that as a very good sign. Talking and speculating about Lilibet and her children, grandchildren, and now her great-grandchildren is an American tradition as hallowed as mom and apple pie. How sad it would be for us not to gossip endlessly about this clan, taking whichever side we like, delighting in how it always jazzes things up on the rare occasion that one of them actually marries an American.
Add to that the obvious satisfaction we take in getting to see the circus, watching the pomp and circumstance, but still feeling just a wee bit superior because we’re a former colony, but not part of the Commonwealth. It’s as close to having one’s own cake and eating it, too, as this world allows.
The second sign I mentioned is our ability to joke about our elected officials. Comedians are beginning to graze in a pasture not fertilized by Trump and his, um, actions. The late night crowd is making that transition, and Randy Rainbow’s latest video proves there’s funny to be mined in the newly minted Biden years. Laughter is here to stay, as are my mixed metaphors.
So we can gossip and gloat, but still be devoted to having a brave, new world that has nothing to do with Aldous Huxley and everything to do with a new refinement of the old way of doing things. A more perfect normalcy, if you will.