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By Laurel Pattenden

“Only when normal things are not normal anymore do we realize how special normal things are.”
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This COVID-19 quote appeared in my Facebook stream and at first glance it certainly made me long for the old normal days of freedom in our movements.

I think my husband and I miss going out for breakfast the most. Him reading a newspaper, me doing the puzzles and having jam with our toast. Just so you know jam has no calories or sugar when eaten in a small cosy breakfast cafe.

The second reading of this quote raised a few red flags for me. Does it for you? What are “normal things”?

My normal things are not necessarily normal things for you. Perhaps you prefer lunch out or definitely marmalade instead of jam at breakfast. Your normal. My normal.

Thinking about normal things, I opened the dictionary to find that normal means conforming to the usual standard, type or custom. Usual. It makes me wonder who sets the usual standard or custom. Would it be your bank account, your neighbourhood, your race, your gender etc? Also, when I think of normal things as being special and good it just shows you that I live in privileged circumstances. As do many of you.

For many people “normal things” are not necessarily good or special. Living in poverty is not a good normal. Living daily with racism is not a good normal. So normal can mean so many different things. Turning on your tap and finding the water undrinkable day after day is normal for many.

Living during the pandemic, has affected all of us in many, many ways. The pandemic has, on its own terms, created many new normals on how we get through the day. My normal is living without visits to my grandson in B.C. This is heartbreaking for me. Your normal may be having to home school your grandson. This may be enriching or maybe not so (from what I have heard). My normal. Your normal.

Some of the pandemic normals (yes, we have developed over the past year pandemic normals!) I have established, which are actually positive choices, I hope will carry on. You actually do not need deodorant unless leaving the yard. But then again if we maintain six feet distancing, depending on the wind, your scent will not offend. This does not work however around bears and other wildlife.

My addiction to paper towels has ended. They are much too bulky to carry out of grocery stores. Taking up way too much space in your shopping cart for goodies. I have saved many trees. Dryer sheets are now wooly dryer balls. Fragrance free and much more eco-friendly. These are just a few of my new normals.

By this time you are probably wishing you hadn’t read that quote on “normal things”! It certainly has made me ponder over this term. Our normals can be good, bad, safe, unsafe, habitual, life giving and circumstantial. Most times our normal is not in our control.

I think I have come to dislike the word “normal”. We see normal only through our own eyes and circumstances. Whether in the pandemic or not, perhaps I will learn to see my “normal things” as not status quo for everyone else. I need to see “normal” through the eyes of frontline workers, the eyes of indigenous people, the eyes of those living below the poverty line and all disadvantaged. I need to acknowledge my normal and I need to acknowledge everyone else’s normal.

We will get through this pandemic bringing in the “new normal”. Let us hope that the new normal includes goodness and life opportunities to all. Not my normal. Not your normal. The world’s new normal. God’s normal. So the “normal things” nourish everyone.  

Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.

Illustration: Laurel Pattenden, May Flowers (detail)