How can it be normal when we don’t know what it is?

I was thinking earlier today about a conversation I had just had with a very close friend about how we’ve hit – I think – a bit of a pivotal moment in the proceedings. This is the week that many people have tried to go back to ‘normal’ – either voluntarily or because they’ve felt obliged or because they’ve just flat out been told they HAVE to. And I think it’s worth noting and holding onto the fact that just because we are all trying to do the same thing, it doesn’t mean we are all succeeding, or even that all of us want to do it.

I looked around at my colleagues this week as we came back together for the first time in many weeks. We were relieved to be together, I think, but worried about the consequences. Excited to be sociable, but having to be antisocial. And for those of us who are still fearful – and I am one of them – it’s been particularly difficult to match up our reactions and responses to some of those of our peers, friends, and loved ones.

Is someone being callous, deliberately ignorant, foolhardy or selfish to be desperate to get back to work, kids back to school, back out to the pub, planning a cheeky getaway at Christmas as a reward?

Is someone being stubborn, lazy, paranoid, a hypochondriac, gullible if they’re feeling anxious, not wanting to launch themselves out there, keeping their mask on, continuing to distance as much as possible?

No – not for either. The reality is that we still don’t know. I fall into the second camp, but yearn to feel brave enough to participate with the first. Really, I do. I miss my friends, I miss hugs, physical intimacy, cosying up with my friends, kisses, grabbed hands. I miss going to the cinema (I’m still too scared). I miss leisurely shopping (I’m still too scared). I miss it, I miss it, I miss it all.

But none of us are wrong, or right – we are all just humans. This isn’t something we should apply moral values to as long as we do no harm. Those of us who are scrambling frantically to get back to normal are likely feeling overwhelmed by this prolonged liminality, and those of us afraid to jump back in the saddle and push back to how things were before are afraid of making things worse. They are all valid fears and they don’t make us bad, good, or anything else, but they might just cause hurt feelings and dents in loving relationships where they don’t need to.

So as we wane gently away from the crazy of the full moon this week, maybe we could take a deep breath and try and remember the old adage that everyone is carrying their own burden, even if they don’t care to admit it. Let’s carry on loving each other and saying what we need to say. Boundaries are going to change and need to be redrawn. Pressure will get put on in places we don’t expect it, and it’s okay to ask for it to be taken off so you can gather your thoughts and say how you’re feeling. We still need to look after each other as much as we have through the prolonged period of lockdown and isolation, so let’s try and do it.

To everyone who went back this week and loved it – I’m glad for you. To everyone who went back this week afraid, I see you and I know. For everyone who just wants it to be OK again – I know, I know, I know. I know. Let’s hold each other up. Things will be OK, but only if we are all as OK as we can be, which can only really happen if we’re still able to rely on each other. Hold steady.