TWO-LANE LIFE - This Is Not Normal - By Lisa Hayes-Minney

      I’ve come to the end of my wits with the “new normal.” As a lover of words, I recognize the term as an oxymoron--a figure of speech in which contradictory terms appear in conjunction. If something is new (not existing before), by definition, it can’t be normal (usual, typical, expected). And while dealing with the COVID world is starting to feel really, really old, there is no way (make, shape, form, or fashion) that the current conditions we are living in can ever be considered normal.

      Since we’re in an election year, I also find myself contemplating whether I find this new normal even acceptable. I think about our state’s motto, “Mountaineers are always free.” I haven’t exactly felt free this year. I feel bound, burdened, and ruled by a one-celled organism and the idiocracy that mandates how we must deal with it.

      Wear a mask they tell us, but certain n95 masks only protect the wearer, and fleece masks and gaiters actually break down droplets, multiplying the number of droplets sent airborne. The virus lingers long when residing on plexiglass, can travel more than six actual feet, and is gone from items returned to the library in 5-7 days, provided those items haven’t been stacked. Some hand sanitizers are apparently toxic when applied to the skin, and the longer we remain anxious under this looming virus and the looming election, the more damage is done to the human immune system, actually increasing our chances of getting infected – with COVID, the flu, strep throat, or a simple infection.

      Overdose rates are up. Domestic abuse, suicide, mental health issues – all on the rise. There are no canning lids available, there will be no Peeps (candy) for Halloween, Christmas, or Valentine’s, there’s a shortage of Dr. Pepper and change, the West Coast is on fire, and the ocean keeps producing tropical storms and hurricanes. I’ve gone from trying to make sense of it all to, to a controlled panic, to a resigned, “it is what it is.” And this is NOT normal. I refuse to accept this as our new normal.

      I’m tired. I’m tired of saying, “it will be all right.” I’m tired of telling myself, “this too shall pass.” I’m tired of masks and plexiglass and hand sanitizer, and I’m tired of being ruled by a one-celled organism. I’m tired of pretending that this is normal.

      And yet, I still go to work. I still wear my mask. I’m still polite to cashiers, and students, and library patrons. I still get up every day and go out into the world as if it is all normal. As if I have accepted it, as if any of this makes any sense. I pretend I see a light at the end of this tunnel.

      I was recently introduced to the term “magical thinking.” Magical thinking is the belief that one's ideas, thoughts, wishes, or actions can influence the course of events in the physical world. (Step on a crack, break your Mother’s back.) Magical thinking is believing that one event happens as a result of another without a plausible link of causation. Magical thinking refers to the idea that you can influence the outcome of specific events by doing something that has no bearing on the circumstances.

      I think this new normal is magical thinking. A mirage that provides a semblance of sanity, a fabricated image that someone, somewhere, is smarter than a virus. The idea that the virus will be gone after the election, as if it is Democrat or Republican. That human beings are in control of fire, storms, infectious diseases. I think magical thinking sets us up for disappointment, at the very least.

      I don’t know the answers. I sometimes feel I don’t know anything anymore, that no one knows anything anymore. I do believe that magical thinking has become a side-effect of COVID. So I try to root myself in simple daily projects, hide in fictional worlds by binge-watching on Netflix, release anxiety by practicing yoga, and taking Daisy for walks and giving myself permission to just be. A late gladiola bloomed in my garden, and I swear it was the most beautiful bloom of the season.

      My magical thinking still tells me there is a light at this end of the tunnel, even though I can’t currently see it. I want to tell myself, and you dear reader, to hang in there. I know some believe the virus will evaporate after the election, but Dr. Fauci notes that 2021 could be much like 2020 as far as the virus is concerned. Be kind and patient with each other, be kind and patient with yourself. This is what it is, but this isn’t normal. If magical thinking is what helps us get through it, fine. But I refuse to accept this as normal.

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