The return of the “old normal” (somedaysoon)

Just as I was pondering how to begin a blog about my Unique Ego, a school bus passed my house. For those of you reading this on March 1, 2021, you will understand why this entry is about to take a turn. We are in what feels like the winding down of the Covid-19 Pandemic restrictions that have been protecting/squeezing/ suffocating us for the past year. 

Most days I am pretty confused about what month and year it is now, and what month and year it was when this devil came upon us. It all feels like the longest sci-fi movie ever,  with no distinct or satisfying ending.

Actually, I do remember when it first reared its head. I was with a friend on a trip to California last year around this same time. We were sitting on my parents’ patio soaking in one last morning of breakfast in the sun (remember, it was February, and I currently reside in Illinois 😬). My dad was reading the news on his iPad and the news was doing what it usually does; giving us bad and daunting news. It was about this virus that had killed hundreds in China and one case had been found in a nearby city in California. My friend was alarmed and anxious to get home as I blew it off and told her to “relax, it’s never going to affect us directly, here in the United States.”

Fast forward a year and pause for a moment of silence to contemplate how it has indeed “affected us directly, here in the United States”, but also around the entire world.

All that to say, my Unique Ego entry will have to wait. Today I want to talk about the school bus.

Photo by Louis on

When I saw the bus go by, with cars slowly trailing behind it since it had just stopped to pick up a couple kids, in masks, down the block, I felt tears coming to my eyes. This is the first bus I have seen pass by my picture window in almost a year. Not long after that, another bus passed by, a short one, possibly taking sweet little Special Ed Preschoolers to the school I used to work at? 

All at once I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for this tiny glimpse of normalcy. And then, I wondered how long it would take me to start whining about sitting behind a school bus when I was in a hurry to get on with my daily errands. How long would it be until I forgot what it was like when we lived in the “upside down” world, longing for all that I took for granted before the pandemic?

It reminded me of when I had Leukemia. For 7 months I went through periods when my immune system would crash and even though I felt and looked slightly normal, I couldn’t go out of my house and if I did go somewhere (usually just to the cancer clinic to get bloodwork) I had to wear a mask and stay “socially distant” from people (I sincerely hate the combo of those two words). 

When I could finally go out, my friend Carol took me to the grocery store for an “outing” (please refer to my blog post “Why I hate you in a nutshell” and you would have thought I was going to the Caribbean. I was dressed up and even wore makeup and a wig! At that time, I was the only one wearing a mask and I felt a little conspicuous, but it didn’t squelch the sheer pleasure and immense thankfulness I felt to be doing “normal” life stuff. The stuff I used to either complain about or go through mindlessly without any acknowledgement of the privilege of being in a crowded grocery story. I thought I would never forget the bliss of that experience. I was sure I would never again lose perspective or take the simple things of life for granted. 

And I didn’t.

For at least 6 months. That’s when my treatments ended and I was thrust back in to real life with real work pressures and social and familial expectations. It wasn’t long before I started complaining about the lines at the grocery store and and dreaded running errands. Though my body had been ravaged by cancer and disease and I looked like a 100 yr old women, it wasn’t long before my mind shifted from being grateful to God about being rescued from death to being disappointed and dissatisfied with my appearance. 

I could go on and on about the ways my perspective has slipped since “God and Heather kickedleukemiainthebutt”. But that’s just about me. Let’s bring you into the mix.

My hunch is that “it won’t be long” for you either. Unless you are mindful to be grateful. 

Unless you are mindful to be grateful, your perspective about how happy you are that things are heading back to normal will start to slip. 

Some day soon you will be in a crowded place with long lines and no elbow room and sweaty smelly people. You won’t have a mask to shield the smell and since you don’t have to stand 6 feet apart you will feel a little claustrophobic. And you might be tempted to whine a little.

Someday soon you will get to go back to your kids sporting events inside a gym, and you will find yourself irritated that you can’t find a parking place and there’s nowhere to sit. 

Someday soon you will get to go back to the office/campus/classroom. You will have to get yourself and/or your kids out of bed and put on actual clothes and comb your hair and, oh dear, get in the car and drive instead of staggering to the computer to get everyone’s day started. And there’s a good chance you will express the hassle of it all and be a smidge grouchy to one another over it.

Some day soon you will sit in some traffic on roads that used to be abandoned and sparse because everyone was working/schooling/shopping/partying/zooming/churching from home.

The somedaysoon-ness of life eventually comes for all of us. Whether it’s a world-wide pandemic or something specific that has rocked your whole-wide-world.

Some of you are already there. The return of the  “old normal” you have been anticipating for so long has already become a burden. A drudgery. A chore. A “have to” rather than a “get to”. 

But it doesn’t have to be so. The only solution I have found for this way of thinking, the only remedy for this disease of entitlement, is to be mindful to be grateful.

Colossians 4:2 probably says it better: “Be watchful and thankful”. Or I Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for the is God’s will for you.” Author Sarah Young combines these verses to help us hear God saying to us: “A grateful heart protects you from negative thinking. Thankfulness enables you to see the abundance I shower upon you daily…in everything give thanks, for this is my will for you.”

Be mindful to be grateful. Be watchful and thankful. Don’t let the school bus pass by your window without shedding a tear or two for what God has brought you through. 

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