Negotiating a New Normal

While everything is slowly reopening and life is steadily inching back towards something that more closely resembles ‘normal’, there’s also this general sense that some of the changes to how we work, shop, and socialize are here to stay.

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A window of time?

It seems like everywhere I go right now, everyone is talking about ‘the new normal’. Ugh, does that phrase bug you as much as it does me?

Because whilst we’re not back to ‘life as it was’ yet, this present situation isn’t forever either. The truth is that we’re very much still in limbo, taking things day by day and week by week… but nothing is really ‘normal’!

As I write this, lockdown measures have been officially eased now in the UK, and we are told that schools will fully reopen in September (fist pumps the air).

But while everything is slowly reopening and life is steadily inching back towards something that more closely resembles ‘normal’, there’s also this general sense that some of the changes to how we work, shop, and socialize are here to stay, at least for a little while yet…

Still, maybe while we’re in this middle period – no longer in the deepest depths a COVID19 pandemic, but not yet completely out of the woods yet either – there is a unique window of opportunity.

What if this time is a gift, a chance to begin re-shaping our lives and our futures to look more like we want them to be? What if we get to decide which pieces of life we will pick back up and slot back in? Because we do!

But what do we do with this knowledge? Where do we even begin? I don’t pretend to have all the answers here, but this blog is a few of my personal reflections which might help to get you thinking more about this subject too…

What I’ve been learning in lockdown

I know that this pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone and that for many of us the coming months ahead of us won’t be much easier either. Yet in the midst of the challenges, this season has also been shaping me in new ways too.

For me, one of the biggest lessons has been learning to be grateful for the small things; all those things that I once took for granted, but suddenly don’t feel so small at all. Things like being face to face with friends, eating meals out in restaurants, planning family day trips, or visiting friends in other parts of the country.

And I really hope that I am able to hold onto this sense of gratitude long beyond the end of this season.

I wonder, what are things you have been learning or unlearning during these months? What are the changes you have made for the better – even if parts of this pandemic have been hard?

Has been time to cook healthier meals, and be more active during the day? Have you been staying more connected with family online? Are you discovering that you can enjoy a slower, simpler pace of life? Or something else?

Perhaps you haven’t spent much time reflecting on this yet, but if not, I would definitely encourage you to. And if you do, why not try jotting your reflections down in a journal so you can keep returning to them in the months to come too?

Developing new daily rhythms

One of the most refreshing aspects about this last season of lockdown we’ve been in since March has been the extra space it’s created in my life to develop some new daily rhythms and think a little more ‘out of the box’.

For example, for me, morning devotionals have always been a challenge to fit in, especially since having a child – even though I know it helps me start the day off well. The morning routine is our house is too hectic, and I prize my sleep too much to get up before my son does at 6 am! So most of the time, they just didn’t happen.

But over this time, it’s suddenly become possible again, in place of my daily commute. So now, once my son has left for school, I can take a few moments with my coffee and Bible in hand and talk to God before I switch my laptop on or start on any of the daily chores.

And likewise, the lack of commute at the end of the day means that we’ve also been prioritizing family meals a lot more at the end of the working day too.

Both of these things have become established new rhythms in my day, and since they’re ones that enrich my life, improve my relationships and support good mental health, they are rhythms I would like to preserve – even as life goes ‘back to normal’.

Living more intentionally

This past week, the apostle Paul’s warning from Ephesians 5, has really been on my mind: “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

I’ve heard it said that every generation has its own cultural and spiritual ‘blind spots’, and if that’s true, then I think busyness might be one of ours.

Our culture is just so obsessed with the pursuit of more: more work, more money, more achievements, more success, more influence, more stuff. But often less is actually more. Less rushing around, less cramming things in, less spreading yourself too thin, and less pushing yourself so hard…

I think a lot of the busyness, in my life at least (and I don’t think I’m alone here!), is caused by accepting endless distractions coming at me through my phone, and also by mindlessly taking things on and just saying yes to everything.

Often saying yes and taking on ‘more’ can seem like the better options, and even more, spiritual option, can’t it? Because ‘yes’ is the word that makes things happen. But increasingly I am finding that it’s actually when I take on less, that I am able to be more available to God and to others around me, and also more in touch with my own emotional needs. So for me, this current season presents the opportunity for a bit of a re-set.

But please don’t take this as me saying that everyone has been sat at home twiddling their fingers during this pandemic. I work in the NHS (the national health service) – and those first few weeks when the virus peaked were especially brutal! I was working over-time and also trying to home school simultaneously.

But even so, I recognize that my overall pace of life changed; suddenly there was no commuting, no school runs, no church meetings, no social obligations, no family events, and no children’s activities to run around for with my son…

So now, in this window of time, before everything restarts again and I just fall back into being over-loaded, it feels like it’s time for some honest reflection about my priorities, and a chance to make some brave choices about the future.

What’s in or out?

How about you? What are the things about life before quarantine that you want to pick up again, and what are those things you might want to leave behind?

Try to be really intentional about thinking this through and be accountable about it too. Why not talk about it with your partner, your family or friends, and agree on some changes together? You could even make a list of what’s in and what’s out to help really focus the mind.

Be honest, be brave, be creative… but also, be realistic too! For example, I know that as lockdown eases, not everything in my life is up for debate… and as much as I would like to never have to return to my full-time job at the office again, we still have the same bills that need to be paid!

But whilst I can’t cut out work altogether, I can talk to my employer about working in a way that better suits my needs. For instance, I’d like to continue to work at home some days so that I can cut out the commute and be home to pick up my son from the school gates at 3.30 pm, rather than have him in after school club until 6 pm every day.

Chances are that the changes that you need to make will look different from mine. And whilst some of them might be major, some of them might just be small adjustments too. The most important thing is that you are intentional and don’t just get sucked back into the same old, same old… if that same old wasn’t working too well for you.

And if you take nothing else away at all from reading this blog, know this: Your life and your time is a gift from God, and you get to spend it however you choose… so be brave, be intentional, and choose wisely.

 

Written by: Anna Kettle

 

This is an updated edition of a post originally published on annakettle.com.

Featured image by 烧不酥在上海 老的

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