Monday, March 23, 2020

Coming up with a new “normal”

Let’s face it; we all have different opinions on what “normal” life is like. Get to meet a new friend and suddenly you’re watching different family traditions, seeing a different way to do dishes, looking at life through a different filter.

Rarely, however, is everyone’s definition of “normal” challenged at the same time. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening around the globe. First one country, then the next; first one state, then the next; first one town, then yours. Like a wave that sweeps in at high tide, we can see it coming, yet want one more day at the beach (for some, literally) before we change our “normal.”

For me, that’s already happened. The change, that is. It began the week of March 8th with daily updates and changes to behavior here in New York State. Our college extended Spring Break by a week in order to give everyone time to let the dust settle.

Yet the dust swirled into a tempest in those two weeks and, while classes are not cancelled, we’ve all gone online. Took me the better part of a week to rewrite my curriculum (I’m teaching Freshmen Comp II this semester) and get it uploaded to Blackboard, our school’s online classroom. I’ve dropped some assignments in favor of others, kept all the Big Papers, and figured out a way to do peer review. I think.

What I’ve kept in mind is something that was passed along when the decision was made that we wouldn’t meet face-to-face with our students for the rest of the semester: don’t worry about creating masterful, engaging, online lessons. You don’t have the training, you don’t have the expertise, you don’t have the time. This is triage learning. What are the essentials? Stick to those and everyone will get through this.

And that’s a good way of looking at the new “normal,” too. This isn’t permanent. It happened fast and humans are notorious for preferring the status quo even to their own detriment. We’ve been forced into a change (I don’t always agree with Governor Cuomo, but I gotta admit, he’s doing a great job right now). Change is hard (I did my Master’s thesis on Change Theory – yeah, hard is too mild a word). But it’s triage. It’s determining what is most important Right Now and leaving the rest to figure out tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.

My current workspace. You can't see my computer in this pic
(It's in the other half of the room) but can you tell
this space belongs to a writer?
I was thrilled that I was selected as a Writer in Residence at Storyknife this summer. I’m still thrilled, even if I end up not being able to go (they’ve closed for the April residencies – those writers will have those same slots for April 2021). I’m not canceling my travel plans yet (what did I say about humans preferring the status quo?) but I’m aware that not going is definitely a possibility. There’s always my front porch.

My cruise-employed daughter has been home for over a half a year, and has now decided not  to take a new cruise contract (yay!), but has gotten her own place and moved out this past weekend. My son does maintenance and grounds work at a local church and, as of last Friday, still had a job (we’ll see what this week brings). My husband, always a freelancer, has had to cancel all his painting parties and art shows, but is still painting. He’s had a bit harder time of getting his college classes online – part of his courses involve public speaking, so he needs to deal with videos.

So, my new normal takes the word out of the quotations and into reality. I’m mostly retired from teaching (only have the one aforementioned course), so my routine hasn’t been disrupted a whole lot. With my husband no longer going out to teach his classes (he teaches four), he’s around a lot more so we’re figuring out how to do the tasks we want to do (I’m still writing, btw!) without getting in each other’s way.

Some people write up strict schedules and use those to plan and guide their day. Others create day-by-day meal plans and follow them almost religiously. Since I teach, I’m used to creating lesson plans that I stick to (Mostly. One always must take into account the Teachable Moment).

The workspace of an artist.
If you like his work, check out Steve Duprey or DupreyArt
on Facebook!
Except, at home my hubby and I are more free-wheelers. Always have been and we’ve decided that’s still a part of our normal that isn’t changing. I write when I want, he paints when he wants. We have separate work spaces in the house and that allows room for our individual creativity. We eat when we’re hungry, skip meals when we’re not and we manage just fine.

Yet normal is changing even for us. With my daughter gone and just the two of us in the house again, that’s one adjustment. Being over 60 (not by much, thank you very much CDC – I am NOT elderly!) means grocery shopping during “senior hours” – that’s another shift. Not being able to see my Dad or my brother (they’re both in assisted living) is a harder change, but that’s why we invented the phone.

As the saying goes, life goes on….until it doesn’t. And until it doesn’t, change is a part of life (if you noticed, one of the changes I’ve mentioned would’ve happened with or without the virus. Daughters have a tendency to grow up and leave the house).

So curl up with a good book, a good movie, or a good view. Accept the changes, make them the new normal, and, if you’re lucky (like I am – I understand that retirees have the easier part of this), just keep swimming!

Stay and play safe,

P.S. If you haven’t taken a look at the Authors Give Back sale at Smashwords, be sure to take a peek. ALL my titles are 60% off from now until April 20th. And yes, that makes about a half dozen or so FREE!

Updated to fix typos. Thanks, Kim W.!

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