Back to normal

By Sue Tiffin

A s we begin to learn in the next week how much our efforts of physical distancing have prevented the spread of the coronavirus the question asked since public health officials first advised us to avoid contact with each other by self-isolating lingers: when will we get back to normal?

But what we might have considered normal has changed and while eventually over weeks or months some aspects of our daily life will return to what we have known some things might have changed forever and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

For many being forced into a life less busy could result in personal change and growth. No one is expected to write their memoir at a time when a global pandemic is spreading waves of grief and anxiety throughout the world. But over time with what Fred Penner referred to as "extra time" in his online concert this week many of us will have had the break we needed from a hectic routine that celebrated busy over time spent really pausing to care for ourselves and for others and to connect with what might have been left aside in the daily rush.

We are remembering to make time for phone calls and face-to-face video chats in which we really use technology to connect rather than be distracted. We are looking out for each other and those who need support that we might not have considered while we've rushed from home to school to meetings to work to practice to events. We are realizing that what is most important for us in this time is health and keeping ourselves and others well by being active finding calm and connecting with each other.

In having the experience of facing the same crisis with each other we are learning about others. We might not have truly grasped before the lives led and decisions made by our friends who live paycheque-to-paycheque; by both kids and adults who live in abusive situations; by entrepreneurs and business owners who make decisions that affect others every day; about caregivers and people with disabilities who live in a world that can be unsafe and inconvenient on a daily basis; about people with substance use challenges including alcohol dependence that makes lack of access to alcohol dangerous; about the valued work teachers do and the importance of a social safety net for all; about the essential work some of our most low-paid neighbours do and the risk our frontline workers take in trying to protect and help others.

We are learning about our impact on the world seeing true evidence of the environmental changes we can make by telecommuting enjoying some downtime staying local and reducing what we buy. We are learning about our impact on each other by acknowledging the peace we find in enjoying the arts and the effect we can have by supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs and farmers; or waving to our elders through a window.

We are learning about how much our vote matters and how much strong leadership that can work together matters not just in crisis but every day to provide support security and a better life for our most vulnerable because just like in the time of a pandemic we can all live better lives when everyone is equipped to feel safe.

"The lesson we are learning from #COVID19 pandemic is that none of us can be safe and healthy unless we are making sure that all of us worldwide are safe and healthy" reads part of Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam's March 26 tweet on physical distancing. "No Canadian will be safe and healthy unless we make sure that all Canadians are protected."

That is true now and that will be true in the future regardless of what our new normal looks like.