| Family Reflections |

The New Normal

In our new reality we mourn what was, while feeling grateful for what is

Shevy hates wearing her mask. “Everyone looks like a zombie, including me,” she laments. Her mom concurs: “What’s the point of putting on your sheitel and trying to look decent when you’ve got this ‘shmatteh’ on your face?”

We understand that health comes before beauty, but that doesn’t mean we like it.

“My little kids think that this is how people look and act. You put a mask on. You get your hands spritzed. Then you can shop. I feel bad for them. This isn’t the world I want to be living in.”

Illness and death are far more “bothersome” than masks and hand sanitizer, of course. We are all doing what we have to do. But we aren’t all liking it.

The Party’s Over

“At first it wasn’t all bad. In fact, staying home from work with the kids definitely had its perks. I didn’t have to run anywhere or do any car pools. And the kids were, and still are, loving it. I’m sure they’ll have fond memories of the pandemic period! But I hate that it’s still around. My husband and I both have returned part-time to our outside-the-house activities. But my parents — both senior citizens — are still afraid to leave their house and they clearly are worried about having contact with us. It’s so painful; I want the kids to be hugged again by their grandparents.”

Although some people have returned — almost — to their regular pre-coronavirus lifestyle, many are still living in areas with restrictions. “I know it’s for our protection, and I appreciate that, but having to sign all these forms acknowledging that I’m risking my life, having my temperature taken and having to use sanitizer before I can even walk through the door to get into my dentist’s office — I can’t stand it. I feel like I’m living in a hospital, surrounded by disease.”

People want this to be over and they want to get on with their lives the old way. “There’s still official limits of how many people can stand here and there. I’m a law-abiding person but practically everyone I know doesn’t care about the rules like I do. My teenagers are questioning my policies. It’s a constant battle and I’m getting very worn down by it. I just want life to go back to normal.”

Because the rules aren’t black and white, interpersonal conflict is almost inevitable. “We moved in with my parents for the first couple of months and my in-laws were very insulted that we wouldn’t visit them during that time. They missed the kids terribly. But when we moved back home, they wanted us to make up for lost time and didn’t understand that we don’t feel comfortable exposing either set of parents to the kids now that they’re going to camp.”

Ambivalent Emotions

People everywhere are still heavily affected by COVID-19, even if they’ve gone back to work, are shopping in stores, started camp or school, are socializing in large groups, or are back to shul. But life is not normal. Even if only minor adjustments are necessary for some people in some locations, their life is still affected by the presence of this disease. No one is exempt from its reach. Many of us are mourning the loss of our familiar practices, habits, privileges, comforts, and general way of life. And, because we’re still managing to enjoy the comforts of a functioning society, many of us are counting our blessings at the same time.

“This whole experience has made me think about how out-of-control life can really be. Yes, we’re grieving the loss of our freedoms. But now I wonder how people lived through years of war and severe deprivation in the many horrific periods of our history. How did they manage to live without food, warmth, and safety? How did they survive surrounded by torture and death? This pandemic has also brought tragedy and severe loss, yet I’m so grateful to Hashem that I’ve still got my “basics” — my family, my kitchen packed with food, my bed, my Wi-Fi access, and all the other comforts of home. I try to focus on that.”

We experience both pain and gratitude. It’s important to accept both of these emotional realities in ourselves and in our loved ones. It will help all of us better negotiate these unnerving times.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 702)

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