A Manifesto for the ‘New Normal’

Sunset at Thurlestone Beach

In an irony Alanis would be only too chuffed to holler about, the COVID-19 lockdown simultaneously ground our little planet to a screeching halt overnight whilst stimulating the kind of rapid progress that would normally take years or decades of hesitation, debate, therapy and bullshit bus messaging to achieve.

On the largest scales:

  • equipped and staffed hospitals miraculously sprung up overnight;
  • millions of white collar workers finally embraced remote working as not only entirely possible but arguably more productive and efficient;
  • thousands of other industries also discovered the power of tech and innovated to move their business online;
  • the Wizard pulled back the curtain and revealed just how much a responsible government can do for its people when needed*;
  • we learnt who are REALLY the most valuable components to keeping our world moving – hey key workers;
  • rampant consumerism slowed and demonstrated just how much of our society is built around us all continuously buying things we simply don’t need with money we don’t have for reasons we cannot really define;
  • the reduction in pollution from mass travel, commuting and production started to heal the planet in inarguably tangible ways – those aerial shots of smog free Chinese cities, Venetian waterways teeming with life, the Welsh goats living their best urban lives to call out a few.

Let’s also not forget that the last few months have given space for the biggest civil rights movement the world has seen gather momentum and start to drive meaningful change towards racial equality.

2020 so far has offered a beautiful paradox of decades of technological advancement, long overdue societal change and environmental repair – all co-existing, imagine that. Coupled with a breathtakingly painful, world altering, life changing pandemic, must remember that.

Thurlestone Beach

On more personal levels we rediscovered untold joy in our immediate surroundings, in slowing down, in learning to be more self sufficient, in feeling grass between our toes and basking in the sun, in spending more quality time with loved ones. We found new meaningful ways to connect with others, embraced long forgotten hobbies, realised how little we need to thrive as human beings. Our communities blossomed with neighbours looking out for one another, helpers springing up from every nook and cranny. Not to give the pandemic too much credit but many of us learnt how to totally redefine ourselves in little lives that no longer included a 9-5 as the main anchor point.

Of course by ‘us’ I mean ‘me’ and by ‘learnt how to totally redefine ourselves’ I mean ‘floundered for a long time, suffered almost crippling bouts of doubt and uncertainty, almost single handedly kept Thatchers in business, started watching The Walking Dead again – ditched it 10 mins in – waaaaay too soon, read a lot, created almost nothing and lived braless in dungarees’. But I digress.

But what now? How do we ensure that the ‘new normal’ loses its quotation marks and prefix and just becomes the way it is? Dungarees included.

I cannot speak for the rest of humankind but I do know that, amidst the fear and cider, the last few months has changed me in ways I couldn’t possibly have anticipated and given me space to take stock which is a rare gift.

I’ve rediscovered a resilience I thought I’d lost (yes, it wobbles but it’s there). I found time and space to consider the life I’d like to lead going forward – trying to figure out how to pay my bills in this new normal without chipping away at my soul to do it. Spent a lot of time thinking about this little internet space and how to use it to both meet my creative need and offer something of value to the people who still somehow end up here. Tried to re-prioritise the things, people and experiences that spark joy whilst bumping those energy sucking elements down the list. Found peace by the water and in the fields with my unruly pack of dogs. Re-affirmed my love of yoga and unwrapped a thrill in teaching it I wasn’t sure would ever surpass the fear in doing so. Soaked up the gentle comfort in the many golden sunsets that just kept rolling in. Got to know my local shopkeepers better than ever before as we all tried to support one another.

That sounds relentlessly perky which is not the overriding feeling much of the time. I too constantly battle the despair, lack of control and fear that such uncertainty brings but what else is there to do but take personal responsibility, lean into the discomfort and evolve with it? The new normal might just be here to stay and it might not be an altogether bad thing. It is terrifying, unsettling and has kicked so many of us off balance but there is opportunity here.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I speak from a position of enormous privilege – I was lucky to have an income for most of this period, the security of my home and a safe place to spend my days, to live so very close to beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy, to be locked down with those I love and not to have suffered the losses that many of us have. There is of course enormous privilege just by virtue of the country I happened to be born in – I do not live in a war zone, or surrounded by abject poverty or without some element of control over my own destiny and I will forever be grateful for that.

The next few months are likely to be as tough as the last few as we face local lockdowns, mask outrage (just, don’t), mass unemployment, yet more fumbling from politicians whose priorities are often skewed and murky and a struggling economy but perhaps if we can all find a little room to focus on the kind of world we want to live in and take small, personal steps towards creating that for ourselves, collectively we can keep the parts of this new normal that really do make the planet an undeniably better place.

We’ve got this. But right now, in this moment, how are YOU?

*NB This is in NO WAY calling this government responsible. Merely highlighting how much they managed to harvest from the magic money tree when the economy was hit by a crippling pandemic. This does not change the last decade of continuously stripping our public services out of all function and perpetually neglecting the most vulnerable in our society. Preach out.

Vulnerability vs Neediness