I think it is fair to say that 2020 has been a very strange time, not only in MY STORY, but also in HISTORY. It seems that I have spent the past seven months constantly reinventing my idea of normal. I spent some time just waiting for things to get better and, when that did not happen, I found myself continually jerry-rigging the routines of my life to make them work during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have become the MacGyver of real life. I embraced Zoom to keep people connected. I ordered curbside dining and balanced Styrofoam boxes on my steering wheel in order to keep patronizing restaurants. I wear make-up and jewelry and do my hair even though I am only traveling from the bathroom to the living room. I went to Disney parks masked and sanitized at every turn- staying so far away from other patrons, I needed a carrier pigeon to communicate with them. I invest in a lot of postage stamps to periodically send little surprises to my absent loved ones. I re-defined getting a COVID-19 test as a date, for heaven’s sake.
Some folks would say I have invested way too much time and energy trying to solve problems that don’t really exist; that the activities I am trying to recreate could easily wait until after the world starts rotating properly on its axis again.
On the other hand, I know that I do a lot of these things not because I must do those specific activities, but because I am chasing some semblance of “feeling normal”. I am a person who is extremely motivated by steadiness and routine. I am pretty risk and change adverse. Spending nine months in a world that feels different every day in every way absolutely wears away at my sense of security. In retrospect, I feel like I have done remarkably well in coping with the situation. I have been able to manage my anxiety and depression level effectively most of the time.
I have certainly had my days when I have had to make a deliberate effort to push back an attack of negativity from my brain, but mostly I am good. I credit that emotional survival with continuing to try to build some weird, mutated version of normal life. In essence, it is not the doing of these activities like meetings on Zoom or calling a COVID-19 test a date that is important. It is the process of creating normalcy that is important for me. It is also important for me that the essence of myself does not drown in the ocean of apathy that threatens to engulf my quarantine life. When it gets too easy and too normal to not communicate, not socialize, not look my best, and not have fun, I know bad things are bound to happen to my psyche.
Still, despite my super-human efforts to create normalcy out of weirdness, I have not been completely successful. Masks, social distancing, hug prohibitions- all remind me that, no matter what I do, life is not normal. I am getting really tired of it, so I thought about when I have felt most normal during these past months. What can I do to maximize those times?
As I thought about it, I realized that the times I felt most normal were the times when I was at the beach. A couple of friends and I took an overnight trip to Fernandina Beach this spring. Max and I went to Daytona Beach a month or so ago. Recently, a friend and I went to Clearwater Beach. That is probably more beach activity than I have had in one year for as long as I can remember. It has been remarkably helpful.
At the beach, people can stay six feet away from each other easily. In fact, even before COVID-19, I would not be closer than six feet away from any other beach visitor. No one needs to wear a mask because we are outside and physically distant. There is nothing less claustrophobic than looking out into the vastness of the ocean. Hearing the sea birds and the waves, smelling the seaweed, tasting the salt in the air, feeling the cool water on my skin… all these things help me remember how big and beautiful the world is. I remember looking out at the ocean as I walked through the waves on Daytona Beach and thinking it was like a treasure chest filled with emeralds and aquamarines and teal tourmalines… so many beautiful, sparkling blue and green gems twinkling at me.
All three of my beach visits were this rejuvenating. I bought a shirt in Fernandina Beach that says, “Salt Water Heals Everything.” That may not be completely true, but, for me, salt water does seem to heal the COVID-19 blues. At the beach, I can wave good-bye to weird.
Is there a special place you go to “get back to basics” and feel at least a little normal? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a weird-free day!