My New Normal
by Donna Scrafano
One of the many witty quotes from author and Christian motivational speaker Patsy Clairmont is “Normal is just a setting on your dryer.” She has also published a book with that title. Although I have not read the book, ever since I heard this quote quite a few years ago, I have found myself referring to it often through my life’s journey.
A little over a year ago, after the death of my father ended my stint as a caregiver for him, my newly restored freedom created a different kind of normal for me. A wonderful kind of normal. When the world began to be besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, however, my restored freedom was once again compromised. I could not come and go as I once did. I could not visit friends or loved ones. And when I prepared to enter the grocery store, I had to suit up as if I was going to war—mask, gloves, and disinfectant wipes together with a plan of action to get in and get out as quickly as possible. Oh, and let’s not forget how we must keep in mind the six feet of social distancing, a rule that some just won’t honor. Therefore, I tried my best to not appear too silly when I hurried down an aisle in order to stay as far from others as possible.
Another new normal for me was the additional meal prep at home. I used to go to restaurants often, but since the pandemic began, I’ve only been inside a restaurant twice (and this was because the bees were so bad on the outside deck), and I’ve eaten outdoor restaurant dining maybe four times since the pandemic. It even took me some time to feel safe enough to order out. So many questions filled my mind: “I don’t know who is cooking the food or where they’ve been?” “Did they sneeze or cough while cooking my food?” “Did they wash their hands?” “Are they using gloves and masks?” My daughter told tried to calm me down, telling me “Mom, the food is hot. The heat will kill the germs.” Are my thoughts rational or irrational? Another new normal.
The most challenging new normal was not visiting with my other grandchildren and new great-grandbaby. Not having physical interaction with the entire family is so against our cultural norms. We had gone from face-to-face visiting, complete with Nana’s/Nonna’s hugs and kisses, several times a week to virtually nothing, or so it seemed.
Watching the news would cause me such anxiety at times. The barrage of inconsistent and contradictory information from the media led me to think “Does anyone know what the hell we’re really supposed to do in order to keep safe?” (Other thoughts included a variety of explicit language, which I will not share here.) Finally, I decided to listen to the doctors and the scientists. Ah! some relief.
So, what did I do with this new normal? I decided to change the setting on my dryer.
Before restrictions were eased, I did friend drive-bys. I would be in my car with my coffee, and my friends would be on their porches. We’d have coffee and conversation. The most difficult restriction was how I visited with my grandchildren and great-grandchild. The available options were via Zoom, meeting in a large field, and visiting through a glass storm door. I ended up mostly standing outside that door blowing kisses, mimicking air hugs, and making baby talk conversation.
The current setting on my dryer allows us to actually get together. We have a large yard, so most of our gatherings are outside. Now, we are contemplating what things will be like when the cold weather arrives. And what about the holidays? We will need another new normal setting, I suppose. Another winter and another Christmas under COVID.
I still suit up with my armor when going into the store, but I don’t run so frantically if an individual isn’t honoring social distancing. If they start coughing or sneezing, however, I’m gone! And I can still give a deadly Sicilian stare with my eyes. Mask or no mask, the point is made.
Normal truly is a setting on your dryer. I’ll just keep turning the dial to my “new normal.”
Photo credit by Nick Karvounis (Copenhagen, Denmark) @nickkarvounis
Donna began her journey in Human Services in 1983. During the next 35 years she held various positions and formally retired in 2018. She writes on an array of social issues. Donna's relaxation time includes walking her Lab, Roxy, having fun with her seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, writing for Silver Sage, spending time with friends and family. Her last full-time position was providing care to her father. Since that has ended, Donna is taking the time to invest in her own self care and interests.