288: Cultivating a New Normal

The Atlantic recently posted an article asserting there won’t be a clear end to the pandemic. Rather, the end for each of us will be as unique and differentiated as each one of us and occur on a different timeline. Frequently, the yearning for “returning to normal” may be voiced by those around us, strangers […] Listen now or continue reading below.

The Atlantic recently posted an article asserting there won’t be a clear end to the pandemic. Rather, the end for each of us will be as unique and differentiated as each one of us and occur on a different timeline.

Frequently, the yearning for “returning to normal” may be voiced by those around us, strangers or intimate relations, or we may be simply thinking such thoughts, constantly, as we grieve the parts of our lives we enjoyed that are no longer readily available or available at all.

However, even before the pandemic introduced itself and in what seemed for many to change our lives much like a light-switch, the psychological experts have been talking about this word that seems to roll off our tongues more often than ever before in recent times – normal. Writing in 2009 on Pyschology Today, “The fate of normality is very much in the balance,” wrote Peter Kramer.

While speaking about individuals as to their neurosis or so-called normal behaviors and the perameters of what constitutes “normal”, he shared a final thought which may help reframe how we strive forward in our current times as we are more broadly looking at an entire world, culture, etc. and what “normal”, the new normal, may be:

Normality may be a myth we have allowed ourselves to enjoy for decades, sacrificed now to the increasing recognition of differences. The awareness that we all bear flaws is humbling. But it could lead us to a new sense of inclusiveness and tolerance, recognition that imperfection is the condition of every life.

—Peter Kramer, psychatrist at Brown Medical School

Unhealthy normalization of any one behavior reflects a lack of awareness regarding the shift that is happening. Even if the normalization is a positive change, to not be aware speaks to a life lived unconsciously. Living with intention, remaining present and intentionally choosing to cultivate healthy change is how a new worthwhile normal materializes.

While unwanted changes infilitrated our daily lives, if we were and are living consciously, we chose to examine why they were unwanted. What was it about being able to go to a crowded theater for a play, a movie, a concert that elevated our spirits and our moods? What was it about travel to foreign lands that ignited our enthusiasm and adrenaline? What was it about casual, unplanned interactions with passersby by on our walks, at the store, that we now long for, and perhaps would have never pinpointed as a vital necessity to our everyday lives?

Thoughtful examination of what we miss, why we miss it, and then choosing to broaden our perspective and seek out inspiration to introduce new ideas to welcome such a feeling of boosted spirits and connection and fulfillment and [fill in the blank with what you are missing] is the new task each of us have.

The new normal need not be a heavy-heart of constant mourning. Rather, it can instead be a destination to be grateful we had the chance to step toward and now experience.

New normals that appeared in decades past: following the 1918-19 Spanish flu and the end of World War I, leisurely, carefree entertainment was a sought out intentinoally, thus welcoming in the cars and radio into everyday life. Following World War II, commercial air travel took off for the masses, and following the accessibility to connect via the internet at the turn of the 21st century, “busy” became the “new normal” of its time.

Not all of the three changes will be seen as positive, but it was an event, a significant shift in how our lives could or had to function that brought them to be present.

Conscious living will determine if the new normal for each one of us is not only satisfying but something we savor and long to embrace and continue.

The intuitive part of me is cautiously optimistic that our ability to observe and appreciate quality rather than quantity may emerge. Our lives, our very lives – the breaths we need to live, were/are at jeopardy with the pandemic – whether we felt the pain and loss that Covid19 can thrust into our lives directly or more indirectly – lives that once thrived and walked about the globe are no longer. Perhaps we begin to realize, acutely come to accept, our mortality, and live accordingly a life of sincere fulfillment and engagement. A thoughtful “yes” will become more exercised rather than a reflexive “yes”; a resolute, yet respectful no will hold no guilt, but instead peace and working smarter will replace working longer hours for the sake of looking “busy”.

The hope leads us, the repeated intentional action cultivates the new normal we wish to welcome into our lives. In the blink of an eye or gradually over time, our lives can change, and it is being aware that such change is possible that reminds us to participate in the process.

The normals of the past and present that we have accepted can be influenced by endless outside sources if we are not careful. Walt Disney himself knew the power of movies, “Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.” Social media in our twenty-first century can have the same “tremendous influence” if we do not thoughtfully navigate through what we read, listen to, etc..

Your new normal may not be exactly like my new normal, or anything at all like my new normal, but if you can introduce even just one desired change that will positively affect the quality of your life, your new normal is better than what you are living currently.

Some savored routines will be able to return, and when they do, let’s celebrate them. In so doing, we are living presently, we are letting go of the understandable ease that is taking things for granted. Other routines may be changed forever, but that is okay as well. It’s time to stretch. It’s time to push a bit more out of our comfort zone. Everything does not have to change. In fact, it shouldn’t, but upon taking the time to examine what you miss and why, consider new approaches, new activities, new ways of going about your day that you didn’t consider as possible before or as in your “wheel-house”. The outcome may surprise and delight you.


Petit Plaisir

~A Signature Catch-All Dish

Bring a small, yet significant touch of comfort to locations in your home where you sit to relax or settle in for the evening.

Shop for a unique plate or dish or tray that fits the tabletop, but doesn’t take up the entire flat space (leaving room for a lamp or other necessary decor items). Shop second-hand, consignment, antique or even your own cupboards for a unique dish that brings a smile, and can function as you need it to – holding the items you need and reach for regularly, as well as keeping the tabletop organized.


An example catch-all plate (salad plate – 8.5″ diameter – Gien’s Peonies Scalloped Plate)

Ideas of items to include:

Bedside Table (primary or guest):

Desk

Living Room/Reading Chair

  • bookmarker
  • small notepad
  • book
  • candle with cloche (shop below)
  • match striker
  • bud vase

Candle Glass Cloches


As fall will begin on Tuesday of this week, I wanted to share with you three posts you might enjoy to step well into the new season.



~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #288
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9 thoughts on “288: Cultivating a New Normal

  1. While I feel that living a better life was a movement in progress prior to the pandemic restrictions, recognizing the shift in our lives is essential to discover what a new normal means to each person. Understanding that life is an evolution, an experiment of sorts, we can proceed and learn in the process.

    Love the Petite Plaisir, I have little trays and dishes here and there. Charming and useful!

  2. Unfortunately, the ‘New Normal’ doesn’t have the real pleasure of live Opera. Sure, we can and do, watch the wonderful free streaming from the Met Opera, Covent Garden, etc, but it does nothing to support the new, emerging talents that we adore and support. My husband and I are deeply involved in sponsoring young opera singers in a fabulous program that trains and helps develop their careers. We have quite a ‘stable’ of singers now, and the enormous pleasure that we have had watching them in small roles, or small productions, in competitions is incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling. Now they have no work, their training is all online and no audience. It is heartbreaking. I truly hope that we can go back to live performances and the full houses that they need to break even or make a small profit.

    1. Melissa, What an amazing program you have described. I am confident, although it may take longer to return, that opera will return. If nothing else, the current situation has confirmed your dedication and passion, and that is a powerful motivator to make sure it does return. 😌

  3. Thanks so much, Shannon, for always looking for – and reminding us of – the positive potential. There’s nothing we can do to change the hard facts of the moment, but we can still use our creativity and ingenuity to look for ways to grow within the current limits. It’s not easy, and there are days when even trying seems too hard, but the alternative is unthinkable. Plus, a little shift in attitude can go a long way. Thanks for creating a place to come for inspiration and support – soul food.

  4. Shannon,

    Your posts come in as fresh air, every time! This one is so timely.

    I am coming to grips that I need to access online art classes, instead of bemoaning the lack of travel to teachers I admire. So, just that small yet significant shift is letting me do what I enjoy……side benefit, no travel expenses!

    Please know what you share is so beneficial and appreciated!👌

    1. Joan, thank you for sharing your mental shift. You are not alone in having reluctance as you enjoyed what you were able to do before. It will return again, but we just don’t know when. So in the meantime, adapting in a new way may offer in its own unexpected benefits. 🙂 I appreciate your comment. 😌

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