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Kristin Armstrong Column for Summer 2020: Upside Right

"A divine filtration is taking place"

I can imagine how a bear feels, sensing the stir of spring outside her cave, stretching and yawning, preparing to emerge from hibernation.

We’re all a little bit like that, coming out of our caves, slightly disoriented and hungry (maybe even hangry) for life and connection and normalcy. Much is said about “going back to normal” or moving into a “new normal.”

For some, this time of hunkering down has been horrific, bringing family stress, financial stress, health concerns, flaring addictions, loneliness or nowhere to be alone. Some balanced work life and home life in the same room, with no commute to transition between the two. College kids were relegated to childhood rooms, missing friends and freedom; high school seniors were robbed of spring break, prom, graduation and parties. In a culture that relies on ritual, a chapter closed with no sense of closure. People worried about losing jobs, or risking health and safety to keep them. Our health care workers, grocery store employees, delivery people and so many others deserve our highest regard and appreciation.

For others, this time has been a glorious reprieve, the sabbatical they never would have taken, the reset and recalibration that was desperately needed. A forced pause. Time with family, dinners, puzzles, games, crafts, Netflix binges, staying up late, sleeping in and conversations that would never have happened if we weren’t stuck together without other distractions. Sitting six feet apart on friends’ porches or driveways, appreciating nature, savoring our homes instead of planning where to go next. There are so many people out walking and biking that neighborhoods look like a parade or zombie apocalypse. Some insomniacs are finally sleeping, finding a natural rhythm without an alarm. People are taking time to cook, getting in the best shape of their lives, taking afternoon naps, starting books and finishing them. Couples are reconnecting. For some, the transition out of quarantine will be more difficult than the adjustment going in.

As varied as everyone’s experience has been, so is the definition of new normal. What’s next, on the other side of this? To me, back to normal is a flawed statement, because we can’t go back to anything, ever. We can only be here now, and then go forward, carrying what we have learned.

“We can only be here now, and then go forward, carrying what we have learned.”

I like thinking about the things that are healing in the midst of a pandemic. I love the irony, the hope, the audacity of that. I love the reports about the regreening of the earth, the reduced pollution, the animals enjoying their national parks. I love this stolen time, weeks spent enjoying my children that I would never have had otherwise, when our lives were spread out or only experienced together in passing. I love bringing groceries to my parents or eating takeout on the back of my son’s truck parked in their driveway. I love the deeper intimacy with my clients, peering into each other’s lives and homes via Zoom. I love watching their bravery and commitment to growth and healing—even with the added layers of anxiety and uncertainty.

As I see it, a divine filtration is taking place. For awakened souls, this terrible virus is also a blessed sieve, straining the elements of our lives like panning for gold. So much is passing through and washing away, leaving the priceless priorities standing and shimmering. Our treasures, our health, our families; rest, meaningful work and contribution. The steadfast relationships and the people we seek out, walking beside them or camped in solidarity—safely distanced and securely connected, in our front yards. Relieved of our busyness, we are free to choose the way we really want to spend our time, and with whom. Unhooked from obligatory connections and overcrowded schedules, we see what remains. Some jobs, some people, some routines and patterns will no longer resonate on the other side of this. Maybe because everything turned upside down, things will finally turn upside right.