Interesting Times

A cold Saturday morning found me sipping a cup of tea and reading the newspaper, with a small space heater near my toes. I love reading the newspaper each morning, and it’s particularly enjoyable on the weekends. On this particular day, the newspaper included an article on European countries requiring the use of FFP2 masks in public spaces. I hadn’t heard of that type of mask before, so off to Amazon I went, humming a random show tune, seeking more information and availability.

I stopped in my tracks, amazed at what I was doing on this Saturday morning of January 2022. Searching for masks? As if this is just a normal thing to do? The article even referenced the Italians buying them in “a palette of colors,” with one father attending a baptism with matching mask and tie. Sure enough, Amazon offers a bevy of mask type and colors, although the FFP2 seems a rare find.

A little more than two years ago, this wouldn’t even have been on the radar screen. But so much has changed. Two years ago, we were just getting wind of this thing called COVID. How quickly we transitioned from thinking of it as just another variant of the flu to something that could shut the world down, kill millions of people globally and wreak havoc on our way of life.

This past week, I went to a local pharmacy seeking rapid tests. Many people on the neighborhood social media site identified a local pharmacy as having supplies of the difficult-to-find tests, and we wanted to have some on hand. I was able to buy two and departed with a bounce in my step, removing my mask and happily breathing in the fresh cold air outside.

Searching for rapid tests? Last year, the endeavor was searching for toilet paper and antibacterial wipes; rapid tests didn’t even exist. I also remember being in constant research mode, trying to figure out how to buy groceries and other essentials without leaving the protection of our home.

What a strange, strange couple of years. Today’s news offered hope that the latest variant’s binge on humans may be dissipating. One major newspaper suggested that Omicron may be in retreat, allowing us the opportunity to reflect on the possibility of a return to normalcy.

Normalcy. What the heck is that?

Actually, it is an interesting question: What is normal? Is normal a good thing? What do we want to return to? What do we want to avoid like the plague? COVID of course. Ahh the irony.

Just what do we really want to have happen right now? I’ve always liked this question; it makes one really think.

Certainly, we all want illness and death to cease and desist. We want our beleaguered health care workers to have a chance to rest and recover. We need kids back in school. And oh, what a joy it would be if we no longer require or feel the need for masks to be out and about. In fact, if anything brings us together, it’s the universal and intense dislike of masks. A collective happy dance will be in order if and when we feel comfortable without them.

Personally, I wish to not think twice before venturing out into the world and whether it’s safe to hug my loved ones. Petulantly, I’d rather not stick something up my nose to make sure I don’t have COVID. I hope I can get over my awkward distrust of being too close to anyone in any sort of setting.

Yet I don’t want a “return to normalcy” across the board, for some positive things actually have occurred in our world since the pandemic foisted itself upon us. Many people are quite happy with job changes, working remotely and other shifts in the working world. I’ve been able to connect with old friends during this strange time and want to keep in touch. People have found truly creative and wonderful ways to survive and thrive. Let’s not lose the lessons we’ve learned in these trying times.

What an incredibly bizarre couple of years. Before we get too excited about the potential of a return to “normalcy,” whatever that is, we are cautioned that other variants may emerge with this crazy COVID that simply doesn’t want to exit the scene. Logically, this makes sense. But emotionally, who doesn’t want to get out of this bizarre time warp.

I watched a tennis tournament last night, with an almost empty arena. It was eerily quiet. Yet they played their hearts out.

Interesting times.

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Betsy Hayhow Hemming is an author and leadership coach. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction. www.betsyhemming.com.

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Betsy Hayhow Hemming

Betsy Hayhow Hemming

Betsy Hayhow Hemming is an author and leadership coach. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction. www.betsyhemming.com.

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