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Sunday Musings: Wait… This IS The New Normal!

It’s minutes before 7:00 on Sunday Morning, October 11, and I’ve just sat down to perform this morning’s FFB update. Rubbing my eyes and trying to gain my composure enough to think – let alone muse upon anything – I realize I slept in the sweats and slipper socks I wore yesterday. Is THIS the new normal?

BK Whopper Meal - © Burger KingIf a classic Burger Meal is becoming your go-to work-from-home lunch or supper,
and you’re having a Beer or two with it you’re falling into the trap…

On reflection, I’m afraid it might be. But what does that really mean? It means that the old, pre-pandemic routines, standards and expectations about life are fading, being replaced by new, quite different ones to suit the new conditions under COVID-19…

It means that some of us, working from home, have declared every day ‘Casual Friday’. Coffee Break or Lunch can be anytime. We have forgotten what it’s like to fight the commuter traffic or the crowded buses or trains we used to have ride twice a day. There is no longer a distinction between weekdays or weekends (unless we have declared there to be, for some reason of our own). Many of us are no longer driving every day – or at least as much as we were – and our skills are becoming dangerously rusty.

As I’ve noted in previous posts, the sun seems to be clearing the yardarm earlier and earlier in the day, leading to longer and longer Happy Hours. We have lost contact with our friends and extended family members. Many of the more active elements of our lives have gone into suspended animation ‘for the duration’, but we miss them less and less with each passing day. The housework is getting more and more behind. But that doesn’t seem to matter as much as it used to; nobody is coming over to visit, anyway.

Our health is suffering

Another thing it means is that our attitudes towards eating, nutrition and food in general are changing markedly, depending on our individual circumstances and responsibilities.

We’re experiencing a double whammy: Less exercise, fresh air and activity of all kinds are causing our internal systems to lose synchronization with each other, minor wounds and injuries are taking noticeably longer to heal, and our mental processes are dulling alarmingly. I for one have experienced a troubling and frustrating loss of muscle mass as my daily walks and regular shopping and other activities have been curtailed. My sense of balance and motor skills have suffered.

On the other hand, I’m eating more, and more of what I’m eating tends to be convenience food that’s full of bad stuff and empty calories. I have gained 15 pounds since the original COVID-19 lock down was declared. The other members of my family have also experienced unhappy and unhealthy changes in their overall physical condition.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy

Perhaps the biggest tragedy is that, as I become physically and mentally more flabby, the less and less I care. And the more normal the pandemic reality seems. Erin and Mom are more concerned when the lights go out for a few moments during a thunderstorm, or the cable or Internet go ‘Poof!’ and need their respective reception boxes need to be re-booted. They rapidly become crabby and upset and can’t get their fix – classic addictive withdrawal behaviour. Me? I can still draw some solace from reading a good book. But I, too, have limits. Especially as I become quicker to tire, slower to react and weaker of wit and limb.

One of the specific issues we face at my house is, we’re all losing interest in food. I’ll bet you never thought you’d hear someone who does what I do for a living admit that. But what I eat and when I eat seem to matter less and less as new realities such as helping my increasingly needy, frail mother just get through her days take priority.

What happens when COVID-19 is gone?

It’s frightening to think that some observers are warning that COVID-19 may never completely go away; might become a seasonal thing like regular flu, or something that’s just always out there, waiting to resurge, making mask wearing, social distancing and other basic behaviours we’ve adapted to under the pandemic become part of all our regular lives.

Imagine what ensues if the bad habits we’ve acquired during the so-called lock down lock themselves in as parts of our regular lives? The experts are already predicting that mask wearing may become a ‘daily normal’ habit for a majority of us – as it already is in some Asian cultures – even if / when COVID-19 passes away altogether some day. Folks who are elementary school children today may react badly to a return to conventional classroom schooling, which they don’t remember or, in the extreme, will have never experienced. Folks who’ve become used to working from home may not want to go back to the conventional centralized ‘office’ model.

My take

Restaurants are already ‘streamlining’ their operations and menus to concentrate more on contactless ordering, payment and take-out / delivery. They like the idea of limiting eat-in, sit-down dining because the online ordering and payment ‘take-away’ approach is cheaper and much easier for them to operate. And they’re also talking already about continuing these ‘evolutions’ in their business models after the pandemic passes.

If ‘mealtimes’ become less and less a collective concept when families and social or working groups usually get together to mingle, and share news and opinions, might we be giving up an important part of our culture?

And if the concepts of ‘breaking bread together’ and ‘sharing over food’ become less convenient and less common, will our current notions of civility, community and cultural identities also become weaker and less important?

I hope not. But I fear so…

~ Maggie J.

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