We’re more more than a month in. A month after the “PAUSE” button on our lives was pushed.
Most of us are still trying to figure out how to live those external lives inside our homes. Some need to cope with a world that is totally different, but their lives are still going on as if nothing happened. Some of us are struggling alone with a terrible illness.
No matter who you are, it’s hard. This goes far beyond missing meeting up with friends and has slipped into something far more existential: Trying to make sense of what we do, day in and day out.
There are some things in our new normal that I really hope stay once we get back to some semblance of normal. I think our society has needed some of these things but was slow to adopt, and now has no choice but to do so. Others are proof of our resiliency that I hope we never lose.
1. Making good hygiene a priority. I had to start with this. I know it seems almost silly to start with good hygiene, but we apparently needed to be re-educated on the connection between hand washing and spreading germs.
For the record, I don’t mean we should avoid dirty, because I still believe that in most situations the person with the most dirt on them had the most fun.
I mean in terms of truly, regularly washing your hands and being aware of the last time you did so. Our society is often lax with awareness in hand washing, which this virus has shown. So by all means, get muddy when you can, but wash your hands as often as you can, too. When you go to the bathroom, after meals, if you have a cold, disinfect after you touch your face. And OMG stop touching your face. (As an avid face toucher, I admit this is a tough one).
2. A whole new world of take out. Take out really used to be fast food, but now it’s an art form. People can take out high-end dinners as easily as they can take out burgers and fries. And for the most part, they are really good. I LOVE the advent of the take out “family meal” that we see everywhere. It’s what we always wanted – a reasonable but good option for the whole family that you can afford to do regularly instead of an occasional treat.
Healthy take out options are a revelation as well. While I know losing dining space is beyond difficult for our local restaurants, I hope many of them are able to continue these great options when this is over.
3. A whole new world of cocktail take out. This may seem redundant, but trust me, it is not. Getting a batch of cocktails for a gathering is such a revelation. Some of us are really good at crafting cocktails, but let’s be real, even the best of us do not have the wide range of ingredients that many of our craft cocktail lounges have. Creating the cocktail has become an art and being able to take home a few cocktails, or have several on hand in the fridge, is awesome. I hope the state laws continue to allow it.
4. A new world of government transparency. Until now, the state’s Open Meetings Laws were strictly based on meeting in person, which has made it very difficult to adapt to new technology. Forcing local municipalities to meet and vote virtually has made the state change OMLs to adapt.
I still think that there are some ridiculous pieces to the new OMLs. For example, requiring a full transcript for a broadcast meeting is incredibly costly. Minutes with a time stamp would actually be more useful than a transcript and dramatically less expensive for local governments.
But being able to operate virtually has really opened up local municipal meetings to new people. On the Albany Common Council, we have hundreds of people tuning into our caucuses and meetings, which is a really good thing. I hope we’re able to continue this level of virtual meeting because it should have happened a long time ago. I also hope that this is used as an opportunity to update the state OMLs in a common sense way using technology while still protecting the public good.
5. A realization of what matters most in appearance and wardrobe. In the beginning of this lockdown, a lot of us wore old pajamas all day every day. I’m not saying that hasn’t changed, but I do think many of us are starting to cultivate comfortable but put together at-home attire. I also think that after a month in, we’re abandoning societal norms and starting to figure out what we really care when it comes to our appearance.
I don’t mean this in a shallow way, but rather in a very deep way. I find myself randomly pulling out black tie dresses and tossing them on for kicks. Without a societal norm for how to look, we are all beginning to find what we love about our own appearance and what we want from it. I think this can lead to some real empowerment for many of us. I can’t wait to see the impacts of it.
6. An awareness of how our daily lives are impacting the environment. I think everyone can see the earth healing around us. The bird song is to a whole new level in my city home. Deer are strolling through Troy. On a global level, people are seeing things they haven’t seen in decades because the air is significantly clearer, thanks to a dramatic drop in pollution.
People using fewer fossil fuels through many things, but most notably less driving has had a dramatic impact. I hope we remember this and as our society unpauses, people consider how to continue to reduce their personal carbon footprints.
7. A new appreciation for outside. A whole new generation of kids is getting outside. Many families, faced with no other option and desperate to get out of the house, are starting to go to the woods, and it’s wonderful. I don’t mean suddenly everyone is hiking the High Peaks, in fact there is an advisory against that right now. But people are really taking advantage of the nearby woods. For example, locally, many people are taking a stroll in Albany’s Tivoli Lake Park, where recently the stream has been day-lighted. It’s wonderful to see our whole city develop an appreciation for this gem.
8. Oh that creativity. I think my favorite part of the pandemic has been how creative people have gotten to continue the things that are important to them. My gym, and many gyms, have quickly switched to an online workout format. It’s not new, there were many virtual workouts before the pandemic. But continuing to be relevant and continuing the community matters.
Teachers and professors have found ways to connect with their students, supporting them and academically pushing them in a truly inspiring way. Distilleries making hand sanitizer, musicians and DJs who give concerts and are making ends meet through donations, the restaurants and bars who switched to take out, the people who have looked at this challenge and have adapted to meet the new need is truly inspiring.
9. Self motivation. Right now, if you do anything beyond sleeping, you are self motivating. Trying to continue to work, if you have kids to make sure they are continuing with their school work, exercising, cleaning, anything really, it takes a whole lot of self motivation. That always was. You can’t accomplish anything if you aren’t motivated. But this time has really pushed us to find new levels of self motivation that matter. I hope that we all remember the grit that was needed during this time and keep it close to us. With this grit, what we can accomplish as a society is exciting.
10. Symbolic outreach. The #518RainbowHunt movement, New York City’s 7 p.m. shout-out to essential workers, local figure Dick Adair’s daily 5 p.m. toast to healthcare workers on Facebook, letting people know that you care, even if you don’t know them. All of this matters. A lot. Finding a painted rock with a hopeful message matters. Reminding each other that even though we can’t be physically close to each other, we still see each other and care. I think as a society, we need these reminders. I hope we continue to find opportunities to share them.
11. The realization that we all really do have a shared experience. Before this time, I think many of us didn’t realize how much our lives were similar and interconnected. Yes, we’ve all had different experiences and different wonderful things and different traumas. But there’s a similarity to our shared experience that matters. Some of us are luckier than others, but what one person does impacts the other and we all matter to each other.
I hope we never forget that and this shared experience leads to increased kindness and caring for everyone.