STELLPFLUG COLUMN: This 'new normal' leaves many of us feeling anxious

STELLPFLUG COLUMN: This 'new normal' leaves many of us feeling anxious

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We are learning a new language and the meanings of the words are becoming quite clear. “Hunkering down” is what we used to do in a snowstorm. Now it is becoming mandatory.

“Flattening the curve” is new to most of us and means using isolation measures to keep the daily number of the coronavirus disease cases at a manageable level. This is what we have come to. It’s not about avoiding the infection. It’s about limiting the numbers on any given day to not overwhelm the health care facilities. And using language that needs explaining.

As for the “new normal,” that’s a term I enjoyed when it referenced relationships, family life and changing times. I don’t want to associate it with panic, hoarding toilet paper and schools closing indefinitely. Or maybe that is the new normal.

“Social distancing” has been introduced as a trendy way of saying keep your distance. It is from the Emory Bogardus psychological testing scale that empirically measures people’s willingness to minimize contact with one another. It actually was used to measure prejudice against ethical and racial groups, but it’s a catchy phrase, isn’t it?

Actually, it also describes the distance which an animal can stand to be away from its group before beginning to feel anxious. I can’t be the only one who is a bit anxious.

I know that I personally have a hard time mastering social distancing since I am a hugger, a kisser and an overall touching kind of person. I already miss my friends and minimizing contact is a hardship. Total isolation is a form of withdrawal for me.

“Shelter in place” and “quarantine” are certainly not upbeat words, yet here they are being used daily. To me they sound ominous and even threatening. We have come leaps and bounds from staycation, a lovely term used to indicate a fun way of being together without going anywhere.

Staycations are great for children who might otherwise think they are being socially isolated. Staycations might be a way to introduce all of the positive fallout from these unusual times. Yes, there are upsides. When a young friend posted that he hadn’t had five meals together with his family in years—I’d say that is an upside. Another friend told of teaching her children to cook and bake, something she never learned herself. There are stories of houses getting cleaned—as part of home school curriculum, windows getting washed and drawers being uncluttered for entertainment and accomplishments.

People are writing letters, face-timing and calling old friends. Families are dusting off their bikes and are getting out to hike trails they have always wanted to try. Yard work, spring cleanup and yes, planning gardens for the first time in years are on many lists of “things to do.”

Friends are posting and emailing creative projects, recipes, and patterns for everything from clothing to building projects.

Plays, concerts and exercise classes are being streamed and made available to the masses. Music and the arts are being reintroduced to otherwise “too busy” lives. Books are being read aloud online, even by Betty White—who is well and self-isolating.

Neighbors are checking on neighbors, dropping off groceries and basically being good neighbors. People are tending to their own health and well-being.

As for entertainment, some of us are watching “Outbreak” and “Contagion,” others are revisiting Hallmark movies. We may choose to read meditative and peaceful things, or Stephen King, depending on our constitution.

My granddaughter was telling me about some of the books she is reading. The “Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events” was in the lineup.

As you may know those books are depressing and bleak. She has read those books before and has seen the movies. I asked her why she and her brother aren’t choosing happy stories and really fun books? She answered very quickly, “Why would we want to do that? Then it would seem like our lives really suck?”

Her point is well taken. We can’t control what is happening, but we can control our attitude and our response. I was so disappointed to not be able to be with them this spring break, but they are having a staycation.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at kaystellpflug@gmail.com.

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