What’s Normal? Where Is It? Can I Run There?

Americans, more than anyone else, seem to be a nervous, edgy, need-it-now society.

That sounds better than saying we’re selfish, impatient, and thoughtless, right?

We miss our old normal, whatever that was. When we could eat, travel, and work anywhere, see anyone anytime we wanted to, without a mask (and without expecting other people to do the same). When did we start wondering if that guy over there got vaccinated or if the person coughing in the next aisle brought more than their grocery list to the store and breathed on the tomatoes? Whether the maskless woman coming in just forgot hers or forgot the rest of us matter and her rights don’t constitute the center of the known universe.

It’s been a year since COVID-19 entered the lexicon, killing over a half-million of us, sickening far more, costing jobs, changing lives, and sometimes forever ruining our ability to communicate with friends and family whose opinions differ from ours as to the severity of the virus — or to some cave-dwelling dim bulbs, whether the virus exists at all or it’s an imaginary creation of a government they didn’t elect and don’t respect.

Normal is slowly coming back. I’ve done some in-person racing. I don’t dislike virtual races; they’re fine for other people, but I am not personally a fan of them. I have a few more on the calendar before I end my season in June. It’s been wonderful to see the face I missed for months on end, with no live racing options available. But I race under COVID-19 protocols as laid out by the race directors. Outside of racing, I wear a mask in public, mandated or not, stay socially distant, don’t travel, and don’t shop unless I have to do so.

I don’t know where the new or next normal is. I think it will arrive slowly and in stages. Some of the precautions should become permanent, like frequent hand-washing and sanitizing surfaces. Working from home isn’t that bad; frankly, I stand a good chance of doing ugly things to some of the people I work with if forced to endure them in an actual office setting. At least from home, I can shut them out and actually get work done rather than deal with the chit-chat train and the idiot interruptions during the average office day. Plus the midday workouts, stop-and-drop-in a load of laundry, or tidying the bathrooms is helpful to my schedule. I’m not solitary by nature, but years of solo workouts have taught me to exist within myself and that while human contact is necessary it’s the quality of it, not the quantity, that counts.

Patience, folks. Keep wearing those masks, do the distance when possible, get vaccinated (I got my first shot; second one is in two weeks, and thank you, Dolly Parton, for handing over a whole lot of money to make it happen for Moderna) and we will get through this. And there will be running, cycling, swimming, yoga, team sports and tears of joy on the other side.

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