Meredith Browand

Redefining Normal

I am typically an undeniable news junkie. I love to watch the news, I read all types of news outlets throughout the day, and I can identify my favorite cable news pundits by the sound of their voices. But the last 30 days of self-isolating and lock down have seen my news habits drastically change.

I no longer start my day by reading the headlines on my phone, I don’t have cable news on in the background as I do dishes, and I’ve watched more Food Network in the last month than I’ve watched in the last decade.

It’s not that I’m avoiding the news; I’m avoiding an oversaturation of the news. I’m looking for reliable sources that provide accurate information, especially as it pertains to the coronavirus pandemic. I want to hear from doctors, scientists, public health experts, and those in government who are taking their advice.

As I mindlessly flipped through apps on my phone the other day, an article caught my attention where John Wiesman, Washington State Secretary of Health, predicted what our “new normal” may look like. “We’re not going to be able to return to that sort of daily activity, living the way people knew it,” he said. “It’s going to be a new normal, one that is much more aware of safety and the biosecurity of each of us.”

It got me thinking. What will my new normal look like?

Less than two months ago my family was on a dream vacation in London. Without a second thought we boarded a transcontinental flight, crammed ourselves into the Tube every day, stood with the masses outside Buckingham Palace, and navigated a bustling international city. Will my new normal allow for similar experiences in the future?

Right now, I can’t imagine taking that trip again with my family and I envision our future travel will look much different. I’ll be more aware of where we congregate in the airport and how we’ll ensure our seating area on the plane is disinfected. I’ll evaluate transportation options and become much more vigilant about navigating through large groups of people. Will we eliminate travel from our lives? No. Will it look different? Yes.

Our two older sons love to play baseball and our family has invested plenty of time and resources into the sport. It is honestly one of the things I miss most during this springtime lock down. I can’t wait until they’re on the diamond again and I’m eager to watch our beloved Seattle Mariners once more in person. But right now, thousands of fans streaming into T-Mobile Park brings me more anxiety than anticipation. How will I be able to take my family to the ballpark in the future without worrying that the fan next to us may be contagious? Or that one of us is asymptomatic and spreading the virus?

I’m sure we’ll find ways for the boys to return to the field safely and a means to enjoy MLB, but I never imagined I’d be this insistent that there’s “no high-fiving and don’t touch anyone else’s equipment.”

I work and worship at one of Gig Harbor’s local churches and being unable to gather during this time of self-isolation has been hard. Our church leadership has done a fantastic job taking worship online and we’ve found new and creative ways to stay connected. But a “new normal” once the stay at home order is lifted could prove exceptionally challenging to a church. Part of our purpose is to be near each other in the pews, share meals, and spend time together. How will we remain connected if we have to stay 6 feet apart? Knowing that people over the age of 65 are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus also presents a challenge to the church. My family will be in the pews as soon as we’re able to worship together again but my heart aches for others who may not feel safe enough to return.

And I’m hoping that my new normal includes watching the news again. I’m sure the cable news pundits miss me and it’s about time the news apps on my phone get more use than Angry Birds.

Meredith Browand is a mother and an activist who lives in Purdy.