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This is not normal.

It is not normal to be told to isolate in your home for a month let alone nearly one year.  It is not normal to not be able to smile at people you pass because your face is covered by a (much needed and life-saving) mask. It is not normal to be unable to meet up with friends, hug a family member, or even go out to eat.

What we are currently living in is not a “new normal” because nothing about this is normal. And while we don’t know when, we do know it will eventually come to an end.  It’s the post-pandemic world that will become our “new normal”.

So, what are we supposed to do until then?

I struggled to begin 2021. There were so many hopes for a new year, one that wouldn’t entirely be consumed by Covid.  A vaccine was rolling out, case numbers eventually began to go down, and there was a huge mental lift simply because it was no longer 2020.

But in reality, 2021 is no different than 2020.  At least not right now.  We still can’t travel.  We still can’t meet someone for coffee.  And we still can’t leave our house for most activities.

And that was difficult to accept.  I spent the first few weeks of the year banging my head against the pandemic wall, knowing we still have a long way to go.

But then I saw an Instagram post by Mel Robbins, and it made me really think about why I was struggling. She talked about the importance of a morning routine—whatever that might look like for you—and the importance of keeping that routine.  It’s the idea that when you break little commitments to yourself it sends an internal message that your word doesn’t hold a lot of weight.

So, all those mornings I told myself I’d get out of bed by 7 to workout and instead created excuses to lay around until 9?  That wasn’t exactly helping me to set up a productive day.  Even if we seem to be living in a time when schedules and hours don’t really matter.  Because how am I supposed to honor the larger commitments in my life if I can’t even keep up the small ones that only affect me?

And with that, I decided a change needed to happen.  It didn’t need to be huge and complicated and overwhelming.  It just needed to get me into a better mental space to start my day.

For the last two weeks I have been waking up between 6 and 6:30 every weekday morning.  I allow myself to snooze once, then I get up and honor my commitment to either working out or doing yoga, followed by taking the dog for a walk, breakfast, making the bed, and then getting ready for the day.

And by “getting ready for the day” I mean showering, applying a little bit of makeup, doing my hair, and putting on real clothes.  Yes, those real clothes can include leggings and loungewear, but it can’t be something I slept or worked out in that day.

As soon as I started doing this (or at least trying to make it happen every morning) my overall attitude changed.  I began to operate with a little more confidence.  I felt like I had something of a purpose again.

It was a small shift. But it felt pretty mighty.

I can’t control the state of the pandemic or when our lives will stop being so limited.  But I can control whether or not I put on real pants each day.  And that matters.

Because what does “normal” actually mean?  I’ve found that for me it’s actually taking control of the things I can control, instead of just feeling like everything is too much or not working. 

Does that mean we all need to wake up and follow the exact same routine I have found?  Not even a little.  You might not want to put on makeup ever again.  You might consider meditation an absolute must in the morning. And you might think jeans and a bra are female torture devices.

That’s cool.

We’re all different. For me, I know I feel better and more in control of my day when I put on real clothes, do my hair and wear a little bit of makeup.  I need a bed that is made and some form of workout to get my body moving.  And most of all, I need to get out of bed when my alarm goes off and not eight snoozes later.

This is where my “normal” now lives.  It’s not perfect and it will always have its twists and turns, but it’s a plan I can work with.  More important, it’s a plan I can survive with.

Because surviving is what matters most until we finally reach our “new normal”. Which, of course, will open up a whole new set of issues and struggles, but let's just take it one step at a time.

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