One of my favorite social media memes to come out of quarantine features Dave Hollis' quote, "In the rush to return to normal, let's use this time to consider which parts are worth rushing back to."
It's given me some pause as our state's Safer-at-Home order ends and our economy slowly reopens.
I wonder what our city's new normal will look like. I wonder what my family's new normal will look like. Will we do the same things? Rush back to the same habits? Go to the same places? I know there's no black and white answer; more than likely we'll have a pretty modified brand of normal for a while. But even as part of me just wants to burn my quarantine PJs and get a haircut (and color and highlights) and "go back to the way things were," another part of me knows there has been a lot of good to come out of this time--both for me personally and as a community.
So as we slowly (very slowly) move into the Great New Normal, I thought we could think about what parts of this unprecedented season might be worth keeping.
1. Keep: Clean
I think my kids have learned more about germs in the last six weeks than they have their past collective six years. Sure, they get that they have to wash hands after going potty and take a bath at night, but Mom's turbo-charged handwashing and Purell-ing is at a whole new level these days (not bad for two very active and messy preschoolers to learn, anyway). And the sanitation stations in stores? It might just be another sign of the times, but I'm thinking it's kind of overdue.
2. Keep: Distance
Our generation might be characterized by our familiarity with 6 feet, but according to my last grocery shopping experience, we'll need to keep practicing it for a while. Even if you're convinced you couldn't catch COVID-19, respecting others' personal space and avoiding germs is something most of us could get better at. Flu season comes every year, after all.
3. Keep: Close
Right after keeping distance, let's keep close. By that I mean if you have sort-of learned how to do life better with your immediate family while quarantined together at home, or if you've realized you need to prioritize more time with loved ones, then you've learned something that a busy and fast-paced normal schedule couldn't teach you. Personally I'm learning to slow down and listen to my children better, so I want to find more ways to stay close and connected even when opportunities tug at my inner FOMO again.
4. Keep: Eating out
Maybe you've seen all the #takeouttuesday posts on social media, or maybe you've missed your favorite restaurant when they closed during the Safer at Home period. Maybe you discovered that letting a pro handle your meal planning was cheaper and a whole lot less stressful than picking up a half-fulfilled grocery order ever few days. I know I'm personally planning to continue eating out more after quarantine, partly as a sanity saver, and partly as a heartfelt thank you to the excellent local restaurants we have here (that I REALLY don't want to see go away).
5. Keep: Shopping Small
Small businesses certainly took a hit during Safer at Home, and yet those that were able to provide curbside and delivery options provided necessities as well as gifts and "extras" to their customers when big box stores were cleaned out or hard to access (I can also attest that they were often a much cleaner alternative to the big guys). Our small businesses need us more than ever as they rebuild from the economic halt. Let's put it this way—they've been there for us; now it's time for us to be there for them.
6. Keep: Curbside Pickup and Delivery Options
Maybe I'm the only mother of young children who was secretly thrilled to utilize pickup and delivery options during Safer at Home, but I don't think so. Running multiple errands—from groceries to takeout to craft supplies—and NOT having to get the kids out of their car seats--was a dream, and it got me thinking about all of the other parents and individuals who have trouble getting in and out of their cars easily for different reasons, from illness to ability. Can we PLEASE keep these options going?
7. Keep: Giving
Whether it was buying t-shirts, dropping off canned goods, or making extra financial donations, the city continued to give freely to support businesses and nonprofits during this time. The repercussions of Covid-19, tornadoes, and now more storms, will be felt for months (if not years). Let's keep giving by taking advantage of today's Giving Tuesday to support local nonprofits like United Way, Second Harvest Food Bank, Greenhouse Ministries, Feed America First, Nourish Food Bank, and other critical outreach like the Murfreesboro City School Chow Bus, and then let's keep it up for the long haul.
8. Keep: Zooming
I think I had used Zoom once before quarantine, and now it's a frequently-used app on my phone. Thanks to its low-drop rate, great reception, and multi-camera function I can chat with friends and attend meetings with a pants-less toddler running around in the background any time of the day. Seriously, though, it got me thinking: plenty of people (hey SAHMs!) have issues making meetings due to childcare, lack of transportation, or other logistical issues. Can Zoom use stick around? It seems like it opens up a whole new means of community engagement for many.
9. Keep: Learning
And I'm not just talking about news outlets; I'm talking about the flood of local educational resources for kids and parents available online. I'm pretty sure we've personally utilized only .0006% of what's FREE to us right now, not even counting paid sites. Whether it's Discovery Center's SPARK classes online, live story and craft time from Linebaugh Library, or MTSU College of Education's podcast for educators and parents, our city teems with resources for educating the next generation. Obviously many of these are a gift during this time, but I say that the more online educational options we can offer families on the regular, the better.
10. Keep: Creating
There's nothing like a little necessity to rev up some serious invention. From online art classes to brainstorming collaborations, creative education and involvement has never been easier in our county. Check out children and adult creative opportunities through Rutherford Arts Alliance, Boro Arts, Carpe Artista and Smyrna Outdoor Recreation Center to channel your inner innovator.
11. Keep: Caring
If medical personnel and first responders were not on your radar before now, hopefully that's changed. Our city's appreciation and care for those caring for the most vulnerable has been a much-needed focus. Let's keep caring for them, advocating for them, and letting them know we support them as they continue to fight on the front lines of the Coronavirus battle (and every healthcare crisis).
12. Keep: Remembering
Looking back over the past six weeks, pondering our city's changes and my own family's little lessons and revelations, I realize I want to keep remembering them, and learning from them, all the way into whatever our new normal becomes. The past few months have not been easy to say the least, but what we've learned, I believe, is worth keeping.
What else would you "keep" from this time? What has your family learned? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama living in the Blackman community of Murfreesboro with her husband Nathan and their two young children. Follow @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram for more ideas for family fun in the city.