new normalA Very Good New Normal! As I graduated from college decades ago, I made a promise to myself to never get stale and stuck in my ideas, that I would stay fresh. I would hold to my core principles. But even they were fair game for review. For what is truly true of me, I felt, can stand up to scrutiny and will stay. What can’t stand up to scrutiny needs to go anyway. I promised myself to be “always available to be brand new in the next moment.”

Fast forward.

We, the United States, are the economic engine of the world and the most powerful. China aspires to supplant us. But for now we’re top dog. We are also the most stressed country in the world. No surprise to me that our incidence of COVID is highest in the world.

Are there any good take-aways for us from the Virus — albeit very bitter medicine — or has it all been net destruction? We keep hearing that our lives and our world will change as a result of Coronavirus. We need to be sure we have conscious input into that, not just be sheep at the whim and agendas of others. How do we want our lives and our world to be different … better? That’s up to us. We hold more cards than we probably realize.

If there is anything in this for me, it’s how can I become a happier, healthier version of myself? How healthy CAN I be? Now THERE’s a question. How would I know?

Being relaxed about being healthy — around all of this, really — is a good start!

So in no particular order, here’s what began to show up for me through and because of the Virus and the response of restrictions.

A Good New Normal

new normal

The simple joy of neighborliness. Condo neighbors chatting from their balconies, for longer minutes in the parking lot, by the pool. The esprit de corps of the check-out line at Publix or Gavin’s Hardware.

Then there were the extra moments it was worth to make sure my eyes connected with the friends I was fist- or elbow-bumping with. May I nurture that quality of connection when I can go back to handshakes.

As a massage therapist, even though my work is physical — strengthening — it’s not aerobic. In the business lull, I was able to create time for long walks. With the cell phone left at home. Now I see ways to keep that discipline when soon I’m back in full swing in my practice.

I’ve always eaten well. I eat even better now. I created a “standard meal” in order, at first, looking down the road, to save money. But it had to fit my bachelor criteria: Fast and convenient with minimum clean-up! As well , of course, as healthy. Greens, cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, and seafood. Lacinato kale to snack on raw. Lacinato is actually a delicious kale wholly unlike the prickly, bitter kale most of us know and wrinkle our noses up at. Great for wraps, too. Broccoli or Brussels sprouts, and frozen will do. Frozen vegetables didn’t run out as quickly as toilet paper. Sweet potatoes are the standard fare for some, rather long-lived populations. Good enough for me; and it doesn’t take long to bake a sweet potato. And sardines, a rather healthy food. Fresh fish from time to time. Back in January, before the Virus hit, I’d read a book on Vermont folk medicine and had begun to incorporate apple cider vinegar into my diet and liked how I felt from it; and, because of the same book, I eschewed wheat for rye as my grain and liked the result of that, too. Both — all of this! — most cost-effective and healthy. Big net gain.

Which brings me to stress, the big killer which renders us immune-compromised, THE common denominator of all those felled by the Virus. In fact, it’s a DUH that stress — day after month after year — is our early undoing even in the face of no virus at all. Only exacerbated and rubbed in our faces by the stress of the Virus. How can we soften the stress that characterizes our lives, even after the virus is over? Can such a softening be a benefit from the forced spacing and more free time we didn’t ask for but ended up with? Most diseases that bring us down are lifestyle diseases. Stress is the driver.

We’ve become economics units. Where’s the poetry? Every waking  moment is productive, or at least busy. LinkedIn has said that being/looking busy is the new status symbol. Hello???

Obesity, diabetes. Lifestyle. Cancer rates haven’t really dropped, nor has the rate of heart disease.

The vitriol of Facebook postings has only worsened with the Virus. Is it only because too many people have too much time on their hands? Does your own hatred ever tire you out? Who gains from all this? Really? (The hatred is a virus itself, and this is one you can’t hide behind a mask.)

We don’t get enough wholesome exercise, enough fresh air and sunshine. We’re tethered to our smart devices in every waking moment, 24/7. This is increasingly and sadly true of the succeeding generations — the young — who just don’t go outside and play anymore. They may look healthy, but they’re falling back in little, undetectable but cumulative decrements. Leaves them sitting ducks for illness. Being wholesomely, happily, fully physically active is part of the design of nature itself, and we’re part of that. But we’re getting farther and farther away from the health that is the our original, natural state. Can going outside to play — young at heart at any age — once again become a big part of how we live? Can going outside and being self-entertained without our devices — can that come back in a big way? Is it too late in the gathering rush of or world? Have we, in this “crisis,” remembered something nice about sitting in our driveways, visiting with neighbors — with or without adult beverages — albeit six feet apart? Is it too late to become new again?

Too many aren’t aging well. We take prescriptions for what are lifestyle and nutritional problems we don’t want to do the work to change.  We mask the breakdown with meds and their cumulative side-effects year after decade, accept our aches and pains as “normal” and leave them to become full-blown conditions for which doctors have names and procedures. We are frogs in the hot water together. We have gleaming hospitals and medical centers that are the envy of the world. But why are we so committed to keeping them full? That our bodies last as long as they do is a miracle. What a testament to how long they could last — not just last but be truly vital — if we  used and cared-for them according to their original factory specs.

We’re stressed, our nervous systems are fried and frayed, we pop Tums, and our immune systems are compromised. And as our nervous systems further weaken — after all, we are the ding! — they bring every organ system down with them, and we are toast. We are sitting ducks for viruses.  And if any one city exemplifies this way of life, it’s New York City, one of the most vibrant, exciting, stressed, population-dense cities in the world, where double-time is the exciting norm. Why should we be surprised at the COVID incidence there?

If this corona incident can be the cold water in our faces that wakes us up to living differently, then it will have been bitter medicine but a turning point. If safe-distancing can become a metaphor for our giving ourselves more time and space in our lives, then may we bring that new appreciation into our standing closer to one another once again.

What is your new normal? What positive changes have you experienced?

Larry Witzleben LMT MA14390



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