Another try at a new normal

Last week’s election gave Americans an opening to think about things other than politics. Well, hallelujah! Most of the results are in, and whatever happens with the Georgia Senate race and any other unfinished counts, the result is balanced enough for the government to move forward. Election day was peaceful. It was okay.

Normalcy is what everyone suffers for. A good normal is a stable and achievable way of life for most people and an open door for all others to seek the same – or, as originally described, life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. That is why voters in a free country should reasonably expect that after doing their part, those they have elected will attend to the business of the people and that the individuals can return to their own.

How it works now is still a question. The world has been stuck in a cycle of searching for the “new normal” since Covid suppressed the old normal. The new normal wonders what the new normal is.

This kind of circular thinking can wear down a person and an entire society when, really, the way to find the new normal is to practice it.

Undeniably, it was difficult. Normalcy as it was has not fully taken hold. Schools, as we know, have a huge catching up to do. Restaurants and other small businesses continue to seek a return to normal volume. As Day Staff writer Kristina Dorsey recently reported, local community theater groups have unwittingly dramatized that preparation and hard work aren’t enough if Covid gets a foot in the door. Their planned performances took several hits when cast and crew members tested positive for the virus.

Even as normal continues to transform, however, humans will persist in finding new arrangements that work, often incorporating lessons learned during the pandemic. One is the value of early voting, a practice in all but four states, including Connecticut. More people vote when early voting is an option. This is a plus for democracy.

Connecticut voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum question on Tuesday that asked whether the state Constitution should “be amended to allow the General Assembly to provide for an early vote.” In 2024, the ballot will include the issue of universal, unapologetic postal voting.

Rethinking a new normal may also include a shift in social media habits. During the pandemic, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms have provided a means of socialization for people in isolation. However, habits can quickly become compulsions and too many of us are focused on the screen when there are real, living people we can interact with. It will be interesting to see whether the changes that will follow the thousands of layoffs at Twitter and Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, will break the spell of users accustomed to media in new configurations.

From personal experience, I have another suggestion for finding normality: for an hour or two, sit down for a performance, preferably live. It could be anything from a school play to Coast Guard music, which, by the way, is paid for by your tax dollars, so it’s free. Pause conversations, electronic or in person. Stop thinking. Become a sponge.

When the house lights go down and the rustling dies down, each person waiting for the curtain to rise becomes a unique audience. It’s called the magic of theater because what else can make it possible? A full house at La Garde is a thousand spectators of one, each of them freed up for a little while to focus on something fascinating other than themselves.

At the end, each of these one-person audiences does the same thing: they clap. Where there were a thousand, there is now one, all making the same sound, signifying the same appreciation. It’s so normal.

Lisa McGinley is a member of the editorial board of The Day.

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