Is it my imagination, or are we starting to hear of Covid-19 in the past tense? Friends mention “normal” as just around the corner. Sports, restaurants, and concerts are back. I see few masks and little distancing outside cities.
Some people’s “normal” looks back to an idealized past from before 2020. Some people’s “new normal” looks to a romanticized future in which buildings are well ventilated, frontline workers are respected, and hugs require consent.
Other people’s normal can work in my favor. In the initial pandemic lockdown, an online grocery order had to be placed a week in advance. Now that most of my neighbors shop in person, I can pick up groceries two hours after I order them.
My personal normal is less about past or future than how things are right now. I may avoid crowds, mask in public indoor spaces, and get regular Covid boosters for the rest of my life. Variants are increasingly infectious. Health or age makes infections dangerous to me and many folks I interact with. My normal is to live and let live: do my best to stay happily alive and help others do the same.
Image: Julius Caesar Ibbetson, Sailors Carousing, 1802. Celebration in an unspecified Portsmouth tavern after one or more ships have been paid off. Royal Museums Greenwich.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.