What Is Normal?


Years ago, my husband and I took a dream trip to Italy. We fell in love with the history, the architecture and, of course, the food. During our time there, we had some really unique experiences. One that stands out in particular, is when we had a cooking class in the dining room of a restaurant. The restaurant completely shut down to host a group of us. The chefs all assembled and gave us a grand lesson on how to make several dishes (homemade pasta among them). After all the cooking, we feasted.


The house wine was flowing as was the conversation with our new friends. The owner of the restaurant, Marco, was particularly charismatic. He told us about his wife and young daughters and about his brothers. The restaurant was a family-run business that he and his brothers opened together. He talked about how they were only open on the weekends, except for the bar that was open nightly. Then he said something that really stuck with me.

“Italians are not like Americans. In Italy, we don’t stress. Because if we stress, we do not enjoy life. Italians prefer a slower pace and time spent with family and friends,” said Marco, almost reminiscently.

My husband and I looked at each other, stunned. We had nothing to say so we smiled and raised a glass to our host. Later that evening, as we were getting ready for bed, my husband and I talked about how impactful Marco’s words were. We dreamt of the day that our busy American lives would take a much-needed timeout so that we could focus on a slower pace and spend time with family and friends. It seemed like a goal that would only be achieved in retirement. Until NOW.

Here we are, it’s April 2020 and life is anything but “normal.”

We have all suddenly found ourselves in a much different pace of life. Our routines have been thrown out the window and our plans have gone topsy turvy. Things change minute-by-minute. Some of us don’t have a workplace to report to anymore. We are juggling remote learning, working from home and all of the needs our children have. We can’t leave our homes, other than for necessities, and we are anxious. We are also realizing what is truly important in our lives as we worry about our loved ones with compromised immune systems and those in the medical field. It’s surreal, really. As Americans though, we have a hard time adjusting to this new pace. It’s not “normal.”

It’s not all bad, though. With this new “normal,” we suddenly find ourselves with a little more time on our hands. Time to enjoy the babies we are raising, time to reconnect with our partners, time to Facetime with a loved one, time to call our friends and catch-up, and even time to re-prioritize the important things in our lives.

While our stress levels are certainly at all-time highs due to the uncertainty of life amidst COVID-19, we can take a tip from Marco and enjoy this time spent with family and friends. While physical distancing is necessary, social distancing and connection are still important, recommended and encouraged. With the conveniences of modern technology, we can feel like we are in the same room with our loved ones using apps like Skype, Facebook Messenger and a host of other video chat platforms.

During this time, stay connected, stay well and remember that you are not alone. We are all struggling to figure out what “normal” is.