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The hard decisions of the ‘new normal’
Lil Em_061120
CHASCA seems to be hav-ing a fine time with his two boys, Thatcher and Waylon, out enjoying the sunshine in public. Experiences like this have become less common in recent months.

RISING SUN - When Wisconsin abruptly announced on May 13 they were going to “open back up” I have to admit, I kind of had apocalyptic visions of our world getting a little Max Max and the Thunderdome-esque. 

However, at least in Crawford County, things have relatively gone unchanged–aside from many people I know ‘going back to normal.’ 

At one point, I felt like posing the honest question on my Facebook feed of ‘What helped you go back to normal life during a pandemic?” Yet, admittedly, despite the complete and honest nature of my question, it came off snarky. I deleted my draft and rolled over in bed continuing to agonize over my decisions. 

I have not been totally void of human contact luckily.

 Interestingly, I’ve seen my best friend Stephanie more times in the last three months than we usually get to see each other in person. She has made the trip across state lines for one reason or another and we’ve had the luxury of masked, six-foot-distanced visits on my front deck. 

I’ve also been able to, weather permitting, visit with other family members. Always mindful of how close we get. Always with a little bit of anxiety about the whole thing. Always left wishing for a little more. 

I started seeing everyone who had been a stronghold in social distancing throwing caution to the wind. Masks cast aside, camping, swimming at the packed local beaches and dancing with each other at the bar and generally enjoying each other’s company at close range. I admittedly felt a mix of emotions, one of which was jealousy. 

But I mostly was just left wondering, how do you decide to make the change? 

I talked with one friend who broke from social distancing to visit a family member. She told me that she and her partner agonized about the decision for over a week. It dominated their discussions until finally they made the decision to pop their bubble and extend their circle by two people. 

“I know I’m exposing us to more risk too,” my friend explained. “It’s all a crap shoot, ultimately we each just gotta do what we each feel is right.” 

And some days, that just feels like the thing. I don’t know what is right. Which, is an unusual feeling for me. I try to settle on a decision and stick to it like a barnacle on a whale-riding it to the end. Somehow, COVID-19 doesn’t seem so cut and dry. It’s an invisible enemy that could be or maybe isn’t lurking everywhere.

 I’ve never been much a risk taker, but some days isolation has me feeling like throwing my chips all in. 

Starting from emotions of “If I leave my house, I most certainly will contract COVID and die” to relief to having everyone at home. Then. I move on to struggling with, and ultimately accepting, Chasca going back to his job and the outside world. Potentially joining the herd of the greater public has been a roller coaster to say the least. 

I feel forever changed by going through the last three months. It’s not exactly a dramatic change, but it’s a subtle thought in the back of my mind all the time.

Just the other day while I was up too late watching a movie, I kept thinking to myself about the actors touching, kissing, simply being close to each other. Something I obviously would have never thought of before. 

I thought about how Waylon is growing up to see people wearing masks all the time everywhere he goes as a completely normal thing. Something that certainly could have unnerved a toddler in a previous generation. How Thatcher is so acutely aware that he needs to stay back from people because of “those naughty germs.” Thinking about how he is unable to be physically close to people he loves and them to him, makes me sad. Yet, I think about what would happen if someone we loved got sick. And what if it was our fault? 

How do you weigh the power of being close to those you love against the risk of changing the course of their life forever by simply getting too close? 

It isn’t something for which I have an answer. So, I must continue to try to do what my friend said. I must do what feels right for my family and what is within the comforts of those I love. Ease back into life, and continue to try to be optimistic about the future as foggy and confusing as the outlook may be at his point in time.