A Return to A New Normal

The following is another piece of prose, which I do occasionally on this blog to break the admittedly demanding writing of in-depth research pieces. It describes my experiences commuting to work for the first time in about six months, and learning to adjust to the new environment surrounding me.

Just as the clock ticks as a wave sacrifices itself against a shore, so too must the drudgery of my day to day desolation eventually end. A loneliness which consumed our lives loosens its grasp, as the world wearily resumes. The months spent collapsing my memories into the mercurial qualities of a ill-remembered existence feels alien. I counted the days yet lost track, I measured the months yet they felt meaningless.

Before returning to a relieving routine, I remember reading about relativity. The theory that remarks upon the interpretation of time relative to your own frame of refrerance. So to did my perception of each day become malleable during those unmoving months- its seemingly motioning march traduced to the pernicious pang of never needing to know the time.

So, as a forgotten amount of days passed and the second hand tempted the minute hand, the world changed. I – and no doubt many more – emerged into the daunting familiarity of a ‘new normal’. Everything’s reassuringly remembered, yet behind the traversing trains and the once more sprawling streets, theres an unusual undertow. Just as a mask obscures the expressions which portray vivid emotion, so the world presents a facade of normalcy. Still, even commuting you feel the twinge of foreboding, and the rush of beauty – both wrought from an aftermath of isolation, which deals in both fear and wonderment.

Even the arcane mundanity of the train platform feels illusionary, when laid against the listless static of the last few months. A mask envelops my mouth and acts as a relentless reminder: the world you’ve stepped into is not the same. We’re still in transition and other side remains uncertain. Even so I can’t help smile at this newfound narrative, that I’m travelling to a world at work, even if the fundamentals which we once welcomed are altered, definitely for toady, likely for a while.

Naturally, my mind flickers to everything that hasn’t changed. Regardless of the directional dictations lacing thier way through the scrambled streets, its easy to simply observe the routines of commuters, the chatter of colleagues and acquaintances as they themselves become cradled in a the arms of a new course. One that they recognize as uprooted, even if thier relationships and memories feel fundamentally familiar.

So you see, each sight and sensation is a scattered fragment, or fossil of a system which likes to give the impression of sanity, even when circumstances prove severe and sordid. The sound of capracious activity which spills from the traders saluting a new day of business, the pacing of shoes upon a stone ground each in different succession to the other, even the whistling rush of wind through the trees. All these create a censorious atmosphere which gives the impression of normality, irrespective of reality.

Coincidentally, I seem to blend into that impression. Remember everything I’ve written about masking? The stimming, the supposed strangeness which can show through my movements and emotions. That’s shrouded, if you will behind a mask of normality. Irrespective of the strain that exerts, I welcome the reliability of the routine, the contemplation of the commute, and the cathartic nature of communication. Simplicity, it appears, is not for me or these times. Just as I occasionally desire the secrecy of seclusion, so I need the frenzy of the city streets and the immersion of a sensory environment. Call that confusing, the contradiction is akin to perfectly holding a pendulum in perpetual motion – requiring great skill, and somehow still never being truly satisfied.

I transcribe these thoughts alone in an empty office. The once thriving lifeblood of society exists outside, and is one I can hear from the streets yet has slowed to a smoldering inside, like a machine moving once more after an undisturbed slumber. Its a curious question. Am I wrongly expecting a return to routine? Is my championing of company too much too expect in a chaos where calls for community were crumbling long before the malignant illness lashed us into lock and key. I know thats the anxiousness talking though – the snake that bites at you in sinister uncertainty, surrendering you to the darkest side of your thoughts. Silently and steadily, we resolve to step forward.

There are flickers of positivity, as there are of fear. On the Saturday before I write this, I saw friends for the first time in months. And, in those moments the mechanics of our morose mundanity seemed to cease – like the first time I saw more of my family, we were seizing a fleeting freedom from a fall into an abyss that many would have formerly thought fictional.

‘We’ll be looking back in ten years saying ‘remember the pandemic’ one of my friends contemplated, creating an air of optimism by placating this stage in life with another. Poignantly, as I pointed out in my first piece of prose, realising the temporarily of our situation seeks to satiate a desire to see past the disease. Past the silence and into a new light that transcends a ‘return to normality’ in favour of ‘reinvention’….

Or rethinking, I thought, realising how much I’ve had to do that in the time elapsed. Reminding me of the value of my relationships. Tinkering with the remnants of a routine and seeking to shape them into something substantial, and finally recognising everything I regretfully take for granted

Patiently, this era will end and we’ll remodel and rethink. Even so, that will still be temporary – a blip if you will on an incomparable past and indefinable future. We will all learn to survive to reshape as I myself must continue to do, embracing my autism, with both my failings and ablilites, letting myself become influenced yet never impeded.

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