The new normal

It’s time for change but how can we embrace a new normal?

Right now in Australia bushfires roar throughout the country in what has been noted (by those trusted to note) as the worst bushfire season on record. And it’s only just begun.

My region in NSW was one of the first to experience the horror of these fires and when a disaster of this level hits a small community everyone is impacted in some way or another. My little community lost over 60 homes and over 100 outhouses, shops sold out of supplies as trucks couldn’t get through the highways and the community went into panic buying mode, important events were canned, public figures were being abused in the streets and the smell, the thick stale smell of smoke lingered in our hair, our clothes, our lungs for weeks.

The volunteers didn’t stop through the peak of the emergency (and many still haven’t as I write). They fight fire around the clock as others provide food and shelter for the now homeless and hope for those otherwise caught in the grip of the catastrophe.

And it is a catastrophe. One that we were not prepared for despite every signal to the contrary.

I don’t know if it’s an indication of my ignorance or perhaps a sign of my optimistic nature but I was not prepared for this, nor the way I’d feel in its’ aftermath.

My family is OK. My pets are OK. My stuff is OK. But somehow I do not feel OK.

While I am slightly buoyed by the warmth of the new friendships I made as I did the best to support one of our local refuge centres — (and believe me what I did was a drop in the ocean when I consider the tireless inputs of others)…

While I am impressed by our local Council’s offer of free water to those in need (a highly prized commodity of late), the generous donations to those who had lost everything and the leadership taken in a time of crisis…

While I can see new types of leaders emerging from our communities speaking common sense…

On a broader — bigger scale I am worried.

This time has asked me to imagine what life would be like if it changed beyond recognition. If there was no, or limited water; if there were no shops and we were forced to live by our wits and knowledge of the local ecosystems; if I couldn’t stay in touch with friends and family who weren’t located in my local community; if humans became ugly as they scrambled for survival. And I’ve had to ask if I’m strong enough to rise above the grief I will experience as the world we know changes forever.

I’ve been thinking about what the new normal might look like. And what I’ll need to give up to embrace it.

We need to realise a new normal before this bleak reality sets in and we need to do this fast. While Climate Change and everything we need to do to address this is of course a major component to consider there is so much more to the conversation about the “new normal” and a bunch of accompanying questions that bounce around my mind on a daily basis;

Our consumption patterns: The world simply cannot sustain our consumption at the current rate. From energy to water usage, travel to shoving processed calories into our gobs. I ask myself What do I waste? How can I not waste that through recycling, going without, finding an alternate or other means?

The way we care for one another: Whether we are talking about those closest to us, people we interact with in a work environment or those most marginalised in our communities we always have a responsibility as a human to care. Caring does not have to mean giving away all of our resources, it doesn’t have to mean supporting those that do not want to change. But it does mean placing kindness at the centre of any conversation. What resources can I share with others? What can I financially and/or emotionally afford to give? Are my interactions with others kind?

Our understanding of local: Living in a small community it’s easy to see how important local is to our business community. Local is also about eating what’s produced close by and seasonally, it’s about visiting local places and understanding local cultures. If it all goes to hell in a handbasket your knowledge of what is local will be even more critical. What local plants can I eat? Which are used for medicine? Where are safe places I can go to? Where can I meet my community?

Think: In our busy world it’s difficult to find time to think clearly. While we are being encouraged to think on our feet — and that is a relevant skill in many situations, we must also make time to think. To logically think through our options, our future, our new normal. Have I walked today? What questions have I asked myself of late? Have I taken time to think through this decision?

Our ability to remain resilient: The last thing a world in crisis needs is a whole bunch of people losing their shit. Learn how to centre yourself and when the crazy thoughts whisk you into a state of panic understand how to steady yourself. How can I find an even keel? What methods work for me to calm when my mind races? What thoughts bring me back to me?

Our willingness to adapt: Think life as you know it is going to stay the same? Maybe if you’re ready to turn your toes up in the next few years you may be quite correct but if not you’ll note, at least on a small level a world that is changing and I don’t know about you but I’d rather be prepared… Not in a doomsday kind of context but in an emotionally grown up, ready to try something different and let go of something now outdated kind of fashion. What will I willingly release? What do I need to learn? How will I learn that? What changes will I make immediately and which will I embrace over time?

To say I’m perfect, or have a perfect plan to address any of these things would be an outright lie. In fact, taking a good look within I’ve learned I feel strangely entitled to some of my habits of self-preservation. So, in 2020 my intention is to address my personal implementation of the new normal one step at a time.

I’m starting with a focus on building my local connectivity and resilience via joining a/a few local groups, building friendships and connectivity in my local community, shopping locally and getting my food garden growing again. I also intend to stand strong in my beliefs about leading with love (and you can say that’s as much of a suck up as you like — it makes sense to me).

Kerry Grace is a community engagement practitioner currently leading a regional development organisation in NSW Australia and managing her own company Evolve Group Network.

Kerry’s work focuses on sustainable small regional communities. She is a strong advocate of people leading the life that matters most (by their own definition), a mum and a big (read obsessed) fan of alpacas whom she adores to watch roaming on her hobby farm in regional NSW, Australia.

Kerry regularly blurts words about leadership, being a mum in business, self-care and adapting for an uncertain future.
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Originally published on MEDIUM

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

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