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Reopening America Safely and With Optimism: How Can We Create a New and Greater Normal

As individual states and counties throughout the nation begin to rollout or enact plans for reopening post Coronavirus shutdowns, we are all reentering what has become a whole new world. Let’s face it, this national transformation we’ve undergone over the last few months was beyond even our wildest imaginations. It was unprecedented and devastating for […]

As individual states and counties throughout the nation begin to rollout or enact plans for reopening post Coronavirus shutdowns, we are all reentering what has become a whole new world. Let’s face it, this national transformation we’ve undergone over the last few months was beyond even our wildest imaginations. It was unprecedented and devastating for many of us and those we know. But as a physician and eternal optimist, I believe that this shutdown was not only necessary for us to flatten the curve against this formidable virus, but to give us an unexpected, yet incredible opportunity to tap into our indomitable spirit – our Win, Within!

That being said, the real question before us is and remains, now what? In many parts of America, the pandemic curve appears (at least for now) to be flattening, and elected officials are beginning to be more comfortable with lifting some of the shutdown, or stay-at-home orders that were previously in place.

But what will life look like on the other side of quarantine? We are repeatedly told that it won’t, at least for a while, appear the way it did before mid-March of 2020. The collective reaction to this revelation isn’t new. Some people understand that adapting to a ‘new normal’ is the price we must pay for existence on this fascinating planet called Earth. Others are having absolutely none of it. Citing their rights as American citizens and the foundations of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that our country is founded upon, there are plenty of folks who have no desire or plans to change one thing in this new pandemic society. So, who’s right?

Though we haven’t had enough time with this new coronavirus for our research professionals and scientists to study all of its elements, we do know that it is infectious and can be deadly. When it comes to global pandemics, our collective humanity has been down this road before. From the Bubonic Plague to the Spanish Flu, our species has experienced and overcome worldwide viral contagion. And guess what? If you’re reading this, it means you are a beneficiary of us making it to the other side of it. For those who believe there is no reason to modify life to a new normal, perhaps you’d use the fact that we’ve collectively overcome significant illness before as your rationale that life doesn’t have to change. But I’d respectfully beg to differ.

Humans are hard-wired for adaptability. It is in our DNA. So even though it may not ‘feel’ to some people that we have changed or need to change in the future, the truth is that change is what we humans are designed to do. And it is a significant part of the reason why we have been able to survive as a species for so long. Contrary to what some might believe, adapting doesn’t equate to surrendering. In fact, it represents quite the opposite. I think it compares to thriving in and despite of adversity. Of course, much of what I just wrote comes down to a matter of perspective and it is entirely up to you on how you decide to overcome this obstacle and become better for it.

When an individual approaches life from an optimistic viewpoint, it can be perspective-shifting, and for those who weren’t optimists to begin with, it can be positively life changing. The hard truth of our current circumstances is that we simply cannot (yet) control how this coronavirus pandemic will play out. We have no deadline on when (or if) it will end, and we don’t (yet) have a vaccine or completely curative treatment to eradicate it. These truths can be complicated to rationalize in our minds. Add to them the fact that this is an “invisible enemy, trying to wrap our brains around it can be extremely frustrating. But what if I told you that no matter our circumstances regarding Covid-19, we neither need to live in fear nor with complete abandon. And what if I told you that a “new normal” can become a new and greater normal? It is all possible my friends.

We CAN adapt our lives to our current circumstances and collectively come out whole and on the other side of this moment in time. Humans have done it for millennia. What that looks like for each American may be a little bit different. For those who are at the highest risk, life may need to take on some extra precautions. For those who aren’t high risk, life may also need to take on some additional precautions to help protect our most vulnerable American brethren. Either way, understanding that these times require some adaptation and then setting about optimistically adapting to them is what we were innately designed to do.

We’re built for weathering the storms of life. And without a shadow of a doubt, we are in the eye of yet another storm. But as the wind blows, the skies darken, and the rain falls hard upon our heads, there is a light that shines bright and with it, brings incredible opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to tap into our faith and love of our fellow man and woman, and rediscover our creativity, ingenuity and passion for making this world a better place for our children. It is an opportunity to start anew. So let’s lock arms and take that first step together into the light and embrace this brave new world.

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