Our New Norm is Not so Norm… – Dr. Lisa Ortigara Crego

Our New Norm is Not so Norm…

No matter where you turn or what part of the world you reside somehow you are impacted by COVID-19.  We’ve moved into a new reality—at least for the time being—which dictates how we live our lives.

Today I made my way to Sam’s Club to pick up essentials as I’ve not gone shopping—real shopping in almost three weeks. It was daunting for sure.

Donned in my mask and rubber gloves, our new norm, I’m prepared to shop but first I’m greeted by a long line stretched out as far as the eye can see.  No way was I getting in that line. I jumped back into the car and headed home, but after a few minutes I made a u-turn and headed back to the parking lot to face my new norm and wait in the 90 degree heat with my mask and gloves in place.

For many it’s hard to believe this is for real, that there’s a pandemic impacting everyone, everywhere.

Are You In Denial?

As we’re cycling through these different emotions of denial and acceptance I can’t help but think about Kubler Ross as I’m bargaining on how we get a grip on this.

Early in my undergraduate years, I learned about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, who in her 1969 book entitled, Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy, and Their Own Families, taught about the five stages of grief, also known as the Kubler-Ross model. Though originally this model was patterned for grief stages of the dying, it morphed into a representation that is plugged into many scenarios of grief and loss. The five stages chronologically are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

It’s hard to believe (denial) such a pandemic is really going on—but it is—yet this day is gorgeous, sun is out and the sky is a piercing blue laced with chunks of white clouds. It feels as if everything is okay—but we know it’s not. We have that gnawing deep inside that someone somewhere is taking that last breath—and possibly it’s someone we know.

Life can be a challenge for many with the inner chatter and self-bashing about not being pretty enough or young enough, but with this pandemic, its’ a tough time of a different sort—how do we cycle through this?

At times we are filled with anger because we can’t move around freely going to this store and that store, or that it’s not really true (denial), or maybe you are bargaining that just this once you will go visit your friend because, well… they’ve been staying home, and you’ve been staying home, so  perhaps it’s safe. But then you don’t go because your not feeling it, you’re down, depressed this is happening. And somewhere through the emotional cycle you return to acceptance. Up and down and all around from denial to anger to bargaining and then depressed and finally acceptance…until the denial greets you once again.

Empty Streets

My trip to Sam’s is usually a 40 minute drive—but now the streets are bare—I make it in less than 20 minutes. Not a lot of cars on the road, few stores are open but most people drive by, going home, not meandering unless absolutely necessary and essential. Peeking over to the car next to mine, eyes meet mine—faces covered too.

It’s almost as if your dream walking through this, but you’re not, it is reality—it’s really happening. The restaurants are closed and the bars are closed and even with much resistance the casinos were last to shut down, churches, synagogues, and temples closed too.

Yet, the liquor stores remain open to prevent the alcoholic from a full blown withdrawal, though understandable, and an important preventative measure, it blows my mind. Prayer and congregating now removed.

My husband, a definite workaholic, is home for the first time in all of his adult life creating chores around the house to be busy and productive. I, on the other hand, work remotely from the office. Alone.  My entire office is empty, each working remotely from home. With a huge dog and loud parrot the distractions would be mighty big so I’m still going into the office.

The office is empty, the parking lot is bare, but the hospital a few yards away is bustling with testing for the virus and intakes. My new norm is strange, I’m looking through a video at one patient after the other—invited into their home rather than on the couch across from me in my office setting.

The Long and Winding Line

So here I am, my new norm, waiting to get into Sam’s to shop. The line is stretched down the street as far as the eye can see to what looks like little dots, but I know it’s people waiting as only ten at a time are let in the store.

We stand donned in our protective gear waiting to get into the grocery store. Some fiddle with their phones while others look off staring…all you see is the faraway look in their eyes—a disbelief this is going on—but it is. I’m certain my eyes parallel theirs.

So I continue to wait in line four blocks out from the store—trying to maintain the six feet rule to the best of my ability. The woman behind me chatting in Spanish about the crisis to a loved one is inching up to me without realization.

Slowly we make our way to the front of the line and finally into the store.

Finally I’m in… but grateful as I grab one needed item after another all the while fearing I’m touching something with the dreaded virus attached.


I made my way through the aisles, conscious of keeping my distance by at least six feet from the other shoppers.

I used the scan-and-go feature to avoid the line and the cashier, fumbling all the while with my rubber gloves.

More times then I care to admit my rubber fingers stretched across the keys adding more to my scan than intended, but shop I did, through the maze of challenges with my face mask slipping as sweat dripped down my face as it’s hot to wear, but so thankful to have one.

My phone knocks out two to three times as I continue to fumble with my rubber gloves getting caught in the keys. Some people are coping with panic buying, online or at the grocery stores—you know the ones hoarding toilet paper. With this in mind I’m planning to make a beeline right to that very aisle as the thought of running out of the precious white puffy stuff is terrifying.

I’m human—and I panic too, but thank goodness I have outlets. To  keep my “normalcy” I’m still doing my daily walk. I continue to journal and write, working on my fourth book and read to cope when I’m not working alone at the office. I use Facebook, and the different Social Medias, to connect with family and friends. And my sisters are all bonding in our group text—reminiscing about the good ole days, when not so long ago we were on the West coast of Florida hanging out for a sister’s week (wrote about in two blogs ago).

Living in South Florida I’m in a hotspot, and my dear editor in New York, and my family in Chicago—really no escape for anybody. Seems it’s just a matter of time before it affects you too—if not already. And of course this increases the panic—making home a safe zone.

What I’m finding important during times like this is how blessed I am. Maybe we all took everything for granted not realizing everything we have is a precious gift and that it could change in a given moment.

Coping Ideas

How are you coping? Perhaps consider journaling, taking long walks with your fury kid, cleaning out your garage, or emptying your closet, perhaps you have lovely clothes that you no longer wear and someone could use.

My husband painted doors, completely cleaned and painted our vanity, deep cleaned spots in our home we’ve not looked at in a while. Even our robot vacuum, we fondly call Burt, made his way throughout the garage snatching up this and that from the floor.

Maybe you have lost money in the market or your paycheck is not coming in and you have rent or mortgage beckoning for money you don’t have. These are scary times, it’s really impacting you—perhaps this is a reminder for all of us to save for that “rainy” day.

Focus on what you can control and know that this will not be forever and that we will come out of this stronger and better and more united. What you CAN do is protect your health, stay indoors, wash your hands, don’t touch your face—you know—we’ve been told over and over the drill—almost as if it’s planted in our brain.

But…it’s hard not to scratch your nose or touch your hair touch your lips—we are human—just watch your animals they’re always licking and touching their different parts—it’s natural—and now we have to break natural. In fact while proofing this line I unknowingly balanced my elbow on the desk, chin resting on the back of my hand with my thumb bent resting my chin scanning the pages for errors.

Home once again with my stash of food, I enter into Easter weekend watching mass on television, plan a simple meal, apart from our son and daughter in law, though they live only minutes away. Isolation and introversion forced on us…a new norm.

What is your new norm looking like? How have you adapted to being confined to home without your family? Do you find this time is an open invitation to eat out of control? I’d love to hear from you and learn from you.

Stay tuned…you never know where my mind will wander…

You can leave a comment by scrolling down to the section that says leave a reply.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Hugs to you, I care!

Dr. Lisa

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About the Author Lisa Ortigara Crego

Speaker, writer, licensed clinical psychotherapist, PhD in addiction psychology, eating disorder professional, hypnotherapist changing the view about compulsive eating one addict at a time.

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