Has Your Life Returned to Normal Yet? Is This Now Normal?

We all wonder: when will life return to normal again?


I turn off the ignition. I stay in my car. No other cars are here yet. But it’s only 4:20 p.m. I’m still 10 minutes early.

I’ll wait.

This is a big moment.

After a year of uncertainty about what to do and what not to do, this is the first of my pre-covid life volunteer opportunities that is opening back up. I wasn’t sure I would return to it when it did reopen. But now that teaching English-as-a-Second-Language has become available again, I’m saying yes.

And I’m excited about it.

Earlier in the day I reviewed my ESL workbook. I opened the Google Translate app again on my phone. I looked over the list of my students from late 2019. I wonder which ones will return to learn more English after a year of no classes?

4:25 p.m. Still no one. I check the door even though there are no cars. Maybe someone was dropped off and is inside. But no, the door is locked and the lights are out.

4:30 p.m. Now I’m officially worried. Did I get the date wrong? The time?

Or am I still trapped in the uncertainty of the pandemic?

In 2020 we all felt large and small moments when our life flipped from certainty to uncertainty. And this is continuing to happen in the first half of 2021.

But slowly, surely, with each new CDC update, we’re finding encouragement.

We’re starting to turn again from uncertainty to certainty.

This ESL opportunity has been one such moment.

But now this specific moment? No one is coming today. I’m certain.

4:35 p.m. I text the class leaders. I’ll stay until 4:40 unless I hear something first.


The response says,

“I’m so sorry! J must have forgotten to tell you that there weren’t enough students willing to return yet. We’ll try again in the fall!”

I take a minute to collect myself. I’m disappointed. I’d gotten excited for nothing. This has been a false start.

It’s still not my time to step back into normalcy.

But normalcy will keep creeping back in anyway, maybe at times when I can see it, but more likely when I’m not looking so hard for it.

I text my reply,

“No problem. These things happen. Just keep me posted.”

I crank my car and enter the afternoon traffic. I’m going back home.

Normalcy isn’t beginning today. But at least I got in a test run.‘

Or maybe now this is normal.

Has your life returned to “normal” yet, whatever that is? Is uncertainty now normal? Has it always been? Share in the comments.

UNCERTAINTY is my One Word for 2021. The One Word ‘21 Linkup will be open on May 21 for you to add your own posts, updating us on your one word.

Read more here about Uncertainty:

33 thoughts on “Has Your Life Returned to Normal Yet? Is This Now Normal?

  1. Martha J Orlando

    What a disappointment, Lisa. I think we’re all chomping at the bit to get back to what we perceive as “normal,” but it’s taking a while to get there. I hope and pray that by June or July, there will be little to no hesitancy left about being with others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My husband got to experience some normalcy for the first time at work today! For those who are fully vaccinated, they could take off the masks they’ve been having to wear all day. He was thrilled. I told him to get in a good shave this morning since no one has seen his full face since March 2020. ha.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re likely right, Michele. Uncertainty has been a factor in everyone’s lives the past year! No escaping it. I’m ready to dial it back a little though as soon as possible. 🙂

  2. Lynn

    I can imagine your disappointment, Lisa! It also shows how re-opening may be a slow progress like walking across deep waters on slippery stones, rather than a rush of activity. I wonder what we will be writing a year from now? My country of Canada is behind the US when it comes to re-opening (and my province is the highest in Covid cases in North America apparently). Day by day be navigate the times the best we can!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your analogy, Lynn. Reopening does indeed feel like walking across slippery stones. I’ll be praying that the case count in your province will go down quickly and stay down. My state of Alabama has lifted most of its restrictions this past weekend yet the majority of adults are still unvaccinated, so I’m not sure what will happen next here. 🙁

  3. Lesley

    I’m sorry for your disappointment, Lisa! I think we have all become accustomed to uncertainty. I have a few things coming up in June that I have to plan for and although it looks like they will go ahead a big part of me refuses to believe it until they actually happen. I think it is going to take us all time to readjust. I did get to go to in-person church yesterday for the first time since March 2020 though, so some normality is resuming (although with masks and no singing)!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know what you me about hesitating to believe plans will actually come to fruition. My daughter was supposed to come visit last weekend and I didn’t get ready for her until the very last minute because I assumed the trip would have to be canceled like it had the past few times (but it worked out this time!).

      That’s awesome that you were able to return to church yesterday for the first time! I haven’t been back to our church yet but they’ve been continuing on as normal for quite some time now (which is why I haven’t been back, ha).

  4. Laurie

    My DIL is an ESL teacher at a community college in Oregon. She has had trouble filling her schedule due to COVID and the lack of foreign students. I am hoping both of you are back in the classroom in September – her as a teacher and you as a volunteer!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Laurie. I think things will definitely be different here in the fall.

      Some of the ESL students have been working with a teacher over Zoom, so I’m thankful for those who have been teaching that way. As it is, we were going to be wearing masks if we had resumed in person, which I had serious doubts about anyway. It’s hard enough to teach/learn a foreign language when you can see each others’ mouths, but even harder when you can’t.

  5. Lynn Severance

    I moved to a senior community a year ago during its lockdown! It is an amazing faith-based community and I had waited 11 months for an opening. I am in the independent units – little duplex cottages, like a real house! The campus also has an assisted living and nursing facility. My neighbors greeted me masked but oh, so friendly. Through Zoom I have been pulled into facilitating a fellowship group – me the newbie and my group all knew each other – now we are ‘fast friends’. None of us know what the new normal will be but to persevere using the technology to stay connected while ‘waiting’ has been exceptional. We can now be unmasked, if vaccinated, in each others’ units. Small groups are able to meet in the administration building (where there are rooms for groups) but as it is a public space with staff coming and going we are to be masked there…but being ‘in person’ has been such a joy. I’ve seen God working in spite of this virus. We all have our pandemic stories and we all will have our re-emerging stories – just as you had your test-run, Lisa. Perhaps all our days are ‘test-runs’ as we continue to trust God to lead us where He wants – and we choose to follow but also are willing to wait for His ‘green light’!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This makes my heart happy to hear, Lynn! I’m glad you’ve found such a lovely community that you can jump right into it, even through Zoom. Even though technology is imperfect, it’s still been a lifesaver in keeping us connected. I participated in an online Bible study with a group of ladies from another church this past year (our church was still meeting in person, yikes!), and I enjoyed having that outlet. The virus could never stop God from working; we just had to look for him in new places. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this here!

  6. Barbara Harper

    Aw, that had to be disappointing, especially after getting mentally ready for it.

    We’ve been back at church in person the last few weeks. They’ve been meeting for a while in person, but we just started back. It’s been good, though I still felt a little uneasy the first couple of times. Some folks there are anti-mask, anti-vaccine, etc., which makes me a little uncomfortable. We’re the only ones still wearing masks there. 🙂 But we each have to do whatever we feel God wants us to, in light of our own health situations.

    I’m more comfortable with outside activities and had my first in-person restaurant lunch with a friend on an outdoor patio last week.

    My husband was saying his company may have them start back traveling next month–if any of their customers are willing to have them yet.

    I think it will still be a while before things get totally back to normal. I’d rather go slowly and safely that rush in and start another wave.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We haven’t been back to church yet in person, but Jeff is ready to go. With Jenna just having her baby, I’ve been waiting a couple extra weeks until she reaches her own full vaccination point before I go back. Jeff and I have been fully vaccinated since April.

      We haven’t eaten inside a restaurant yet either, but have done several patio restaurant meals. We’ll likely continue those off and on, even when everything is back to normal because it’s so pleasant. This was the first week Jeff didn’t have to wear a mask at work all day since he’s fully vaccinated! He’s loved that. 🙂

  7. ~ linda

    I am thrilled that you are teaching ESL. That is a wonderful skill to be teaching to those who are eager and ready to learn. They will return. It is just still such an unknown time with “returning to normal.” I am not yet, Lisa. I am 73 with some autoimmune issues so am not, cannot, should not. But I am ok for God knows my future and the plans He has for me, for you.
    I taught ESL to 60 children from 13 countries/13 languages and I spoke none. So they learned English and loved learning. Then some taught their parents. These kids were spread over 4 hours so I had 6-10 or so at a time. I loved them and the teaching!! I love it that you got into this.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’d love to sit with you and get tips on teaching ESL, Linda! I didn’t realize how hard it would be. Most of my students were Spanish-speakers, which made it a tiny bit easier because I can speak a little Spanish. I can’t imagine having students who spoke 13 languages! One of my favorite students was a native Vietnam speaker. He actually spoke good English when he came to us, but he was constantly trying to improve. We had many long conversations together instead of using a workbook to help him increase his vocabulary. I also learned a lot through those conversations about his home country.

      1. ~ linda

        We used “Total Physical Response” to teach ESL to K-6th graders. It works really well. These were children with basically no English so this method works extremely well for that level.
        I had a large percentage of Spanish speakers, many Korean and Vietnamese, one Loatian, one Romanian, one Polish, and others that I cannot recall at this instant. I was teaching at a two elementary schools in Orange County, CA where many nationalities are located…more and more all the time.
        Take care, ~ linda

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          You’ve had such a full life, Linda! I’m sure you are full of stories. I thank God for women like you who have walked our world doing good for others and shining God’s light of love everywhere you go.

  8. Betty J Draper

    How brave of you to step back into something that results in others being better as they learn. I am sure it will get to where others will step out. It’s the same in our ministry. We are doing zoom, facetime, phone calls, and messages for contacting our missionaries that are on home assignment. In July we have a wedding and mini family reunion to go to UNLESS , well you understand the, unless. Return to normal, not yet and I don’t think the normal we knew before will come back so I have stopped looking for that normal. I did start a bible study and seven women, older women too have decided to brave it and attend. It’s been great to listen to how each one has chosen to handle this not so normal life. They encourage me. Your post encouraged me too Lisa, good for you for stepping out.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I totally understand that UNLESS, Betty! We’re all learning to hold our plans more loosely, when we even dare to make plans. We still haven’t made any big plans yet for the summer, but we did put a date on the calendar for August for a few days at the beach. Unless. 🙂

  9. Joanne Viola

    I think there is so much uncertainty to returning to some activities. May we all be patient and allow everyone to return at their own pace. I do hope you are able to return to your volunteer work after everyone adjusts to getting back out again.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Joanne. I need to remain patient. There are several things that I’m not ready to return to anyway, so I want to continue trusting God’s timing for where he wants me to step next.

  10. Lisa Blair

    I’m sad you didn’t get to do your ESL class! I felt like I was sitting in the car with you as you processed your disappointment. Our state lifted restrictions weeks ago, so we’ve been running around mask free for quite some time. It is so nice to see everyone’s smile and to have good communicative interaction again! Enjoy that new grandbaby!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Lisa. This was the first week that I held my grandbaby without a mask on, and I realized how much I had been missing by not being able to kiss his sweet little head! It is very freeing to not be tied to my mask as much now. My husband got to drop his mask at work this week; it’s been an adjustment but a good one. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Jeremy. Yeah, it did take me a minute to move past the anger. It helped when I heard a little of the backstory. But with that said, good communication is never to be underestimated.

  11. Karen Friday

    Lisa, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t have any students return yet. I remember reading about your teaching these classes. Like you said, thankful normalcy will continue to creep back into our lives.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Karen. I thought I was going to get an online student instead! But it hasn’t happened yet either. I’m settling into just waiting patiently instead. It’ll happen again when the time is right.

  12. Paula+Short

    So sorry to hear about your disappointment Lisa. God just might be saying wait a little longer for some things. My normal is still my normal. Because of disability mine didn’t change. I however supported those I know whose lives became a new normal. Blessings.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I have a friend with disabilities whose life didn’t change either. I think this past year has been enlightening for those of us without disabilities to get a tiny glimpse into that world too. I know it’s not the same though. It has taught me to be even more appreciative of those for whom this lifestyle is their norm. Your attitude is so gracious, Paula. I am encouraged by your perspective of love.

  13. Karen Friday

    Lisa, sorry your class didn’t work out after all. I remember you writing about it before and your love for it. I, too, am gald for this: “But normalcy will keep creeping back in anyway, maybe at times when I can see it, but more likely when I’m not looking so hard for it.”

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