Returning to normal

[aka Pandemic Survival: Lessons from martial arts Part 7]

Mere weeks ago, I stepped onto the mats again to train in aikido. This isn’t my only step back into my previous ‘normal’ so I had to revisit this blog series once more. If you missed any of it, you’ll find the links to the earlier posts at the bottom.

First, returning to the mats…

After my longest absence ever, I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself when stepping back on the mats. Bumpy rolls ranked pretty high on my list along with jerky techniques and unsteady blends. I wasn’t wrong about those things, unfortunately. However, I failed to anticipate how giddy I would be returning. It truly felt like coming home again.

When asked, I always replied that I missed aikido.

**Please note my dojo continued with hands off training during the pandemic, but I did not participate. It seems like a good idea to clarify this point.**

Knowing something in your head is different than knowing in your heart. I didn’t realize how much I missed training until I returned to the mats. Perhaps the old adage absence makes the heart grow fonder is on to something. For the record, I wasn’t the only one who kept smiling on the mats.

It felt like taking a deep breath after struggling for air. It was returning home.

Very quickly though, I and others faced the issues we had left on the mats previously. We were tense. We looked down. We anticipated. None of us were perfect before the pandemic and despite being giddy to be back, we still weren’t perfect.

However, we were on the mats and we could learn and train again. We have a second chance on the mats.

I’m not sure exactly where I’ll go next on the mats. I do know I’m glad to have aikido back in my life and I’m content with that knowledge for now.

Now, returning to a normal life off the mats…

I always feel like expectations factor in to any experience. I often reference that fact when reviewing books on my blog. This doesn’t mean be a Debbie Downer. I do think it means to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

It is entirely possible that your old normal no longer fits the new you (and no, I’m not just talking about waist size and squeezing into clothes).

To find out though, we have to try. We have to re-visit our old lives and see how they fit us now. Perhaps, we’ll jump right back into good habits…maybe we’ll be jumping back into habits we didn’t even know were bad at the time. We won’t know unless we try.

Here are my 3 off the mats lessons to help you along the way:

  1. Expect some bumps along the way.
  2. Take the chance and try.
  3. Embrace the results whatever they may be.


Take a look at your old life – pictures, posts, whatever – and remember why you liked it. Anytime you are taking steps in a new direction, it helps to understand where you are coming from and where you had wanted to go when you started the journey.

Covid sent all of us on a detour and we’ve dealt with it. Now though, we are returning to that original path. Don’t look at the past with rose-colored glasses. This will set unrealistic expectations for your next steps. Instead, embrace that hindsight is 20/20 and really take a look at that previous life.

Life before Covid wasn’t perfect.

Road work – crowds – empty shelves – thwarted plans – rules.

These were all part of our lives before. Ending the pandemic restrictions doesn’t open the door to utopia. It does give us a wonderful chance to evaluate where we were, where we are, and where we want to be.

No, this new normal won’t be perfect, but it is a new chance.


Yes, it can be scarier to return to something well-loved as a different person than to try something brand new. Return to it anyway.

It wasn’t perfect before; it won’t be perfect now. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a wonderful experience that you need and deserve in your life.

As I said, I wasn’t sure how it would feel to be back on the mats. A part of me worried the love I had for the art wouldn’t have survived the long absence. A part of me knew I wasn’t in the same shape I was before when I’d trained and wasn’t excited to try again. A part of me focused on the past and didn’t believe it would feel as good again.

I’m very glad I got back on the mats again, and that encourages me to try other parts of my old normal.

As we re-emerge into the world, it’s important to relish this second chance as an amazing opportunity. Analyze the past – adjust your expectations – accept your fear and doubts – give it your all! You may not get a third chance.


Now that you’ve been brave enough to return to your old life, consider that it may not fit you…and that’s okay. You don’t have to stay on that path. As I mentioned above, the pandemic distance may have given you a different perspective on your old life. Just because it was normal doesn’t mean it was good.

Anyone watch old home improvement shows? You know the ones that say to strip down your home to get it ready to sell – empty out the clutter, clean it, and streamline your life. I did this before my last move and ended up with a storage unit of stuff I wanted to keep after trashing and donating many things. It took at least 2 months before I moved and unloaded that storage unit…and I survived happily without all of that stuff.

Covid had us pack up a lot, clean, and streamline. We don’t have to let all the bad back into our new normal. We can get rid of a lot of bad habits and embrace where we are now.

This second chance may take us on another new path. Be open to all the possibilities then take action to try them and embrace the results!

Expect some bumps on your journey…take the chance and give it your all…embrace the results whatever they may be!

On or off the mats, my advice is often the same. Breathe – move – relax. I would now like to add the advice to smile as well. All of us can find something in lives to be grateful for…whether that is our part of our old normal or the new one is up to us.

Now, get out there and give it your best shot! If you want to share your experiences here and/ or encourage others, please take a moment to comment!


As promised, here on the links for my Pandemic Survival: Lessons from martial arts series:

Lessons Part 1

Lessons Part 2

Lessons Part 3

Lessons Part 4

Lessons Part 5

Lessons Part 6

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