It is not easy finding “normal” these days.

Eight months into a pandemic, it is something I think we are all seeking. When I visited a Highland Storm practice last weekend, I heard from parents about the joys of finding a sense of normal in taking a child to the rink, even with the masks and the social distancing.

Of course, the public health rules mean it is not quite hockey – or life – as usual. The rules we live under are understandable but can wear on us all. As we embark on the last stretch of the year, we must accept a perfect sense of normalcy is not coming soon – and that is okay.

Hockey season would usually be coming into full force this time of year. The Highland Storm’s incredible efforts have allowed the minor hockey season to go on in some form, even if limited to 3-on-3 play without travel. Getting in and out of the rink is also more complicated and the arenas will be emptier.

It is not perfectly normal, but hockey is still back. Players and parents can still enjoy the game on the ice, even with its limitations. Kids can still have fun playing with their friends and making new ones. It will not be the same and that thought may linger. But it is still a chance for kids to get into Canada’s sport. The Highland Storm deserves all the praise in the world for making that happen.

Other recreational activities are staring up again too. The Haliburton Curling Club and Haliburton Dance Academy will also try to keep programming going despite the circumstances. Even if compromises must be made to follow public health rules, the incredible resiliency these and other groups are showing to offer something resembling normal should be commended.

The holiday season is also a time where people will seek tradition. Many likely bent rules to visit family for Thanksgiving and even more will do so for Christmas. Months apart has made our hearts ache for friends and family. However much we are willing to risk in these visits, they will not be quite like holidays of years past. But whether through a screen or at a distance outdoors, we can still find a sense of warmth and companionship with our loved ones.

None of this is to say we should forgo public health rules to find normal again. We must still be vigilant and wary where COVID-19 cases rise. If we want things to get back to how they used to be, following the best public health practices is our only option. Distancing, masks, sanitizer – those are part of normalcy too, now, and will likely leave their mark on the normal of tomorrow.

We can seek out our familiar comforts, but they are all going to remain a little off. That can make it hard to feel normal. But it is something we should accept about ourselves and our reality. It is normal to feel bad about these difficult days.

We still have a long way to go in this pandemic. We are in a marathon and we are all sick of it. Nothing but its end will set things quite right again.

But we will make it through. For people, that is normal.

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