Finding New Joy in New Norms

Aug 17, 2020 12:39:41 PM Sarah Rymer

It turns out that living overseas is the best preparation for a world-wide pandemic a person could ask for (or not ask for).

Jess Blog 2-2The grocery store is out of your typical staples? Sounds like normal life to me after living in a country where so many of the produce, dairy, and convenience foods are either stuffed in your suitcase and slowly savored, or simply what unfulfilled night-time cravings are made of.

The parks, zoos, and playgrounds are closed? Well, the city I call home in Southeast Asia has 2 parks for a city of 2.5 million. And, unless my kids and I would like to be the main attraction, it’s probably best to skip the crowd.

Schools are closed? I’m blessed to be able to homeschool my kids on a regular basis, so life at home is the norm for us.

But, just because my “normal” life in Asia resembles one remarkably similar to a quarantined life in the States doesn’t mean I can’t resonate with so many who are adjusting to unforeseen changes.

When my young family landed in Asia, none of the above was anything close to normal. Upon our arrival, I was dumbfounded by just how much had changed. I was humbled to find myself in a new normal. But, by the grace of God, we adjusted and sought ways to make the most of what we had and where we were.

Even though I miss prime deliveries and a neighborhood Costco, I’ve learned to revel in the resourcefulness living abroad so often requires.

Sometimes, the unique challenge of making due with fewer or different materials can spur joy and a sense of accomplishment I never expected.

Most tangibly, I experience this daily in cooking.

I’ve grown to love researching how I can take what’s available to me and create something from scratch that brings comfort (and nutrition) to my family. Thanks to the lack of convenient foods, I’ve learned how to make a roux instead of reach for canned soup. I’ve learned the new normal of pasta sauce starting from fresh tomatoes and tortilla chips starting from flour. Even though these new discoveries take hours, the end results are far more satisfying (and negate a smaller serving size).

I can see this same phenomenon of filling an old norm with a new joy in many aspects of life overseas and in quarantine.

  • No parks or zoos for the kids? Our family has filled that space with sweet time exploring nature together and even studying and drawing local wild life — something that’s brought an equal or even greater amount of joy.
  • No fitness classes or story-times? Our kids have learned to love dance parties DJ’d by YouTube, and they beg for read aloud time.
  • Finding yourself with extra time at home? I never cease to be amazed by the creativity of “bored” kids. We’ve watched with delight as our kids have journeyed with their imaginations in the space that being at home provides.

Living in lack fosters a unique necessity to create and improvise.

And, it’s so fun to see what comes of it.

Covid-19 has certainly stripped so many of us of norms we once held so dear. But, those norms can be filled with new, life-giving outlets. And, you may even find more joy and satisfaction in the process of finding them.


About the Author: Jessica has degrees in public relations and professional writing. She and her husband Scott are IDEAS Associates and moved to Asia in 2018 with their 3 children to provide health care for impoverished communities. For other blog posts on family life overseas, check out Moving Overseas with Children: Inevitable Losses & Surprising Gains.


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