beth outside

About FONO (Fear of Normal), Managing our return together

Hello dear ones,

This blog expands on something in my last one–pacing yourself as we begin to open up. 


If you need an online grief ritual, my friends Joanna Laws Landis and Will Rogers will be facilitating a Grief Tending Circle on Thursday, March 3rd from 2-5pm PST / 5-8pm EST on Zoom. It’s already sold out but I include it so that you can get on the waitlist for future ones. 


They offer this circle with honor and gratitude to the Dagara people and the lineage of grief ritual that has come to us from West Africa. The Dagara ritual was carried by Sobonfu Somé and Malidoma Somé to the west, and this circle has been influenced and deepened by this example. 


It’s the best online ritual that I found during the pandemic. Reserve Your Spot Here 


We must continue to grieve, so that our hearts may continue to open as we open. 



How’s your grief and what are you noticing these days as we near the 2 year mark of the pandemic?  

I’m curious if your body has shifted? 


More specifically, has your nervous system changed? 


Or have you been learning that you’ve been sensitive all along and the pandemic pause helped you become aware of this? 


That’s a great question to live with—has this pandemic revealed to you more of who you really are? 


As we have more opportunities for engaging with others like we used to, what used to be normal, I’m noticing that it feels awkward and strange. 


I spoke of this briefly in my last blog, but I can’t stop thinking and noticing these changes because my nervous system feels so different, it’s been rewired. 


So, as restrictions begin to relax, I’m noticing that I’m not as relaxed as I thought I’d be. 


I remember seeing a video at the beginning of the pandemic; it was in the future when it was safe to come out, the pandemic was over. 


People were busting out of their dwellings in their pajamas, beards, and long overgrown disheveled hair. 


And they were running into each other’s arms in celebration. Some were even making out with random strangers.


It was funny AND not funny and it’s definitely not my experience right now. 


As I’m having interactions with people I’m feeling both grateful and nervous at the same time. I’m both open and hesitant. 


I think we need a new word to describe this phenomenon. 



I just read an article entitled, How to Manage Post Pandemic Stress and FONO (Fear of Normal) from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). https://namica.org/blog/how-to-manage-post-pandemic-stress/


I found it helpful to just name my experience—

I have a slight tinge of FONO because what used to be normal feels oddly new to me now. 


I’ve been spending more time recently with friends, in small groups of about 4-5 and I’ve noticed that afterwards I’ve been wiped out energetically. 


It was simply too much, and that gives me a new kind of grief…that what used to be so nourishing, feels taxing to my system now; I felt both settled AND anxious at the same time. 


I plan to attend an outdoor concert in June and so I’m going to start practicing being in small groups so that I can be amongst a crowd again. 


Being in a crowd of people is something I never imagined I would’ve taken for granted. 



So here’s how I play to build up my social muscle: 


I’m going to just notice and check in with my body and nervous system when I’m around others. 


I’m going to take my time and go at a pace that feels good to my nervous system. 


It means I may decline to gather with others if I’m just not up for it. And then I’ll let myself be okay with that decision. 


I may have to go out and be around others and then retreat to my home or my connection to the natural world. I may practice this pendulation process for as long as I need to as I tend to my social muscle and grow it back. 


And I’m going to openly talk about this with others too. I need to talk about my experience of the pandemic and how it’s affected me and I encourage you to do the same. 


We’ve been through and are still going through SO much right now. I’d wondered in the beginning if we’d be having to relearn how to be around others again, and, well, here we are… 



So, I’m wondering how you’re all doing out there as we continue to navigate this process of what’s next for all of us. 

Perhaps there are some of you who are doing just fine with this transition…and if so, enjoy it and support the boundaries and needs of those of us who aren’t. 


And some of us may really be struggling as our mental health needs increased during this time. So please be gentle with yourself and others. 


We are still in this sea together but our boats are in various different conditions. 


And, as always, notice the grief that is surfacing and give it some attention.


Notice the subtle grief you may feel as you hug that friend you haven’t in a few years. Linger there and just feel and notice your embodied grief. Name it with them if you can. 


Hugs have been both amazing and delightfully strange because my body isn’t used to them the way it used to be. 


I’ll end with a quote from nervous system expert Kimberly Ann Johnson who’s also writing about our social muscle atrophy: “But I do plead with you: prioritize proximity, closeness and touch whenever you can. It’s our way home to ourselves and each other.” 


And, as always, feel and share your grief with each other too. 


These are grief-full times. There’s so much to digest and process. Be gentle with yourselves, have compassion and curiosity. Keep your grief moving. Be kind to yourself and all others-human and non-human. And remember to grieve well, so we can be well.


Beth, your grief friend.