In this blog I would like to bring up what’s already on all of our minds and a part of our life: social distancing, wearing masks, getting used to the “new normal.” We hear and use these words every day and I would like to zoom into our experiences in hopes of drawing some insights that will give me (and maybe others) some clarity in understanding our feelings.
“Don’t forget your mask”
When I hear my roommate say “don’t forget your mask,” sometimes I catch myself thinking how surreal this sentence sounds. But I thank her for reminding me, take the mask and enter a new world that we now call a “new normal.”
As my roommate and I walk outside of our apartment building, every store and business that is open greets us with the same words of warning: “Social Distance! Keep 6ft apart”
We walk into the grocery store, I try to keep my distance, but sometimes I forget to. It feels unnatural to consciously avoid people who are my neighbors, my community. Rather than saying hi and beginning a friendly conversation, we turn into a different isle or turn away to avoid any interaction — social interaction is now unsafe.
I smile at the person ahead of me in line not realizing they cannot see my facial expression. My smile fades. No one is smiling at me. Or are they but their smiles also fade as they realize they are invisible. We have become invisible to each other without our smiles.
When the pandemic first began, it felt alarming to see people wearing masks. Now it feels alarming to see someone without a mask.
As we walk back into our apartment, we hang our keys up along with our masks. Our masks live on our key holder. Sometimes they look like little flags to me. Sometimes I see them as flags of hope and other times as flags of surrender. They are blue and white generic masks. I can buy some fun themed masks or masks that represent a statement but I am not ready yet to have a mask represent me and be a substitute of my smile – even if no one can see it.
Is this the “new normal”? I never understood what that phrase meant. Sometimes I refuse to accept all this as normal. But then I realize that resistance holds me back when I need to find ways to keep going forward.
No one knows how much longer this global devastation will last but what I do know is that when time comes and it is safe to take our masks off, I will never take for granted a neighbor’s smile.