April 18, 2020
I was doing ok with staying home and working remotely. I consider myself an introvert, so I don’t mind being by myself. I was ok with wearing gloves to the grocery store. What I found I was not ok with was going to the store with a mask on. Physically I didn’t like the way it felt on me, trying to breathe with it. And who am I to complain, healthcare workers are wearing them 24/7.
But I had a much more emotional reaction to it going to the grocery store two weeks ago.
I got to the grocery store, and I noticed anxiety rising in me. I couldn’t quite figure it out. Was it the masks, on myself and others? Was it the arrows telling me where to go? Was it the standing 6 feet apart and waiting for people to move away before I could continue my shopping? I couldn’t figure it out, but I thought it was because it felt isolating and distant. I did my mindful breathing and focused on the task at hand (as fast as I could) and made it through.
This past weekend, I needed to go Target to pick up a prescription. I decided to go when it opened at 8am. My husband suggested I wear the buff that I wear in the winter. I put it on, and of course I didn’t like it. He gave me his N95 mask, which he uses for work. I didn’t like it either. Plus, I knew those were in short supply, and felt “funny” wearing that mask to the store…what would people think? Why did I have one of those masks? (I know that was not quite a rational thought). I went with the buff, and I remembered to do an exercise I have done in the past. It’s my “what if” exercise. What if I didn’t feel anxious? What if I was ok going? I flipped the script in my head and went.
And…I realized what was bothering me… the masks, the 6 feet thing, etc. was feeling isolating and disconnected to me, because…I realized that people weren’t looking at each other and weren’t talking.
So…I said, “Good morning” (yes, 6 feet away) to a bunch of people in the store. I conversed with the pharmacist and the check-out cashier. I asked how they were doing. The cashier complimented me on my buff. Despite the circumstances, I connected. I felt better.
On the work-side, I have been running weekly projects meeting via conference call for over a year, and conference calls worked for us. When we switched to Skype, we stayed audio, not adding video. Now with project meetings, some of us are using video. I use it every meeting. I don’t like talking to headshots. I want to see people. I want to see their faces. I want to see their reactions. I want to feel connected. Some people don’t like to go on video. Hey, I don’t like the way I look either-- let’s just say COVID eating habits may not be serving me well.
We are all in this together. If I feel it, you might feel it too. If you feel it, I’m sure I feel it. So let’s stay connected to one another!