i was trying to catch up my calendar – the dollar version – where i write things we’ve done, thoughts, ideas, hikes. on new year’s day i usually take out the calendar and read the whole thing, a review of the year, so to speak. post-broken-wrists, not being able to write with my right hand, i kept my calendar on the computer. somewhere along the way i stopped jotting things down.
now, with pencil in hand, i am trying to catch up. not only is that impossible, but it’s shocking to see the story-arc of the year. time flies. it occurred to me this morning that on new year’s day 2021 i will likely look back and see a year with a vast there-wasn’t-much-we-could-do theme. it’s consistent. the pandemic has altered the freedom of moving-at-will, the freedom of easily-gathering-together, the freedom of travel, of ranging around, and any real normal-summer adventures. a time that, painfully, just isn’t the same as all other summers. it doesn’t feel the same; it doesn’t look the same. it doesn’t live the same way. the impotent months, a time of self-sacrifice-for-the-whole, would seem like a common story for all.
only it’s not.
“i like your mask,” commented the cashier at the home improvement store. things you never thought you would hear. our masks are all handsewn; a variety of fabrics, after washing they hang on a hook on the refrigerator, ready. her mask was solid black and so i, in we-wear-black-all-the-time predictability, actually liked hers. “what am i doing?” i wondered. we are comparing masks. MASKS. surely this will go down as a 2020 commonality for people.
only it won’t.
with windows open allowing in the moist rain-cooled air of the night, over coffee this morning we talked about common narratives. it would seem that, of all years, of all times past and, hopefully, times to come, this year would have the most common narrative for all people. parallel experiences, somewhat indistinguishable in the limitations of a global pandemic, a time of everyone-coming-together, a time of doing-the-right-thing, a time of protecting-each-other, a time of relinquishing selfishness and adopting consideration, even altruism, a time of caring. to everything there is a season. a season of commonality.
only that’s not the case.
instead, any perusal through social media will show you that summer is summer and americans are out and about. according to AAA, nearly 700 million people will take roadtrips this summer. they are vacationing. photographs of smiling faces in parks, at beaches, on docks, in boats, by pools, at picnic tables, at parties, in backyards, in restaurants, around campfires – maskless. the weighing of calculated risk, the weighing of safety. hopefully, this will not yield drastic results as we each live our lives – the lack of forfeit a contributing factor to more sickness, more proliferation of virus, more death.
we can only hope.
so is it different? is this summer any different for you than last? or is it pretty much the same? what mask are you wearing when you are out and about? is it all black? (if so, would you recommend it? what company did you order it from?) is it fabric? is it an n95?
or is it invisible? instead, a mask of indifference, a mask of push-back, a mask of conspiracy theory, a mask of you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do, a mask of entitlement, a mask of deservedness, a mask of personal-freedom-infringement, a mask of determined independence in a world where actually-everyone-depends-on-the-symbiotic-sharing-and-movement-of-resources, where actually-everyone-desperately-relies-on-healthcare-workers-who-are-watching-people-scorn-that-which-might-help, where actually-everyone-depends-on-each-other-to-get-this-pandemic-under-control-so-that-some-stability-of-life-and-work-and-school-and-economic-security-and-good-health-might-resume. is it a mask of apathy?
masks. we all wear them. not just this summer. people-masks are situational, circumstantial. masks often depend on who we are with; the narratives we state often depend on who is near. it’s human. consistent inconsistency.
it makes me wonder. in this very human-ness, in this time and any other, if, standing at the checkout at the store, all masks of truth were visible, all narratives open for critique, would the cashier say, “i like your mask”?