Finding Virtue in the Virtual

Virtual church is not working for me.

Attending church was the one day I absolutely counted on to dress up a little, force myself to put on a decent amount of makeup, and head out to enjoy the company of the faithful, learn awesome biblical truths, and belt out joyful worship songs in a group setting. Afterward, (I remember fondly…) we’d hang out and talk. My granddaughters would burst out of their classes and join us at the high tops in the lobby and we’d ooh and ahh over their latest creations. Friends would pause on their way out. We’d chat and catch up.

Now, I slouch to the couch and turn on YouTube with a sigh. I alternately gaze at my phone and the TV, because, hey, who is there to judge me? It’s too easy to be distracted at home. And I’ve begun starting at the teaching part, skipping announcements and worship songs. Because…well, it’s weird to sing alone in my house, and my husband won’t sing with me because he definitely thinks it’s strange, and so there you are.

Just not the same.

My husband and I have tried masking up and attending church, which is even weirder. As though we’ve entered an alien space where people are afraid of each other, and if we do try to share a few words, conversation is muffled and hard to understand because we are speaking through two or three layers of cloth. Not to mention that we are marched in and out of the auditorium like unwilling soldiers in an Orwellian tale.

On the up side (and there always is one) I have a much higher regard for handwashing, and give it a full twenty seconds. The tireless employees that wipe down and scrub and disinfect everything in sight, in addition to their other responsibilities, have my undying respect. I’m grateful my husband works at home and does not have to battle life in an office, which has got to be incredibly hard right now. ZOOM has been a lifesaver, and at least a connection with the outside world in which masks are unnecessary.

Life is stressful at best right now and I am pressing hard into my time with God each morning. I pray for our president, and our country. I pray for justice and righteousness to prevail. I pray for our economy, which is bouncing around like a ping pong ball, and I of course pray for the plague to dissipate and life to resume. Wisdom during a time such as this is elusive, but I reach out to God for true and honest wisdom to help me accomplish the things I’m called to do…be a good grandmother, a good wife and mother; continue to write books and not bemoan the current state of affairs which precludes an in-person book launch. The deep divisiveness of the political climate plus the hostility of left-wing rioters has affected many close relationships. Keeping channels of communication open is harder, now, and another thing that keeps me on my knees.

I’m so grateful God is my source, and not circumstances. With the amazing power of prayer, the stress, division, and fear of the unknown retreat. I have even learned to wear a mask without complaining! When we are powerless over circumstances, God lifts us above them and helps us persevere with dignity and grace.

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast (that is, committed and focused on You in both inclination and character), because he trusts and takes refuge in You (with hope and confident expectation).” Isaiah 26:30

 

 

 

 

Life in the MASK Lane

Today, I was headed to WalMart, routinely checking off my to-do list before walking out the door. First, I made sure my jewelry was in place. Next, I found my purse and made sure my wallet was in it. Also, I pulled out my makeup bag from my purse and began systematically putting on lipstick.

Uhh…

With a start, I remembered the time I had inadvertently puckered ugly lipstick stains on the inside of my mask. No use wearing lipstick, I reminded myself. Nobody will be looking at anything but my eyes, anyway. I put the lipstick back in my purse, thinking about how even our habits are taking a hit. I always put lipstick on before I walk out the door to go somewhere, but not anymore. I have begun to form new 2020 habits.

So…appropriately masked and unlipsticked, I went forth and shopped.

I’ve noticed that people don’t give direct smiles or glances anymore.  If direct eyelocks are involved, I’ve found most people smile nervously, scoot as far away as possible, and slide by me in the aisle before (gasp) I might try to strike up an awkward, mask-muted, conversation.

Other things that have changed: the way I check my ears after loops are on. I’d rather not look like Howdy Doody. I talk more loudly with a mask on, and appropriate expressions are impossible, thus shortening communication. Eyes  slice this way and that in suspicion, as if wearing a mask automatically makes us outlaws. If I’m distracted, and have accidentally left my mask in the car, I’m met with the evil eye and a convicting stare.

I, for one, am a non-judgmental masker. If someone wants to go without a mask, that’s their business. And no officious comments here, it’s my blog. Be nice. Not everyone CAN wear a mask. I hate the darn things because I cannot breathe and I feel trapped in them. I don’t feel pretty when I go out anymore, either. All that time spent making up my face wasted. The makeup takes a hit, and lipstick? Forget it. It’ll smudge all over my face. So, the end result is that it is less and less appealing to go out.

Also, have you noticed that we even judge each other’s mask habits now? Masks should be appropriately worn (fitted tightly to the nose and firmly under the chin), earrings should be outside the loops, not inside. Ditching the earrings is even better. (Can you say…androgynous? Yeah, I don’t want to inhabit a world like that.) And mask and outfit must be matchy-matchy. Entire conversations are now mask-related, and how they have become a fashion statement, which ones are better and why, etc.

Sigh.

This is no way to live. I was a holdout on even buying one until I actually won one in a Zoom meeting. Haha. The irony was not lost on me. So after that, I went out and bought another one.

After all, I have to match, don’t I? Plus, I don’t like the looks I get when I wear the disposable kind.

2020, you are getting your way. I’m positive this is not a good thing.

I look forward to the great unmasking. May it be soon.

I Liked the Old Normal

I miss hugs.

It feels strange to go out now. If I have to sneeze (heaven forbid) and I am in a store, even though masked, I feel like a ‘super spreader’ caught in the act. The ‘covid elbow’ is a poor substitute for a handshake, and though we laugh about it, it is weird. Isolating.

Then there are those who want to spew their anger all over those who don’t mask up. Don’t they realize that the masks they are wearing do little to stop the spread of their saliva as they scream obscenities and accusations? I prefer to not go through the exercise of explaining why I don’t want to wear a mask, so now, I jerk one over my face as I enter a store, then jerk it off the moment I leave. It is a reluctant obedience. I gave up.

And that is the problem. A lot of us have given up. And given over.

We wander through our few, but necessary, shopping expeditions like silent wraiths in an apocalypse. I’ve noticed people have begun avoiding each other’s eyes. The friendly hello is fast becoming outdated. Our ‘new normal’ is gaze avoidance, silent meandering, a quick snatch of products needed (lest they not be on the shelf one day) and screening the checkout lines for distancing.

I hate the phrase ‘we are all in this together’. We are not in this together. We are in this APART, i.e. social distancing and Zoom calls. Mandatory masking. Video call apps are becoming wildly creative. Microsoft Teams has a new mode called “Together.” If more than five people are on the call, they look like they are seated in an auditorium side by side, as if everyone is in a classroom. Together. And everyone seems happy about this. It even includes fake high-fiving. This is so creepy I’m having trouble comprehending the consequences. Are we now manufacturing fake togetherness in an effort to make forced isolation more palatable?

It’s not palatable. It’s not healthy. And it won’t last forever.

Friends now look at each other as if they are already infected, and stand a good distance away or raise their hands in protest if one zeroes in for a hug. Can you say…rejection? I know, I know…it’s protection…subliminally, though, that rejection thing is happening. Mandatory quarantining and screening are a given. My dentist takes my temperature when I walk in, makes me swish with hydrogen peroxide for 30 seconds (no less, or they make you do it over) and nearly slathers hand sanitizer all over my upper body. They perform all of this like medical attendants from a Hitchcock movie. Smiling, militant, hard-lipped, steely-eyed. They are focused on the mission. After all ‘we’re all in this together’.

Nope. I’m not all in this at all. I mean, I am…but…in my mind, I’m running as fast as I can for freedom.

The new catchphrases of the dreaded COVID existence:

new normal

mask up!

virtue signaling

flatten the curve

essential business

novel coronavirus

shelter-in-place

stay safe!

social distancing

super-spreader

contact tracing

droplet transmission

PPE (personal protective equipment)

Our communication is peppered with these phrases, now. It is the top conversation on every network, FB, Twitter, Instagram…the entire world, I guess. Still, I refuse to cave. I’ve limited the amount of news I allow into my brain. I’m stunned by the division this ‘pandemic’ has brought, and avoid FB posts that lecture the rest of us apparently misinformed, misguided, uneducated, helpless souls. It now makes me laugh, the sheer condescension of some of the comments aimed at those who rail against imposed restrictions that should not happen.

One thing is certain, a pandemic brings out the best and the worst in people. At least now, it isn’t hidden.

I miss hugs.

I believe they’ll be back.