I am at peace when I am home. We have lots of land and a big house. All of our kids are home with us, even the college kids. My husband and I are both working at home, so we haven’t lost any income. It’s easy to get comfortable, to feel okay with the world and to remain patient as we attempt to fight this virus and eventually return to some definition of normal.
But once a week, I have to buy groceries and I am reminded of how terrifying this is.
It’s not the virus that scares me (Well, it does, but that’s different kind of fear.). It’s the atmosphere. My blood pressure soars the minute I pull into the parking lot and my stomach fills with acid. I see people pulling on masks as they exit their vehicles and I wonder:
Who is watching me?
Who is ready to lash out because I put my mask on wrong, or I adjusted it, or I touched my face or I accidentally stepped within their six-foot circles? Am I wearing the right kind of mask? Will I endure scowls or worse if I pick up a product and change my mind, putting back on the shelf along with my germs?
I am not paranoid. I know they are watching me because I have read the comments on the social media, the lists upon lists of wrong doing. The accusations: Evil people bought all the yeast, all the craft supplies, all the toilet paper. Someone bought a case of beer. Is it for a party? Are they going to violate the social distancing rules? A person took his mask off, and then returned the cart. Someone should call the cops.
The weight of it crushes me, leadens my feet as I walk the aisles. It makes me leery of the people I pass in the aisles or stand six feet behind in line. We have become a police state, not entirely by court order, but by a social order — social media, specifically.
Social media used to be my happy place. I would unfriend those who made my blood boil because I didn’t want that. I logged into Faceboook or Instagram or Twitter to connect with friends. I wanted to share lives, advice, recommendations, articles and photos. That’s it. But social media has changed. If I unfriended all the people who make my blood boil now, I would have a pretty short friend list.
I am trying to be patient. I am trying to remember that I get to leave the grocery store and return to my own rural haven. I have the benefit of living in the middle of nowhere. So many people do not have that option. They live in apartments — on top of, underneath or beside other apartments — or in homes packed so tightly together that they can’t take a walk without brushing against someone else.
They don’t get to watch the insanity grow farther and farther away in their rear view mirrors. It stays with them. The eyes remain on them, and the pressure hurts, so they relieve it by turning on others. They make allegations quickly and ferociously on social media so they can feel safely on the other side of the line. They are the good people, the obedient people, the righteous. Everyone else is bad.
It’s their way of creating distance and I have to remember that.
I hope that as states begin to lift restrictions, we can begin to lift our eyes. Take them off our neighbors and try to see the good around us. Start to rebuild trust. The idea of reopening businesses, schools and services is frightening. The virus is still out there. It will continue to kill people and make them ill. It will be a confusing time marked by conflicting and extreme emotions. But this virus has cost us so much already in lives and in livelihood. Let’s not sacrifice our humanity.
It can begins with social media. How about a week without criticism? Just one week.