Who is watching me?

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.

2 thoughts on “Who is watching me?

  1. My wife and I are so tired of all the pandemic talk ourselves, though do not lightly dismiss any of the importance that is going on. Personally, I have distanced myself from much of my usual SM presence and just peek in now and then. We’re just trying to go around the rocks and live our lives the best we can. You can’t please everyone.You just have to live your life the best you can, and simply carry on…smiling and treating all people with respect, whether or not they wear a mask. Everyone’s mentally and spiritually exhausted in some way, and in the end, all people—everyone who lives and breaths—are trying to do is to live their lives in the best ways they FEEL is possible. I hope you can find a way to better calm yourself, Lori, I hate to think how many are also like you, so unnerved by all this that it’s hard to take a calm breath even in their own home. I wish you peace!

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  2. Thanks, Frank! As always, you put things so well. I guess the difference is just so striking for me because things are normal and peaceful at home. I can’t even begin to imagine how stressful it is for those who don’t have their own space to stretch out and normalize in. They might not even realize how much stress they are enduring everyday because it has become the new normal for them. It freaks me out a little to step into it when I grocery shop, and then go home, but I think that is a healthy thing for me. I can feel the tension because it is not a part of my everyday life. I have friends who get angry because bikers and joggers are not wearing masks in their neighborhoods. That kind of paranoia makes me nervous for us as a society. I will wear a mask as long as it is recommended, but I also am forgiving of those who don’t. It’s like a child having a meltdown. You can yell at the child all you want, but you will only make things worse. Better to recognize that the child is overwhelmed with emotion and let it go, at least for the moment. It can be addressed in calmer moments. I hope you and yours remain safe and healthy. Happy writing!

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