Monday, September 14, 2020

3 Things I Won’t Relinquish

cromaconceptovisual via Pixabay

Last week, I warned my students that I was ramping up my sense of humor in class, and that sometimes, it was on a par with Dad jokes. It was part of a larger discussion on the particular challenges we're facing this semester. Like me, they are mid-semester tired, though we’re only four weeks in. Antiseptic is in the air, an inescapable and metaphoric cloud that hovers over every class, every interaction. Masks obscure social connections, robbing us of a primary source of the stress relief we need so desperately.

But this is not a self-pity post. It’s an empowerment post. When I realized one day last week that I could feel things I value eroding, my Jersey girl kicked in. I decided to enumerate them and fight back. COVID and its associated restrictions may put a damper on things, but I refuse to lose: 

  • My sense of humor. Too much fear and isolation have made it hard to keep things light, but no more. If a Dad joke or a bad pun is the best I can do, so be it. Better a feeble attempt than none at all.
  • My social skills. Isolation from everyone but my family has made me question the sharpness of skills I’ve always taken for granted. Lack of interaction (except from behind a mask or computer screen) has cast an awkwardness over social exchanges and the politics of everything make it hard to speak out for fear of offending. I will weigh my words to avoid intentional hurt, but keeping all the words to myself is unnatural and burdensome. Time to recapture my gift of gab and learn how to send a smile beyond a mask.
  • My sense of self. Who is this person who stays in the house and is perfectly content to do so? Is she a hidden side of my personality? A new me? A result of (God forbid) age? Whoever she is, she can stay if she must, but she has to step back and give the old me some room to breathe. Caution is good but an overabundance of it runs the risk of giving way to fear. I’ve had enough of fear running the show.
When it comes to COVID, each of us has (or has perhaps already had) our breaking point, our day of reckoning, our line drawn in the sand. Mine, apparently, was last week when I realized the precariousness of things I hold dear — things beyond health and unmasked exchanges. 

 I’m not relinquishing them without a fight. Even if I have to learn how to do them in a stylish mask.

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