Solo Survivor


We’re all wearing them these days. In fact, in some areas it is illegal not to, like it was here in Perth a few weeks ago. We went the whole of 2020 without having to wear them, then we had one case of a quarantine worker catching COVID and the whole city went into lock down and mandatory mask wearing.

The masks people are wearing range from throw always to home made; plain black, patterned and even some with ventilation. Trying to find a mask that does fog up your glasses is a whole other story. Whatever the mask, though, it hides us and supposedly protects us from an unseen enemy. The jury is still out on the benefits, though, especially when going for a walk in the sunshine on your own. Some states in the USA are mandating double masks – I mean, really?

In reality, though, most of us have been wearing invisible masks for a long time. We have the mask that says we have it all together when we’re actually falling apart. A couple of years ago, a colleague committed suicide and I was caught totally unawares. He was the last one I would have identified as being even remotely close to harming himself. His mask was effective in that regard.

We have the mask of indifference, while what people say or how they treat us, cuts deep; or the mask of abundance while our credit cards are maxed out and we are barely making it between pay days.

Whatever the mask, it hides the true us from those around us, sometimes even from those closest to us. Just like the visible mask, we cannot read the expressions, or clearly understand what the other person is saying. The physical barrier is often confronting. We miss the smile or the cheeky expression or the serious face as we often can only see the eyes.

I chose not to go out until the mask edict was lifted. I did my grocery shop on-line and stopped meeting people for coffee or lunch. Seeing everyone in masks tapped into the old sense of fear I lived with for so many years so I did what I do best, avoided it as much as I could. I tried venturing out a few times – like going for a walk with a friend, but was so anxious at the end of it I could barely breathe. The reality is, we are relatively safe and unlikely to catch the virus at this stage, but the extreme measures taken by those in power, seem to signal the opposite.

Along with the masks wearing was the 4sq meter rule of social distancing so even having a few people over was not doable. I found myself retreating yet again into my own little world of one. Not good for my mental health I know, but the constant bombardment of messages that I am not safe was too overwhelming for me to do otherwise.

I have taken my mask off – I am not ok, yet I am so much better than I was a couple of years ago. Those closest to me, know and understand the struggle, or some of it anyway. They are gracious in trying to draw me out and accommodating when I just can’t face it. They are helping me to have action plans in place for different scenarios – this is what I do if a lock down happens or this is what I do when there are no restrictions.

It’s a case of living each day on it’s merits and not stopping because of what may happen. It’s taking advantage of my freedoms today and not worrying about when they will be taken away again. A week ago, I was doing a FaceTime writing session with my writing buddy, this week, we are together, face to face, appropriately distanced. I find face to face much more energising and beneficial, but know I can use technology when the need arises.

I am learning to live in the now and let tomorrow take care of itself. I am letting the mask slip as often as I can, or when I realise I am wearing it. I do better some days and not so well others. What are your masks?

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