By Katie Choi
Life is weird. And scary. And unsettling. This is probably true all of the time, but right now, it’s just different. Life is also funny. And great. And there are moments of joy if we pause to look around. Recently, I walked into my boss’s office with my mask on, and he said something to the effect of, “Did you ever think that when you started working with me four years ago that you would ever wear a mask in my office?” I laughed and said no, I didn’t ever think that would have been a possibility. I want to love others well right now by wearing a mask and staying socially distant and not giving hugs, but all that is weird and sometimes makes me laugh at the unusualness of it all. Do you feel similar? My friend Liz does so we talked about some of this earlier in the week.
Our company created an internal video a few weeks ago that captured some of the strange things about coming back to work as people have slowly begun reentering the office. Liz was a part of this video so I wanted to understand what the inspiration was because I related to it a lot and it made me actually laugh out loud. The video called attention to some social things like having face to face conversations feeling strange since we had been home for many weeks. It also pointed out that we might forget certain considerations like locking the door while using the restroom because we don’t typically need to worry about that at home. Liz shared that a fellow employee wrote the script for this to explain some of her feelings, like it being awkward talking to people in person and not knowing what to do with her hands. Haha, yes. I relate. And the bathroom piece was based on true events, but luckily there were not dire consequences!
I have been back in the office for about 6 weeks or so now, Liz similarly. We talked about other things we have noticed being back. With our city recently adopting a mask policy, this was a topic we talked about. I have had a few people ask me where I have gotten some of my masks. You know that question feels good when someone notices a new top, but I’m not used to people liking my face masks! Someone else asked what the washing instructions were for my masks. Haha. Think if you shrunk your mask?! That would be both ineffective and disappointing! Liz is a pretty smiley, positive gal so she says, “It’s the time of the smize.” Do you know what a smize is? Smiling with your eyes. She feels afraid that people won’t know she is smiling so then she has to verbally tell them that she is smiling at them and that feels weird and aggressive. I find myself waving more and verbally saying ‘hello’ to indicate to folks that I am greeting them in passing. I feel like a robot. A strange and awkward robot.
I think it’s good to laugh and to talk about this stuff. On the one hand, it helps me to know that I am not alone in my head with my thoughts – others can relate, and that brings me comfort. On the other hand, a little bit of levity during a serious time can bring about a lot of relief for a weary soul. I know I’m weary and laughing is a wonderful break. I asked Liz what made her laugh right now. She said, “Everything! All of this is so weird, and nobody knows what they are doing. We are all just winging it! And also, when I catch myself in a window reflection when I am wearing my mask and sunglasses and think that I look like the invisible man.”
I was grocery shopping recently, and I bought a coffee to sip on while I shopped. Usually, it makes me slow down and enjoy having a little alone time at the grocery store. Except I did this with my mask on, and when the barista handed me my drink I said, “Well, shoot. How’s this gonna work?” Haha, it made me laugh. And it made the barista laugh. And if all that did was give us a couple minutes of shared joy, then I count that blessing.
As Liz and I continued on in our conversation, I asked her what made her long for ‘normal’. She’s as wise as she is positive so she shared that she thinks normal is just a state of mind. Tell me more about that I said, explain your meaning. She went on to clarify, “We are adaptable – when all of this started it really freaked me out because our whole world turned upside down, and nothing has been ‘normal’ since, but when I look for the things in my life that are the ones that keep me grounded, sane, and secure (family, friends, murder hornets), those things are pretty unwavering, and we can find ‘normal’ there!” Amen, sister. Perspective. We then got a little on the sentimental side of things, and started talking about hope. Liz has a one year old son named, Max. (If you are reading this on July 17th, wish that little guy a happy birthday!) She loves taking him on walks and seeing the awe in his eyes as he talks it all in. That gives her hope. She also shared that during her recent move during lockdown, she had a friend offer to don a hazmat suit to help her family move in 90 degree heat. She said, “I mean how generous is that that someone would get THAT sweaty to just help us?” Little things go a long way.
What small moments are you noticing right now? What makes you laugh? What gives you hope? How are you practicing self-care? I find that one on one conversations with friends are so life giving to me right now. They feel like a more controlled social situation. And it’s very important to me to nurture friendships and relationships and find ways to stay connected. The conversations can make me laugh or give me space to cry if that feels right. They give me hope. The remind me of what’s true and what’s a lie. They keep me grounded and make me grateful for the world around me, flaws and all. I hope you are able to also find some moments of escape and humor. I am praying with you and for you and wishing you peace.