I’m frustrated with the man at Target who refused to wear his mask in the store. I’m frustrated that when I asked him if he could put his mask on, he asked “Why? Do you work here?” and continued on his way. I’m frustrated that a grown man would not care enough about the store employees to follow basic guidelines, and that my toddler son, who was wearing his own mask, would have to see this reaction and not understand why that man doesn’t “have” to wear a mask when everyone else does.
I’m frustrated at the people in the grocery store who ignore the “one-way” traffic signs and the calls to “keep a cart-length apart,” because wearing a mask has given them a sense of anonymity usually reserved for online trolls. With a winter hat on their head and a mask covering their face, there is no longer a need (it seems) to wait patiently for someone to get their bread or to say “excuse me” if carts accidentally bump. The awkward “hello” or smile that used to happen in every grocery aisle is now replaced by a purposeful act of ignoring that makes me feel so isolated, despite being amongst a crowd.
I’m frustrated that my toddler son, who is so full of energy and joy, can’t play with his friends or go to daycare because of this virus. And I’m frustrated at my own frustration, because I know what immense privilege I have been given to be able to keep my son out of daycare and work remotely in a white-collar job that allows me to do so. I know so many who can’t — the grocery store clerks and the Target employees and everyone else who is working hard just so that I can still experience some sort of normalcy in my own life. And I’m frustrated that everyone won’t just wear masks and social distance, to keep not only those employees safe but to keep all of us safer, too.
I’m frustrated that life no longer has any spontaneity. If I have to go anywhere, it’s well planned, with masks, hand sanitizers, and a mental list. There are no playdates with the neighbors when we happen to see them outside. There are no date nights with my husband, no check-ins with my friends, no quick runs to Starbucks where you bump into an old friend and chitchat about nothing while your order is made. Everything is structured and planned, and when time is already at such a premium with work and kids and grocery shopping and errands and household chores, how do you schedule fun?
I’m frustrated when I see others not being as structured or as careful as I am, because I worry the disease will just keep spreading and we will have to keep living this way.
I’m frustrated that my toddlers think this is normal. I’m frustrated that they see my own anxiety about the situation and say things like “I touched that box. Do I need hand sanitizer?” I’m frustrated that they never get to play with their friends. I know that the choice to truly social distance was the right choice for my family, and I believe that those who are privileged enough to remain distanced have an obligation to do so, so that teachers and healthcare workers and grocery store workers who can’t remain isolated are at less risk.
But I worry about the longer-term impacts this isolation will have on my kids, and I worry that my own anxiety will never normalize after this pandemic is over. Will I ever touch a door again and not instantly look for hand sanitizer? Will I ever be comfortable sitting at work next to a co-worker with a runny nose? For those who are already a bit anxious, will this make it so the anxiety becomes not a small trait, but perhaps the biggest character trait we have?
I’m frustrated. And I feel ashamed for being frustrated because I know so many people deserve to be more frustrated than me.
I know I am lucky, and my feelings of frustration make me mad at myself. I should be grateful. And I am. But I am also frustrated.
And I’m not alone.
Our Guest Writer
Colleen Hynes is a working mom with two small boys (who are just 17 months apart!). She and her husband alternate days where they wake up early with their kids, and this schedule is the secret to their happy marriage (well, that and good coffee.) Colleen’s favorite place to be with her family is Cape Cod, especially Corporation Beach in Dennis. She grew up in MA and is happy to raise her family here, though she does really hate snow.