Grocery shopping has always been one of my favorite things. I associate grocery shopping with independence…call me crazy, but it’s true. When I turned 16 and got my driver’s license I would ask my Dad if he needed anything from the grocery store and I would always find something we needed, drive there and experience my newfound independence. I would inevitably “forget” something and have to go back multiple times a day because to me being able to show up at a grocery store having driven there all by myself blasting music, buying groceries, and driving home became a ritual.
Lately, I’ve been avoiding the grocery store because it makes me a little bit sad. Waiting in a line six feet apart from others, gliding down the aisles while avoiding connection makes me just a little bit depressed. I couldn’t really figure out why. I mean, I know, going to the grocery store right now is like being on the front lines of this pandemic, but something more than that unsettled me.
Yesterday, I ventured out to the store for the first time in probably two weeks. I got almost everything I needed, being very careful not to stockpile as if this is the apocalypse, got in a line that extended around the frozen food aisle, and into the produce section and pondered what exactly I was so perturbed by. As I approached the front of the line I smiled at the checker. That’s when it hit me. I looked at the masked faces all around me and suddenly it became so obvious why my once great love for grocery stores now brings on a bout of depression.
I couldn’t see anyone smile.
I am a very smiley person. It’s how I oftentimes communicate with the world. I consider my smile a little bit like my superpower because I can say so much with it and because it’s usually massive and unapologetic. I can squeeze around someone and apologize for getting too close without having to say anything with a smile. I can show gratitude without really saying thank you with a smile. When I smile no one has to guess what I’m trying to say, it says everything for me.
But right now…I have been masked and stripped of my superpower and stripped of my enjoyment in appreciating other people’s smiles.
Quick disclaimer: Wearing a mask is crucial right now and I would never ever suggest otherwise, so please don’t misinterpret my sadness in missing seeing people’s lips for any kind of reckless behavior that I may take.
So, I have a couple of options here. I can hate going to the supermarket until we don’t have to wear masks anymore, which could very likely be a very long time. Or I can play a game.
Here is how this game works:
1) I look at the people around me and try to guess whether or not they’re smiling (1 point awarded for each person I identify)
2) I try and find telltale signs that indicate a smile or any emotion without seeing someone’s lips. For example a sweet crinkle near the eyes, a widening of the mask, bright eyes (2 points rewarded for each telltale sign I can find of any human emotion)
3) I use my words. I say “thank you,” I say “excuse me” like a normal human. I speak up, like louder than I want to, and ask for help even when I’m feeling shy because who the heck can hear a tiny little voice through these masks? (100 points per time I find myself brave enough to speak through my mask)
4) I find new ways to express a smile through body language: I put my hand on my heart, I laugh (10 points for each new way I find to communicate)
Then, I count up the ways in which I have found new ways to smile, show emotion, and to appreciate smiles and emotions and I get points and I win. I always win at this game because if I’m playing the game that is all that counts.
The things I love to do the most: hug, smile, express any and all emotions look different right now than they once did. Those are all beautiful things, but we have to redefine how we express these beauties and I think making a game out of it sounds so much more fun than looking at the world around me as a place where emotions have disappeared and my superpowers have vanished because they haven’t—they’ve just morphed.
So, I’m making up a lot of new games these days. I don’t want to hide in a little hovel or never go to the grocery store and I especially don’t want to stop enjoying life and silly, mundane activities that have always brought me joy. Life hasn’t stopped, life has been altered and we all know how I feel about change. It’s time to adapt and breathe and find games and our creative selves in this new and ever-changing world.
What are your games, friends? What are you winning at right now by making something that seems scary, and weird and icky into something that can bring a giggle or even a smile that no one can see easily to your face? Tell me, let’s make all the games.
Sending big, big love and masked smiles your way. We got this. We’ve done another week! A WHOLE WEEK!! CONGRATULATIONS I AM IMPRESSED!!! I love you. XOXOX, CAMDW