“It’s harder to breathe” “It fogs up my glasses” “I have no idea what the other person is saying”
I definitely can relate to ALL of these statements. I’d add that the effort to remember to wear & wash after each use plus the extra challenge carrying out my rehab. My visibility, balance & fatigue levels are all heightened. But I also have become aware of some of the unexpected positives from wearing this garment.
Because my breath is trapped & my vision is tunnel-like, it forces me to be more present. The yoga teacher’s instruction of “Use your breath as an anchor to the present moment,” is so true. I’m more aware of my immediate surroundings. Actually, on cold mornings, trapping my warm breath behind the mask is quite nice – a portable heater! Plus, my lopsided appearance seems ‘normalised’ with this new accessory. Not only does it mask my facial palsy but my slurred speech is similar to the muffled sounds of all wearers!
Whilst this fabric shield does hinder our ability to show some emotions & expressions, it actually has highlighted the importance of adopting other attending skills like our eye contact & body language. Have you noticed that many strangers passing by intentionally address you with a wave or a nod to compensate for their covered up smile? It’s funny how when I’m passing another person with a disability using their wheels to negotiate a huge hill, a glance is all we need to signify the commonality between us. To mark the extra effort involved in getting our wheels up the inclined surface. Similarly, now when you see masked strangers pass one another, there’s a sense of acknowledgment.
Solidarity. Respect. Unity. A togetherness that is unspoken.
Wearing a mask is a HUGE hassle. But consider the many benefits of this tiny bit of fabric!