VIEW FROM HERE: In which I overthink face masks

EDITOR’S NOTE: OHA released updated guidance for face coverings that applies to Oregonians statewide. One important update to note is a strong recommendation that “individuals, including children between 2 and 12 years of age, wear a mask, face shield, or face covering at all times in all indoor public places, particularly in places where it is likely that physical distancing of at least six (6) feet from other individuals outside their household unit cannot be maintained at all times, and vulnerable people must go.” If masks, face shields or face coverings are worn by this age group, they should be worn with the assistance and close supervision of an adult.
This recommendation applies regardless of county of residence. North Tillamook County residents will remember Karen Olson, husband John and adorable children, from Calvary Bible Church in Manzanita. The Olsons recently relocated to McMinnville, and Karen penned this thoughtful, helpful view of mask wearing that she posted on social media, that we requested to share with our readers her view from here.

By Karen Olson
I know they’re annoying. I know they’re a hindrance to the way we’re used to being and doing. I’m no better than anyone else at graciously accepting limitations.
I know there are serious, genuine reasons why not every person can wear one, and that the last thing we need is more hostility and shame among neighbors.
I acknowledge that wearing a mask makes some people more vulnerable to overt racist confrontation. It’s an appalling inequity and I grieve that something designed for protection can lead to my neighbors being targeted for harm.
Plus, I just got used to remembering my reusable shopping bags, and now you want me to remember to bring a mask too? Reforming habits is hard work.

And. For me, wearing a mask has started to feel like a sacrament – an external symbol of an internal, sacred reality – in this pandemic season. It’s a tangible outward expression of a serious inner commitment to love others, by protecting them from whatever pathogens I might be carrying. It’s something concrete I can do, something more to offer than good intentions and well wishes.
I’ve always appreciated the symbolism of specialized garments that communicate a message beyond just covering the body, and say something important about the wearer’s way of being in the world. And I admit to enjoying the opportunity to appreciate the creativity of textile and pattern and craft in response to an unexpected social and fashion challenge.
And yeah, wearing a mask makes me a little more conscious of my breath. Which, as my four-year-old learned in preschool, is not always a bad thing in an anxious time: “Take deep breaths, mama.” Not to mention, it gives me a reminder for a quick prayer of solidarity with all those who can’t breathe.
And yeah, it makes it a little harder to converse. Which, to be honest, makes me consider for a brief moment whether my words are worth sharing before I speak. And requires me to listen more attentively if I want to know what another is saying. There’s a time to raise my voice, and a time to keep silence.
I miss being able to fully read facial cues. The eyes may be the window to the soul, but turns out the mouth also does a lot of heavy lifting. On the other hand, I probably overestimate my ability to correctly interpret expressions and body language. When I can’t guess what someone is thinking or feeling, I may have to just ask.
If I wear a mask around you, it’s not because I’m afraid of you, and it’s not because I don’t trust you. It’s because I love you.

** PSA: If you don’t have access to a crafty friend or just need to buy some masks quick, I’m really liking the ones that Old Navy has. Roomy fit, lightweight cotton fabric, wide enough to tuck under my glasses and chin both. They have a variety of prints and solid colors, and both adult- and kid-size masks. And they’re relatively affordable, for those who do not have the budget for a family face mask wardrobe. ❤️

** Edited to add: I recognize that universal mask wearing can pose a serious access barrier to the deaf and hearing impaired community, who may rely on lip reading to aid in communication. I don’t have an answer here, but it reminds me that others’ experience of the pandemic will differ from mine, and what is simple for me may significantly complicate daily life for someone else. In all things, charity.