My husband Bill and me walking along the sand in Redondo Beach, CA

I’ve been shamed for wearing a mask. Okay, people haven’t called me out, on the street, “Hey you! You’re a loser. You’re afraid!!!” But, when I scroll through my feed on Instagram or Facebook, I see too many posts accusing people who choose to wear masks of doing it because we’re afraid. And, for me, and for my husband, and for others that I speak to and know, we aren’t doing it because we’re afraid, we’re doing it because we see the importance of wearing a mask. In other words, we’re not doing it for ourselves, we’re doing it for others.

Here’s one post that I saw: 

“I see people walking around in fear. Fear lowers immunity. That’s why I meditate. I know I’m healthy. If you’re healthy, you don’t need to be afraid. You don’t need to wear a mask.”

 Half of that is true. Yes, anxiety lowers your immune system. Meditation is a great tool to alleviate stress. But the healthy part, not so fast. You don’t know if you’re a carrier and when you wear a mask you protect others. A new study shows, “how long speech-generated droplets can linger in the air: not cough- or sneeze-generated droplets, but plain old conversation level emissions. . . . they can stay airborne for anywhere between eight and 14 minutes. . . . But the new study’s underlying message is clear: as a safety precaution and a sign of respect to those around you, wear a mask.”

“We should go to the bank,” I say to my husband Bill. We’re walking on the beach. It’s the first time we’ve been down to Redondo since the beaches have been reopened. It’s a Thursday morning at 10:30. The beach is quiet. The way we like it. The way I like it. I have never liked a crowded beach. I don’t like it when a group plops themselves right next to me, especially when the beach is empty. That’s why I’m there, for the emptiness. The quiet. I never go to the beach on a holiday weekend. Not since I was a kid. 

So, there we are, me and Bill, walking along the edge of the damp sand, avoiding the tar that washes up from the oil oozing offshore. We aren’t wearing our face coverings, as no one is around us. But if someone comes close, we’re ready to slip them back on. We don’t mind. We feel good doing our part. We don’t know if we’re carriers. We would hate to be the cause of someone else’s suffering. 

In that moment I’m thinking about how much fun it would be to go to the bank and snap a picture of the two of us, covered faces, mirrored glasses, standing there, by the bank doors. 

“Let’s go and take a picture in our bandanas,” I say. I laugh as I say it. 
Bill laughs.

 “You know,” I say.

 “Look at us,” Bill says, finishing my thought “We’re going to rob a bank!”
 We laugh more. 

If you look at this picture of me and Bill from last Thursday, you can’t see that we’re smiling. You can’t see that we’re so happy to be walking barefoot, our toes wiggling in the warm sand. You can’t see that we’ve been laughing, that we’re enjoying each other and a windy, spring day in Redondo Beach. And yet, the shame. The accusations. The projection

YUP! It’s all projection. We’re all afraid of something. Whether it’s the fear of getting Coronavirus. Or the fear of what’s next with our economy, our country, our businesses, our personal lives. No matter what, everyone is afraid of something. And as humans, we look outside and see what we see through our own lens. It’s our responsibility to be aware of what we’re seeing. I get it. We have no control over what’s happening out there, so we project our fears onto others. 

What we do have control of is our actions and our reactions. We have control of what we put out into the universe, into the ethers of social media. And we have control over what fears to pay attention to and what fears to look at to determine if they are real fears or old habits. 

Remember, fear isn’t something completely unnecessary. Fear is here to protect us. It’s an alarm. It can be a guide. It’s normal to feel fear. It’s okay. It’s human. 

And there are some things we do as human beings that aren’t fear-based, but based in common sense. Things we do for others. Things we do for ourselves. We do them because we want to protect ourselves from harm, illness or disease. And because we want to protect others.

Like what, you ask?

  • Wearing seatbelts.
  • Brushing our teeth.
  • Not driving drunk.
  • Not texting while driving.
  • Smoking.
  • Washing our hands before preparing or eating our food.

I don’t do any of these things because I’m afraid. I don’t want to get cavities or get in a car accident. I don’t want to hit someone while texting and driving. I don’t want to smoke because I want to breathe and feel good. Get my drift here. The same goes for masks.

Let’s stop shaming each other. Let’s not assume why other people are doing what they’re doing. Let’s not guess that someone is ‘walking around in fear’ if we can’t even see that person’s expression. Unless that person is cowering in a corner, screaming and crying, “I’m Afraid!!!” let’s assume that person is simply being a good egg.