My Journey By Michele Herenstein

 

I’ve wondered why people aren’t smiling back at me, even though I smile at most people most of the time. I finally realized that I can only see other people’s eyes, which don’t necessarily tell me what the person is feeling. Masks mask people’s facial gestures, except perhaps an eye roll or two. I love the act of smiling — whether on the giving or receiving end. It disturbs me greatly that I can’t feel a person’s warmth or give over my warmth in the form of a smile.

“The world doesn’t seem as friendly when it’s filled with people wearing masks. We gaze at strangers’ faces to gauge their intentions, so when the nose, mouth, and chin disappear behind a covering, many clues vanish with them. If a person is friendly, will you recognize it? If you smile, will he or she know it? The answer is yes — it’s still worth it to smile while wearing a mask,” said body language expert Janine Driver, founder and president of the Body Language Institute in Washington, D.C.” (“Can others recognize your smile behind a mask? Body language expert weighs in,” A. Pawlowski, Time.com)

“Psychologist Paul Ekman, who studies facial expressions, described a ‘true enjoyment smile’ as showing up in the crow’s feet or laugh lines area of the face, with the eyes narrowing and crinkling. A genuine smile — also known as the Duchenne smile — engages the orbicularis oculi muscle around the eye; a fake smile does not.

“When a baby smiles, you still know it even when his or her mouth is covered by a pacifier, Driver pointed out. It’s all in the eyes.”

One thing I loved during the height of the lockdown was not having to look for parking and not having to feed the meters. As of this past week, when Long Island entered Phase 3, Central has returned to its crazy old “no spots” avenue; we’re back to driving around for half an hour just to get a spot a half a mile away. And since the government is low on coins, I have barely any quarters left to feed the meters.

The best thing I am still able to do is order from a local store for curbside pickup. Pulling up in front of a store and having my order brought out is terrific. I don’t have to worry about catching COVID-19 from people in the stores, not all of whom wear masks.

Driving around Central Avenue, I can’t help but see how many people wear masks and how many don’t. I once forgot my mask and had to go into a pharmacy, and I felt naked. I wasn’t panicked because, as we all know, wearing a mask is mainly to respect other people. Other people wearing a mask can save you. Given that most people in the store were wearing masks, I was reassured. But I’ve learned to keep a mask in my glove compartment and in my pocketbook.

Why do some people wear masks but not others? Do some people feel invincible? Yes, New York numbers have gone down, but we all know the virus can come back and we wouldn’t know it at first. Why would someone not wear a mask? We’re in the midst of a pandemic that has already killed over 120,000 people in the U.S. We are not invincible. We are only human.

My niece in Israel just got engaged. I was supposed to be in Israel on vacation when she got engaged, which would have been a huge simcha. The wedding is in August and almost none of the American family can get to Israel without a two-week quarantine first. I’m sure the wedding will be beautiful, but it will be missing both sets of grandparents and many cousins, aunts, and uncles.

I had planned to go to my niece’s wedding whenever it was to be. My plans, once again, have been crushed. I wonder what Hashem wants from us. I truly don’t know, but there are so many things I know I can do better. My goal should be to look inwards at what I can personally do better.

Until recently, I watched Governor Cuomo like a hawk. It became my daily addictive pursuit to watch and hear his briefings. Although he wasn’t perfect, as no one is, I believe he did a wonderful job with New York. He was factual, comforting, smart, brought New York’s numbers all the way down, and wasn’t afraid to do what needed to be done. I look up to him with respect, and a bit of adoration. (OK, he’s my corona crush!)

“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefings have drawn comparisons to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats during the Great Depression and World War II.

“He lamented the loss of life and praised healthcare workers. He talked about his mother, his daughters, and his brother, Chris, a CNN anchor who contracted the virus. He spoke with empathy and compassion at times.

“On Friday, he delivered his final briefing with an address from his office in the state Capitol.” (“New York governor gives final coronavirus briefing after ‘111 days of hell,’” by Ray Sanchez, CNN.com)

There are so many things to know about COVID-19. I feel that many people are feeling more relaxed since our numbers have dropped so low. But New York is only as safe as the people who inhabit it. Stop wearing masks or social distancing and we’ll be right back to where the southern and western states are now. So for your neighbors’ sake, for your parents’ sake, for your community’s sake, please wear a mask. It should be second nature— like brushing your teeth, getting dressed, grabbing your car keys, and grabbing your mask. Whether it’s blue, yellow, black, multicolored, dragon-like, suave, professional, or scary, just wear it. I know you’re quarantine fatigued and mask fatigued, but better to be mask fatigued than dead. Your life means something. Just hold out longer. You can do it. We can do it.

Let’s beat this horrifying virus. Let’s come together as a community. Maybe not physically, but in our decisions to wear masks, and in being good listeners. People need to vent? Let’s listen to each other. We all need each other during these trying times. I feel what you feel. I’m here for you. And I know you’re here for me.

Cheers — to a close community and the end of the coronavirus! Amen.

Michele Herenstein can be reached at msh61670@gmail.com.

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