Masks. Is yours comfy?

Early in the Age of Mask Mandates I noticed a puzzling thing: I had adapted MUCH more easily to wearing masks than others I knew.

Masks leaves a large percentage of my friends feeling breathless or dizzy, they give people headaches or leave them exhausted after a short time. They hurt. My friends are NOT using these problems as excuses to endanger themselves or others by going mask-free, mind you, but they do suffer major discomfort to be safe and save others.

But me? I’m not suffering. I find masks relatively comfy. This surprised and puzzled me, because as a rule, I have major problems adjusting to new physical demands. (Just ask my very, VERY patient optician.)

So why has mask-wearing been such a breeze? The answer came to me, after much pondering, while washing my face after a 3-hour mask-wearing shift at work.

I don’t mind masks because I was a competitive swimmer for six years, and I’ve spent countless hours swimming laps for exercise in the years since.

No, seriously. Here’s what I’ve learned from playing in the pool:

  1. Swim caps & goggle taught me how to endure the literal pain of straps and seals diging into my head. Anything that presses near the ears or nose, covers the sides of the head, or ties above the neck in back can lead to mysterious, horrendous headaches. You learn which precises spots on your head will tolerate intrusions by trial and error, and even then, tiny adjustments make a huge difference. I do all that without thinking.
  2. Wearing goggles also taught me how to tune out the sensation of things grinding against my cheeks and sinuses. Yes, that matters. We all have lots of nerves there. New experiences and sensations are exhausting even when they’re nice ones. Masks aren’t nice.
  3. Lap swimming taught me how to override my body’s interpretation of pressure. There’s nothing natural about putting your face into water and convincing your lungs it’s FINE, GO AHEAD AND WORK. Inhaling deeply when your senses tell you there’s resistance goes against instinct and sets off an unconscious stress response. Cloth doesn’t create that much resistance to inhaling, but it doesn’t take much to make the experience stressful. And stress = headaches, weariness, and anxiety. Me? I just…tune it out.
  4. Swimming taught me breathing discipline. Exertion in water ups the volume on that constant “not enough air getting through!” message the brain is sending. There is no way to compete without passing out from O2 deprivation unless you re-learn how to breathe in specific resistance-avoidance ways.
    Now that I’m looking for it, I catch myself breathing in through my mouth and giveing the breath a little deeper oomph than I “normally” would whenever my mask rides up against my nose. And then I exhale just that tiny bit more forcefully through the nose than I would without the mask on. Exactly as when I’m swimming.
  5. Competition taught me the importance of evaluating equipment. Comfort, looks, and performance all matter, but comfort has to be priority 1. If my cap gave me headaches, my goggles fogged, or my suit dragged, they weren’t right for ME, even if the whole Olympic swim team swore by them. Whichever one fits me best, meets the monimum specs and won’t get me disqualified.
    Same for masks. I don’t understand anyone who accepts the first mask type as the Only Type. I went through 5 styles and 3 different material combinations to find ones that I can wear all day.
    I am aware not everyone can afford that, but I think everyone should learn that they CAN find a different mask if the one they’re wearing is uncomfortable.
  6. Swimming also taught me how to accurately gauge a 6′ distance, to avoid touching my face, and to read people’s emotional state when half their features are obscured, but those skills aren’t quite as critical as the other ones.

Are masks the best thing ever? Ugh, no. I hear people better when I can see their lips move. I have a better chance of interpreting non-verbal cues correctly if I can see mouths as well as eyes and bodies. They fog my glasses. They make my face sweat. I constantly want to fidget with them.

But the kind of serious issues that make healthy people understandably unhappy about wearing them at all? Nope.

Last little point of interest: people masking up hasn’t significantly affected my ability to identify them. That isn’t a trick from swimming, though. That’s an unexpected silver lining to my faulty facial recognition software. I didn’t recognize people by faces before they wore masks!

So for me, a mask is just another head accessory, and I am thankful for that. I suspect I’ll be wearing one in public spaces for a quite some time yet. So it’s a good thing I love having the right accessories.

I am curious how all y’all are dealing with Mask Life. If you want to share which of your life experiences have helped you make your peace with wearing them, I’d love to read about it.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Until later!

gold carnival mask with red feathered headdress
This is not a protective mask, but it is pretty.

Sharing Random Thoughts

I’ve slid into a bad blogging habit, which is treating this space as a place for Bigger Ideas. It’s not an inherently bad idea, but most of my thoughts aren’t Big or Exciting or Happy. They’re small, ephemeral, personal ponderings.

Or rants.

The tally of my petty rants–drafted but not posted–is well into double digits. I rant on subjects like “How did I waste this whole day?” or “WTF shut UP about my NAME already!” and no one else needs to read the whininess I simply need to get out of my head.

Back to today’s meander. It feels even more petty and unimportant than usual to write about my little life when so many Large Important Events are happening and so many people have Much More Important Things to Say.

And yes, I could leave the blog to languish. The problem with that plan is that if I ignore this virtual space for too long it taps hard on my guilt button. Or rubs at the surface of my attention and leaves blisters. Or gnaws on my mental ankle like a hungry cat. Pick your favorite analogy.

(I’m in an analogy mood today. I love the days when metaphors are easy. And parentheses. It’s a parenthetical day too.)

ANYway. I feel bad if I don’t regularly use all the different spaces in my house, too, so it’s clearly something fundamental in my psychology.

This is my usual long way around to the point, which is that I don’t actually HAVE a point today

Attractive topics are not thick on the ground. I don’t want to bore anyone with another same-old writing update (progress is being made, but it’s glacial & hard to quantify) the house fancification is done, the garden is in an early summer “nothing to see here” phase, I haven’t baked anything interesting, and I haven’t found the right words for dealing with my feels on the Current World Situation.

Plus every time I check the internet I’m reminded all Karens are awful, which reinforces my already powerful belief that the world neither needs nor wants to hear from me. It also feels physically like someone has just kicked me hard in the gut, so that’s fun.

It’s a struggle to convince myself to share anything. And by struggle I mean the kind of struggling you do when you’re walking forward against hurricane-force winds while people beat on you with sticks.

(This has been a digression into a small sample of the rants I write when I’m crying offline. Sorrynotsorry. We now return to the regular program.)

In summary: I wanted to say, “Hello, world!” via blog because it’s been too long since I last posted. And now I have done that. Victory is mine! Check box checked!

I’ll try to prevent more large time gaps from developing, even if I only have more Small Thoughts or stray dream snippets.

Until later!

Reaching me: A Primer

This is a followup to my “Imma stop feeling guilty about dodging the gotta-be-visible-gotta-react-gotta-be-involved 24/7 noisefest that is modern life” post.

I keep channel preferences for my regular contacts. Some only do phone calls. Others prefer in-app contact only for privacy reasons. This is my guide to me.

Read on if you’re bored or interested in “How To Reach KM 101.”  Listed in no particular order. I’m not quite two velociraptors in a raincoat, but I am complicated.

Email

If  you send an email, I will get it. If you ask a question in email, I will answer. If you do not specify a need-by date, it might take a week or two for me to work through my sweaty-hands aversion to dealing with communications, but it will get answered. Gmail is very good about gently reminding me when I’ve failed to respond to people.

Also, I don’t lose emails the way I do texts. And they’re searchable. Which is nice. Important/ permanent/ information-dense conversations are best sent through email.  Need my email? You can contact me through the HANDY CONTACT PAGE right here on the site. kmherkes at dawnrigger.com will work too. 

Texts

I love texts. They are like email but less cluttered and more readily accessible, they lend themselves to quick exchanges, and they support low-sensory notifications on all my devices. I can ignore or dismiss the alerts easily unless I want to check them.

But. BUT!

I may or may NOT answer, depending on whether the text hitting my eyeballs successfully bridges my attention gap and reaches my brain.

If I haven’t responded in a day, I am not ignoring you, I LOST THE TEXT OR FORGOT IT EXISTED. Seriously. This happens a lot, because texts are so easy to glance at, and when I see a badge, I MUST-CLICK-NOW-BRIGHT-SHINY it even if it’s a bad time.

And yes, I can forget super-important things. I failed a college class because I forgot when the class started and missed my final presentation after a 16-week long research project. Yeah. Showed up an hour late.

A text I saw while doing something else? 50-50 chance of registering it. Less, prolly.

There’s a popular analogy about swans gliding along but paddling furiously under the water where no one sees it. That’s where my “collection of dinosaurs inside a person suit” description comes in. I am bloody confusion wrapped inside a fragile disguise.

ANYway. I digress, as one does.

Lack of response is stressful and feels like rejection, I know this, I stress when it happens to me. If I could be different about this, I would be. But I’m not. As I am wrestling with accepting it, so will the rest of the world.

Texts are also a good way to start a conversation that will be honestly faster to hash through by voice, like “pls call when convenient, I want to talk about <insert topic>

(but note that failing to add a topic addendum is a surefire anxiety-inducer. FYI.)

Phone call (if I’m not expecting to hear from you)

You must be a relative or someone I’ve established a calling relationship with, because my phone only rings for a dozen or so people. Nothing ruins my ability to think straight like an unexpected call. Even if I let it go to voice mail (a massive victory of willpower) my concentration is shot for at least an hour. No. Joke.

Avoiding those disruptions is the reason my phone is often buried somewhere when I’m at home or work. Talking on the phone (including video calls) is The Worst. Always has been, always will be.

To be fair, “OMG, I’m late, I’m stuck in traffic can’t text,” is a good call to receive. And I will get a message if you leave one. Eventually. Unless I call you back before I listen because I’m worried about you. Which is 100% likely.

But if it isn’t an emergency, I’m unlikely to call back unless explicitly requested.  More likely I’ll text.

Social Media messaging

I’m not going to say, “Don’t do it.” I will point out that I do not have social media apps installed on my mobile thingies, which means no alerts for Twitter DM’s or FB Messenger unless I am sitting at one specific computer. So…if you use these, it’s possible I won’t see your message until days later. Or that I’ll click the notification badge because it bugs me but didn’t process the message itself, because MUST-CLICK-NOW-BRIGHT-SHINY is a completely different brain activity than reading.

Like texting, lack of response means I didn’t see it in any meaningful way.  Obliviousness. I can haz it.

And social media itself

I will remain on Facebook & Twitter, or via Instagram (as I like to call it, “photo-friendly Facebook”) wall-flowering on the sidelines. Posts will happen. Living on display is comfortable for me. Recording my doings makes me happy. That’s why I’ve had a blog forever. And I can read posts without getting sucked into infinite scrolling–it’s the processing & responding that sucks me in, not the information itself.

Please know I will still see you. All of you. I care. I feel for your sorrows and losses. I am cheering for your victories.

I just…can’t even, with clicking one more thumbs up or heart or sad-face, and I am done apologizing for being unable to do so without draining my own self to the dregs.

So then. All this is being mentioned as due diligence.  Since I am not producing a high reaction to post ratio or clocking much in-app time, I expect to be invisible on Facebook and lost in the hubbub on Twitter. And I’m okay with that.

At some point I will dig deeper into the WHY of all this. Because I do love talking about whys & wherefores.

Until later, all.

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