Still, the liminal COVID time

to mask or not to mask

liminalSomehow, I had missed the word liminal until the last couple of years. One of my pastors used it in a sermon, more than once, referring to the liminal time we were in. And, I will argue, we’re still in it when it comes to COVID.

The word is an English adjective meaning ‘on the threshold’, from Latin līmen, plural limina.” In anthropology and religion, liminality is “the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage.” And in psychology, liminal experiences are “feelings of abandonment (existentialism) associated with death, illness, disaster, etc.”

Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) announced plans that the state mask requirement in schools would end starting on March 2, 2022. What that means is that people have the CHOICE whether to wear a mask in those settings or not. My wife, a teacher, is still wearing one. In fact, in addition to her own safety, she finds it important to model that behavior for her K-8 students. My daughter is also wearing her mask. She guesstimates that 75% of her high school colleagues are doing likewise.

Florida man

So the remarks of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) surprisingly really roiled me. In 2021, he said, “It is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children,” and parents “absolutely have every right to equip their student with whatever types of masks that they want.”

Yet, at a Florida high school this month, “DeSantis on-camera Wednesday told the students, ‘You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything and we’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater.’ Clearly angry, he added: “So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.'”

So what happened to parental choice? He claimed he wasn’t bullying, only making sure that HE didn’t want people to think he was mandating their mask-wearing. Of course, I’m unsurprised, given his other policies.

As for me, I’m STILL wearing the masks indoors. Unlike Kelly, I don’t forget I’m wearing one, especially while singing at church. But at least I AM singing at church. And [crosses fingers] maybe that’ll go away soon.

It gets better

I was talking with my wife about how difficult going to the grocery store had been. There were arrows designating which lanes to go up and down. They were violated regularly, but they’d be coming in tandem the wrong way. Not only that but people who needed something where my wife or I were standing – and we didn’t shop at the same place – would reach over or even in front of us. Talk about lack of social distance. And this was WORSE in the pandemic. I theorize that people wanted to get in and out of the store as soon as possible. I seldom experienced the behavior either before COVID or in recent weeks.

My wish is that people show grace to each other in this liminal time. Let the masked be masked. And remember there are still places – some medical facilities, a lot of transportation, and individual business – that still require masks. Don’t be a donkey’s rear end.

Openish in the liminal space

standing on the threshold between two realities

liminalI went to two events recently which made me feel more OK mentally than I’ve felt in a long, long, long while.

This is not to say that I hadn’t felt glimpses of this before. Eating lunch on April 6 with friends Carol, Karen, Bill – all of whom I’ve known since kindergarten. Also, Michael, who I only met 35 years ago. This was 13 days after my second vaccine shot, so I was still feeling tentative.

On May 1, I had a date day with my wife, seeing the tulips in Washington Park, visiting Peebles Park, and eating indoors for the first time in 15 months, which made me a tad wary.

The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library had a small reception for our Literary Legends for 2021 this month. The accomplished Lydia Davis signed my copy of her collected works back in 2013. I knew Gene Mirabelli 30 years ago as a mentor of other writers, in addition to his own prodigious output, and, remarkably, he looks about the same.

I got to chat with both and their families and later introduce the authors. This felt… normal. In another time, this might have been No Big Deal. But in light of the last 15 months, it felt like, to quote Joe Biden when the Affordable Care Act was passed nearly a dozen years ago, a BFD.

It helped that the day was PERFECT. Not hot and humid, or chilly and raw, or rainy, since the event was held in the garden of the Bach branch of the APL.

Then I had a delightful conversation with the two librarians, Christina and Deanna, about why I play my CDs in birthday order, which, because they are librarians, made sense to them. It’s SO good to be understood.

Church

Then on Father’s Day, my wife and I attended church in person, as opposed to on Facebook. We were asked if we felt ill (ill and well sound the same with a mask) and were seated n socially-distanced “pods”. But it was in the building. No one could sing except the soloist; I discovered at least one other person besides me moving their arm as though they were singing the individual notes. Hearing Trevor on the organ in that space was a vast improvement over listening to it on the laptop.

In the sermon, the pastor used a word I had heard only on a single occasion before. The same pastor talked about liminal space.

From here: “The word ‘liminal’ comes from the Latin root, limen, which means ‘threshold.’ The liminal space is the ‘crossing over’ space – a space where you have left something behind, yet you are not yet fully in something else.” An example would be “that time in the early morning when you are floating in and out of sleep.”

Or from here: “In certain spaces under certain circumstances, you’ll experience a feeling of things being slightly off. An altered reality, if you will.”

So we are in a liminal time. Not quite back to “normal”, as much as some folks want like to believe. Vaccine reluctance in some parts of the country could – strike that; probably will – bring on a surge in the Delta variant of COVID-19. We need to protect the children who haven’t had the opportunity to get the vaccine, which is why APL still requires masks indoors.

But we’re getting there.

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