I still have a blanket that my grandma made for me when I was a baby. Hundreds of crocheted stitches melded together in soft yarn, the cover gives me a sense protection and love when it wraps around my arms.
As of late, the feelings surrounding this old blanket of mine are similar to the feelings I have when I wear a mask in public spaces.
With the lifting of Alberta’s mask mandate on July 1, face-coverings are no longer necessary in public spaces. Businesses, however, still have the ability to require or request them to be worn if they choose. Provincial rules also dictate that masks must still be worn on public transit, in taxis and ride-shares, and in certain health-care settings.
The re-opening and return to ‘normal’ that has accompanied the end of mandatory masking has stirred up a mix of emotions for me. On one hand, I feel complete and utter joy in the fact that we can once again resume activities we used to take for granted – like hugging our loved ones or going to a concert.
On the other hand, I’m conflicted. Maybe it’s the sense of caution or perhaps my chronic anxiety, but this feeling of excitement is consistently overpowered by my need to protect.
I’ve had both shots of a COVID-19 vaccine at this point and I’ve passed the two-week period following my second dose, so the chances of me getting severely sick from the virus are very low.
However, when you’ve latched on to something for comfort and security for an extended period of time, there’s a tendency to continue to cling to it, even after you’re told you don’t have to – much like how an adult may hold on to a blanket they’ve had since they were an infant.
Don’t get me wrong, the lifting of restrictions is a fantastic thing. It is a gift we have earned after a hard time for our community and our province. But would we have arrived at this place without mandatory masking? Sure, your beliefs may influence your answer to that question, but I’ll tell you my answer – no.
And for that reason, I have begun to equate masks with respect and love. Respect and love for myself and my health; respect and love for the health of others; and respect and love for the health-care and public-service workers who continued bravely through unchartered waters to have us arrive at this destination.
I’m 22 and have held on to my grandma’s crocheted blanket for nearly my whole life because it gives me a sense of comfort. Though masking requirements have been lifted and my ability to smile at people in the mall or wear lipstick to dinner has been reinstated – for now – I’ll likely be holding on to my mask if I enter a closed, public space.
But don’t worry – I’ll leave my blanket at home.