When it’s your birthday, the Universe has a gift for you. The tricky part is to spot it.

The gift will be presented in a non-obvious way, in a modest wrapping, and the bow will appear only when you recognize the gift.

Mine came within the first 10 minutes of waking up, and with a big fat bow on top. (Thank you, Universe😊)

June is my birthday month and this year it happened to fall on a day when the smoke from the Arizona fires was still hovering above the town. It was laying low and holding still in the early hours of sunrise as I was taking our dog Rex for a walk.

Looking at the apocalyptic orange circle of the rising sun through the smoke, I thought to myself, “Should we even go?”

The day before, the lingering smoke had given me a scratchy throat and a stabbing headache that lasted for the better part of the day. There had been a poor air quality warning, but I love our sunrise walks.

I looked around in my house, trying to make a decision when I saw a modest pile of clean cloth masks. Yes, the corona masks.

I had never worn one for a dog walk, but this may be what I needed. I had just been wondering what to do with these masks now that we are vaccinated and the state is getting ready to open up, full force.

I put the mask on and off we went.  I was walking down the street, happy in the realization that the mask actually worked, and what do I see?! A man in a dad-bod, dad-bun, and dad-beard with two large muzzled dogs walking my way.

Seeing another human walking at 6 am always makes me smile. It’s a special bread of people who walk so early – like a secret society, the Illuminati for the walking folk.

But I couldn’t help but keep an eye on those muzzles, “Are the dogs that aggressive? Rex will go bananas and yank at the leash. I’d better give them some space … “

And so I stepped away from the sidewalk and onto the street.

As we were about to pass the man and his dogs, he stared at me over his big beard, and said, “Now that’s ridiculous, but whatever!”

Oh no! Did he get offended because I stepped away from his dogs, leaving him with an impression I didn’t like his big muzzled dogs?

You NEVER offend a man’s dog; every dog owner knows that!

I had to explain, “Oh, I stepped to the street because of my dog. He yanks … “ I stopped midsentence because he now stared at me, completely puzzled by my words.

Now I was puzzled in return. Was he not talking to me? There was no one else around …

But he only blinked, with a look of bewilderment on his face, and pushed his arms deep into his pockets. And then it dawned on me.

It wasn’t about the dogs.

“Oh, you’re talking about the mask …” I said in complete astonishment, pointing a finger at my face.

The recognition on his face gave me the answer.

Yes, it was about the mask.

He thought I was trying to prevent him from infecting me with the big mean coronavirus, hence my stepping on the street and wearing the mask.

But Rex wanted to keep going, and so we kept on going.

Mask-troll noun /mäsk trōl/   an adult who loses the ability to self-regulate when sees a person in a mask; possible deranged behavior.

I had read about the mask-trolls. Yet I had managed to go on about my life for the entirety of the pandemic without ever meeting one. And here he was, right in my own neighborhood, a member of the morning walkers’ Illuminati!

So what’s the big gift from the Universe, Eva?

Buckle up, because it has a really big bow.

The problem here is really not that some man allowed himself to get aggravated because of a face mask, even though it may seem so. And the problem is definitely not whether we should all be wearing masks, or not.

The problem is that I’m still talking about it. As if I needed to explain myself to other people, or seek their approval, or their confirmation that the mask-troll was unreasonable.

As if I, in the arrears, needed to explain to this man and his muzzled dogs why I really stepped on the street. As if I needed someone’s approval and confirmation that this was absurd. As if I needed you to feel sorry for me so I could feel good about myself.

When you pay attention, really pay attention, you’ll notice what the social media of the past 2 decades has trained us to do exactly that – constantly complain, explain, and seek approval. We have become complainers who persistently hash and re-hash our misfortunes.

Social media has given us a platform to publish every annoyance and irritation we may possibly experience, from our take-out not having enough salt to our gas-guzzler costing too much to fill up these days. A bunch of friends on Facebook will validate our feelings with emojis, and if they don’t, we feel even worse.

If someone dares to call us out on our complaints, they will be deleted, canceled, snoozed, unfriended. How dare they?!

As a result, we no longer know how to manage our feelings.

We have become emotional prostitutes, seeking approval from people on the pages of social media, spewing at the ones who dare to turn us down.

Managing your emotions – good or bad – is your job, and yours alone. No one else out there has to approve of you, give you permission to feel a certain way, or make you feel better because you’ve forgotten how to do it yourself.

eva fanari

That being said, that’s the last time you’re hearing about me and my sad sob story about the mask-troll.

Don’t feel sorry for me because there’s nothing to feel sorry about – I’m not hurt. Don’t hate on the mask-troll because he left no impression on the overall evil of the world – trust me. And don’t validate my re-hashing this story by talking about the rights to bear masks – it’ll have no impact on our freedom.

Save your focus for real issues, and laugh at mine😊

Photo by annie pm on Unsplash. Thank you!