During this time of the year, in a pre-COVID-19 world, you will find me spending a couple of days by the beach with friends. We would camp for a day or two, island-hop, surf or just stroll by the beach, drink iced cold beer under the moonlight, and get drunk until the wee hours.
That’s the ideal summer for someone like me who buries her day in front of the computer. I need to have a breather outside the confines of my computer screen. That has always been the plan, to be somewhere peaceful where all you hear are waves crashing.
Until this pandemic got in the way.
Not just for me and my friends. It ruined everybody’s.
It canceled plans. Got everyone stranded. Put down businesses. Limit supplies. Erased jobs. Made the majority of the people hungry and asking and pleading. Most of all, it took thousands of precious lives.
People in the frontline risked their lives–and that of their families, to answer the call of their duties. The news would give us the daily dose of a sob story—a doctor who died of COVID-19 without his family by his side, a jeepney driver jailed for begging for alms in the streets, a woman left dying in the sidewalk as she waits for a bus ride home, and of old men and women braving the scorching heat of the sun to get their government aids and many others.
This pandemic consisted millions of unique stories. From that of sadness, grief, and longing to hope, faith, and love.
I have to admit, my experience during the enhanced community quarantine is nothing compared to millions of lives across the country who has faced worse. It would be too selfish to just think of myself in these times when all I have are shallow rant on spotty internet connection and boring quarantine food.
Even when I am at the confines of my apartment, I read on everything online and end up getting even more stressed out.
Please don’t get me wrong. We have to understand that we all have our own struggles we keep on winning over every day, even before this pandemic arrived.
Late last year, my father died due to complications from his chronic kidney disease. Grieving and crying have been a part of me since then. The lockdown has made everything worse. We can’t visit his grave in San Pablo, Laguna since March and I would cry before I sleep thinking of him and missing him, and feeling guilty for not being to keep a promise to visit monthly.
I also feared for my career. As a media consultant and freelance writer, I feared that my sector would be affected and it kept me worried for days. Will I ever have more projects in the future? Will my clients have to let go of me during these times? Where will I get my money after all my emergency fund runs out?
And so I worked more and more. I am just in the house anyway so better yet I’ll bury my head in front of the computer.
I don’t know if it is just me but everything that has happened the past 100 days has affected my mental health. Anxiety attacks would take over me, mostly every other day. I’ve never told this to my mother. Not even to my partner. They will always see me as that ever-joyful person ready to lighten up everyone’s day.
But in reality, you’ll see me nail-biting in between work, suddenly waking up at 3 am and stare at nothing for the next two hours, thinking hard on jumbled thoughts on work, current events, plans, and whatnot. While working I get a searing migraine that would last for hours, even if I go to sleep—I would still wake up with the pain, forcing me to just shut my eyes again.
Two months after and the quarantine gets extended once again.
And boy was I so damn tired.
That was when I realized that while I keep on making myself busy, I wasn’t focusing on the things that I really enjoy.
I started writing again—not to get paid—but to just express my feelings. I started writing again for myself and not for other’s content.
I prayed and allotted a “me time” every day to focus on my well-being. It pays to have time for yourself in these trying times because this is where you can get back to your core.
The pandemic taught us that you never know what the future holds. That you may have a job one day and wake up without one. Or create the full-proof plan for your future but end up being empty-handed by the sudden turn of events you have no control of. That what you have now may later be gone.
But while these are certainly true, to keep you up from moving forward you must start with focusing on the things you can control.
I listed down the things I can do—instead of dealing with those I can’t.
While I think of how to maintain my well-being, I also can’t help but think of other people.
They say that one of the most effective ways to maintain your mental health is by helping others. It need not be grand. Your own little way of extending a helping hand to someone in need can create ripples.
As I develop a new hobby which is baking, I poured my heart into every whisking and mixing. I started it not for selling purposes though but for my niece and nephew. I wanted to make desserts for them and send them to Caloocan—where they currently reside—and let them know Tita Gely cares even from a distance.
In my own little way, I tried to help. As a media consultant for the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), I dedicated my time to making simple and easy-to-understand infographics from the information doctors would like to relay for the public. In a time where physicians’ voices need to be heard, I enjoyed and loved doing these little projects so I can help them as they fight off COVID-19.
I also connected a few individuals and organizations who are extending help to hospitals and front liners. One of which is a former schoolmate in college who are giving away free ear savers for health workers.
Currently, I am connecting the locally-made face masks from Kalinga Weaving Community in Tabuk City. I am happy to share really nice designs from the women of the community and encourage buyers to support them.
What we can do
There are so many things we can do. All the possibilities are out there, if only we put on an effort to open our eyes and shun the focus less on ourselves but to others.
Buy the goods being sold by your neighbor so he can buy a meal for his children. See that man who regularly walks down to your subdivision selling services for shoe repair or key duplication? Make their day by asking for their service. I am sure what they can earn for the day will go to their families.
Support your friends’ side hustles. A friend may have started a YouTube channel during the quarantine or has launched an online shop for their homemade baked goodies. You need not buy them just to show your support. It would be a great deal to just share their social media pages and refer them to your other friends. A simple advertisement coming from you would mean a lot.
Every one of us is going through a phase. We all have our own struggles we try to win over every waking day. But this does not mean we have to think of ourselves only.
Reach out and let people know you are there. A simple reply to a friend will not cost you anything. You wouldn’t know that a simple conversation from a neighbor can make a difference to his perspective.
One deadly virus can spread from the city to the entire world, crippling the global economy and making everyone distanced from one another. This pandemic shows us that we are all interconnected. That we are all bounded.
But while we are at risk, this must not be the reason for us to be divided. We may not be physically close but we can still show that we care by just being emphatic. More so, let us not think highly of ourselves than that of others who are also trying to survive. Respect what they do to make ends meet. Give them a helping hand and do not judge.
A friend once said during a Zoom meet-up how some tend to just ignore the things happening around us and focus on their own survival. Yes, it is human nature to think of our own before even beginning to extend help to others.
But to love and be compassionate is to be alive too. And we have to choose the higher road.
Sure, I would love to be in that dreamy beach like I would also do. I’d say I need to take a breather from all this. From the grief and pain in my heart. From everything that is going on and the worry from what the future holds. I would have loved to hold that beer while strolling by the seaside. But that will be the pre-COVID self-centered, wayward me.
Now is the perfect time to fight off selfishness and greed and replace it with love and compassion.
Now more than ever, let us not forget to human. Let us not forget to be alive.
This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project”. The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit, “Write to Ignite Blog Project” aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet and Teleperformance.