Day 122: Reflection in the time of coronavirus

Day 45 of Lockdown. This is probably my first quiet time since community quarantine was announced on March 12.

Today is Labour Day in the Philippines and how fitting that I, while unintentionally, forced myself to “forget” about work on this day. As I spent the day playing games, not showering, sleeping extra hours, there also formed a nagging need to figure out how and what I have been experiencing throughout this quarantine. I have said to lots of people that they have to acknowledge how they feel and only from there can they move forward but as usual, I have neglected this advice and got lost in the busy-ness of things.

As an innate introvert, I think I have it easier than most but this situation gets to everyone and no one is immune to the kinks and cracks. To me, it was the lack of balance that threw me off — work and family suddenly was blurred into one big mess. Yes, it’s easy to say ‘maintain your routine’ and strictly clock out to have family or me time. But days have been long as countries, governments, and industries swiftly changed, the impacts hit so close to home.

During the early days, I tried to stick to a routine — shower, dress, worship, work, play, walk, meditate, sleep. The first indication of slipping was when work became longer, 12 hour days at a minimum, 4/6 weekends with meetings, and then suddenly, even when you’re trying to shutdown, your brain keeps on being preoccupied with work. Sleep has suddenly become elusive. I found it excruciatingly hard to keep a routine even when I excruciatingly tried.

The anxiety came from knowing that you’re doing the right thing but also realizing how heavily people’s lives will be troubled. It came from realizing there’s not much I can do and that I am not in control. On a personal level, the anxiety comes every time the husband needs to do a run outside and imagining how to manage when ECQ ends. While others can’t wait for the lockdown to be over, I dread it. I am afraid of the potential second wave, our healthcare system’s ability or inability to cope, the high cost of getting sick. I fear having to prematurely need to live in the new normal and that we might still bring something home.

The guilt came from being ok — Survivor’s Guilt as a friend referred to it. It weighs heavily on why we’re ok when others aren’t. I feel sad for my colleagues, for medical frontliners, for other frontliners, for the people who have it hard. I found myself constantly vacillating between gratitude and guilt, there was always a choice I had to make but the constant roller-coaster emotion was never easy. The guilt also came from being home but not able to spend much time with family. This got higlighted when Sydney started virtual classes. In the old normal, someone brings your kid to school and she learns while you work in the office but in this new normal, a parent needs to balance being the teacher at home while also working from home. I am lucky I have a husband who’s currently free at the moment but he won’t be for long.

There were also days of frustration, and short bouts of anger. People will never know how much fight the team has put in. The pain we feel when people-who-can say no to work when there are others who will kill for the chance to have a job. It’s hard when I have to demand more because we all need to stretch to survive this crisis but all I really want is to give them the extra space to just be. There were uncomfortable conversations that didn’t need to happen but happened because everyone is on edge or too tired or too scared.

I am jealous of people who are bored during this lockdown — those who made Dalgona coffee, posted their new hobbies, did zoom parties, maybe tiktok. All those posts that said “you now have the time that you need” and all I could think of was “Really?”. I had FOMO while I slaved on my 7th comms pack, nth excel simulation, and endless zoom/phone conferences. But one day, I read an article about exec parents whose lives were turned upside down as work-life balance became non-existent and it reminded me that social media is often a smokescreen, people must be struggling in one way or another. It didn’t make me feel less FOMO but there is some comfort that somewhere out there is a tired working mom like me.

The gratitude was something that kept me sane. My family is safe — from my husband, my daughter and naynay in our condo, my parent down south, my siblings in their condo, my in-laws, our extended family here and around the world. I am thankful we had not needed to deal with any sickness or loss and I pray we never have to. We are financially afloat and have kept our jobs throughout the period. There is shame and pride when I say this, we’re comfortable and our basic needs includes ice cream, flavored tea, and sulfate-free shampoo. There are no worries in our hearts about where to get our next meal or how long can we hold this out. We live in an amazing community, where everything is within reach and someone sells anything you might crave for — ube cheese pandesal, veggies, fruits, fish, meat, breads, desserts and today, there was even octopus. There were also small wins at work — saving some jobs, winning on keeping some benefits, planting seeds of inspiration or hope, zoom conferences.

There are the small things that I enjoy and I feel I will continue to enjoy. The 10-sec commute to work from my bed to the living room workstation. The in-between work workouts, I absolutely enjoy them when I get to do them. Seeing my husband and daughter every day, knowing they’re just in the next room, and the joy from watching them interact. The delight from my discoveries of my daughter’s intellect and personality. My husband’s wonderful cooking. The smog-free sky.

This pandemic has changed so many lives and it will continue to change the way we live forever. It’s bittersweet that it took me 45 days to write this out but I am glad that I did. I have come to accept that because I am human, I will have a thousand feelings flow through me. And in the midst of all the feelings, I choose to anchor myself in faith, hope, and love.

Every. Single. Day. I will have to make a choice and I will have to fight myself for those choices. I will do this so there can be better days ahead.

… And I hope I can always find the off switch.

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