No, it’s not to upskill or be more productive
It’s been eight weeks since enhanced community quarantine was announced. Today’s weather is 36 degrees hot but feels more like a 41. I can easily relieve myself with a cold shower or a few hours in an airconditioned room. But more than the heat, it’s humid. My skin feels dry to the touch but sticky. I’ve been nursing a headache, one that lingers heavily on the shoulders and at the base of the head. “Maybe you need to get some air,” says my partner.
She’s right, maybe I need to get out of our tiny apartment. I open the door and feel the thick, muggy 7ish PM air on my face. But before I could even decide to stay in, the curfew alarm blares in the distance.
A jarring reminder of reality. Guess my sanity can wait. I go back in and close the door behind me.
Quarantine Week 1
March 16, 2020 was when it all started. In the days leading up to the lockdown, announcements of temporary work suspension and WFH directives were made. Businesses big and small shuttered their doors unless part of what is considered essential. People rushed to go home to their families; some made it, some didn’t and some got stuck in between transit. On a Friday, I was at the grocery store with two people from work, buying food and toiletries and then stood in line for over two hours.
The work week that followed was spent adjusting Wonder’s content plan to coronavirus, not so much for relevance but sensitivity. For five days and a half, I worked a little over 8 hours a day in my makeshift office, which is really just the far end of our 4-seater dining set and then scrolling through photos from the decade that was. My partner and son could still take 20 to 30-minute afternoon walks. For our household, things were still pretty okay. Surprisingly, I was even inspired to cook Sunday dinner.
Quarantine Week 2
The week was filled with bad news—even worse, fake news—and bad decisions.
My calendar was about to explode with Zoom meeting invites. On a particular day, I had hourly calls that started at 10AM; the last one was at precisely 4:45PM. The workplace was in a constant state of rush and panic.
Somewhere in between the crisis and the literal and virtual chaos, it hit me—my feelings. Not one at a time, but all at once and I didn’t think to pause to process. I tried with astrology and the occult to make sense of what’s going on in my head and the world outside of our then COVID-free community. The attempt at self-introspection was futile and my meditation app logged pretty much the same emotions all week: “anxious,” “insomnia,” “nervous” and “in pain.” But the will to be okay, to stay in control of, at least, our situation was there. So I forced myself to work, to care, to workout, to hold little dance parties (to the tune of Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train) for our son’s sheer entertainment, to be productive. Jaws and fists clenched through it all.
Quarantine Weeks 3 & 4
It was payday—the day I was sure I could pay for rent, utilities, groceries and the everyday. I had taken note of the causes we wanted to donate to and this one person at work that needed financial aid. As spurred by family and friends, we made “take care” and “get well soon” cards for frontliners and their patients.
We went on virtual art museum tours, made cupcakes and listened to podcasts all weekend afternoon.
There was a conscious effort as well to tune out the outside world and curate what I look at or listen to—including my partner who verbally shares news and sometimes conspiracies during the few minutes we have to ourselves in the morning. Call it indifference or whatever you like, I call it necessary for my own sanity and the sanity of the people I live with.
Considering there was one confirmed case in our community and we were no longer allowed to go out, not even to walk the dog, I was strangely fine. We even made the effort to set up our own indoor Easter egg hunt and try this handstand challenge:
Sorry I'm late to our Zoom meeting, I was watching Jake Gyllenhaal put on a shirt while in a handstand. pic.twitter.com/UIlV5Wihyv
— MTV (@MTV) April 2, 2020
Maybe it was not working from home for a couple of days and counting down to the 15th. You know, the date when lockdown was originally going to be lifted.
Quarantine Weeks 5 & 6
Well fuck, ECQ had just been extended to the 30th of April. Just tuned in to the news a.k.a Twitter and received a friend’s message that their company can no longer pay them and had issued a “no work, no pay” statement.
More on Twitter: COVID-19 cases aren’t going down, people are lying about being sick, more fear and panic-inducing statements are made, everyone’s pointing fingers at everyone else and then there’s that pressure to stay relevant and hold onto our jobs amid a crisis that had caused businesses to lay off or shutter permanently and people to take pay cuts or receive no pay at all.
I was anxious, threatened by the idea that no one is indispensable and that I, too, could be jobless and on edge, easily set off by anyone and anything at all.
Drinking nightly just made it worse.
Quarantine Week 7
This week, I read something online that reminded me that we are in the middle of a health crisis, of complete madness and the metric for survival is not how productive you were or how right or wrong you were about a particular issue. The simple yet mind blowingly profound concept to live through this is: “to arrive on the other side in one piece.”
The article relates our collective reality to traveling, wherein our flight is delayed not by hours, but by months and conditions are suboptimal. In so little time, life as we know it has changed and continues to change; the definition of success, of satisfaction are no longer the same. A lot of things are out of our control so you and I have to manage our expectations of ourselves and others. Delays will force us to stay put, require us to look from the inside out (literally), to make a meal out whatever you have in the pantry because the community grocery store ran out of everything.
Our job is to stay home, to stay healthy, to stay sane, to take care of our families, to help when and where we can—and by help I mean from little acts of kindness, like buying a meal for your Grab driver when you order in to sending financial aid. Now is not the time to carpe that diem. And while there will always be that 1% who can write a book in their pambahay, launch a food delivery business or find opportunity in these dark times, it’s not for everyone.
This is not to say, yeah, go ahead, drown your woes every single night or rewatch seasons 1 to 6 of Community in one sitting. What I’m saying is don’t be so hard on yourself or the people you live with. Have these little treats, a glass of wine while watching a couple of episodes of your favorite new or old series. Heck, take the day off and cry but don’t forget to tell your boss—of the time off and not necessarily the tears. But don’t allow yourself to treat “treats” or days off as benchmarks of everyday living.
Hang in there, meditate or stick your head out the window if you need some air, look after the people you love; you’re doing just fine.
Art Matthew Fetalver