“Just try to make it today, and tomorrow will be another battle.”
Like many, I thought of COVID-19 as something that happened to other people. I read and wrote about it, but always in the context of it happening to others. I often attached it to other issues like health or social justice or governance. COVID was a subject.
I tried not to get news of the virus get me down or make me anxious. I learned to “unplug” from time to time. Meanwhile, we at my household tried to balance fear with reasonability, making decisions and taking calculated risks whenever we had to (or wanted to) go out. Just recently, I suggested we should go for the family goal of not ever catching COVID-19.
But the virus caught up with us, as it did with many other families.
Three of my four kids tested positive. I myself developed a cough despite testing negative twice. As of this writing, the ordeal is not yet over.
My two boys are still isolating with their older sister and her partner who also tested positive. Meanwhile, my other daughter and I are holed up at my apartment, taking care of the logistics like deliveries, food, medicine and other needs. It’s good that our units are in the same building albeit on different floors. A small wooden table at their door serves as our link.
I’ve had a chance to enumerate my takeaways from the past few days and I’d like to share them here.
First, it is good to imagine scenarios. The phrase “Ano ang gagawin natin kapag (What will we do if)….?” helped us immensely. It allowed us to anticipate different situations and, like a flowchart, manage developments. Often, if we are faced with an emergency, we cannot think clearly. It helps to know exactly what to do just in case A or B comes up. It lessens your sense of helplessness, and increases the likelihood of your making prudent decisions.
Second, find your distraction. People have come up with many ways to cope with the uncertainty of the past two years. But when COVID barges into your home, you have to have something to take your mind away from the constant unsettling feeling. Catch up on your reading, watch movies or plays or shows, play an instrument. Tidy up or clean. Create something. Work – our jobs are sometimes a blessing that way.
Third, accept the fact that there are some things you can’t really know for certain. For instance, how, when and where did the COVID transmission happen? Why is Person A sick and why has Person B remained healthy despite being both close contacts of the same person? What lies ahead? When will all this end?
Fourth, it is really easier to live with the idea of contracting the virus than of passing it on to someone. This is the basis of all our actions, and why we must isolate if we have symptoms even without the benefit of testing. We might be healthy and suffer only minor symptoms, but the next fellow may not be as lucky. This is basic courtesy and consideration – basic humanity, actually.
Fifth, everyone in the family has a role to play. If the cases are mild, chances are, your patients will also be looking for ways to get their minds off their situation. So delegate – if they can’t get out of the house, at least they can help source items or make online purchases. Keep track of expenses in a common file on Google Drive. Make grocery lists, plan meals and schedule medicine intakes. Anything to lessen the variables.
Sixth, realize that times may be hard, but these will not last forever. In a week or two, things are bound to improve – not just your patients’ symptoms, but your general outlook. Just try to make it today, and tomorrow will be another battle.
Seventh, we can really make technology serve us. For example, even though the family cannot yet eat meals together like you used to, video calls can help recreate the feeling of eating together. Depending on the quality of your internet connection, you can still see each other and tell stories while eating. This was how my son and I got into a discussion on whether it was “appropriate” for a woman to send drinks to a man in a bar (guess which position I took). FaceTime is not quite the same as actual face time, but it’s a reasonable substitute.
Eighth, humor will save you. Don’t discount the power of a laugh over a silly episode – even if it means laughing at yourself. I was stumped when I ordered bananas from the supermarket and got puso ng saging instead. Or when I was presented with a plastic doll (arms akimbo and with a crumpled face) that looked like me when I am stressed.
Ninth, continue to count your blessings. You have work piling up? That’s good – you can still work from home. You’re still able to communicate with your loved ones. Nobody is in the hospital when this same virus that they have has killed tens of thousands already in the past two years. Be thankful you are just bored – it means you have the capacity and desire for doing more.
Finally, be reminded that other people are going through the same ordeal without the conveniences you enjoy. They cannot isolate in comfort as you can. For millions, isolation means not working and not having money for food.
And then you will realize why you have to speak up when you see something wrong, why you have to rail against injustice and incompetence and corruption, and why you have to vote and vote wisely in May.
While we isolate, or quarantine as the case may be, let us take the opportunity to be silent and clear not just the clutter in our homes but that in our minds. It’s a tough opening for the year, sure, but it’s only the first month. We cannot control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond to our challenges and decrease the likelihood of their affecting us adversely.
Just because we are told that at least half of the population will get COVID does not mean we should drop the fight. Let us take even greater care to keep ourselves healthy so that we may be able to take care of those who truly need our help.