Friday, May 14, 2021

Lies I Tell Myself as We Near the End of the Pandemic

With about a third of the US population having been fully vaccinated to date, many more among us are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. My social media feed is replete with posts from people saying they've allowed their imaginations to wander in the post-pandemic realm, almost tasting the sweeter, vibrant flavors of 'normal' life once again. If I'm being honest, I've also caught myself a few times doing the same, fantasizing about post-pandemic life. Why wouldn't I? The number of infected cases nationwide continues to go down. The CDC has relaxed some of its guidance with regard to mask-wearing and gathering. People around me are optimistic this will all be over very, very soon.

These are the things I catch myself thinking these days:

When all this is over, once this pandemic is behind us—

...I'd be travelling a lot.

...I'll host parties again, immediately, and hug tightly every guest that comes through our door.

...I'd probably go out almost every day, and run the silliest errands just to get out of the house and see people. I will touch merchandise on the store shelves because I've missed that so much this past year. I know I'll be taking my time perusing every aisle on Home Goods, Target, and Walmart, and for once not care if the stores are even crowded.

...I'll rush to all the newly opened restaurants in town and savor the sorely missed nirvana called 'dine-in'.

...I'll invite friends to a mask-burning ceremony because I'm just so over these masks and finally want to liberate my face!

If only any of that were true. But who am I kidding? Other than the additional weight I've put on, and my intensified love affair with loose, garterized clothing, I'm still the old neurotic and introverted me, and I know my imagined scenarios cited above are all but lies. 

Here's the truth...

In all honesty, the fun part of travelling for me is the challenge of packing and being able to organize and compartmentalize our bags or suitcases; I'm sure my germaphobia is now even worse than ever, hence can't really imagine how there can be a marriage between the words 'travel' and 'fun'. 

The pandemic has been really kind to my introversion, in that, it's given me a break from the pressure of having a busy social calendar. I've loved staying put, staying in, not wondering where we should go and explore, what to wear, how to fix my face and hair. Though I miss hanging out with my closest friends, I definitely haven't missed the stress of having to make the house look 'guest-worthy' and the pressure of putting together a decent menu to accommodate other people's picky palates for parties. And let's be real. It'll probably be a while before I feel genuinely comfortable with hanging out with people who don't observe similar safety measures as we do in our family (and yes, we've been very strict, even worse than Dr. Fauci). Hence, I don't see myself in the near future freely hugging others without having to require proof of vaccination. 

I've never enjoyed shopping for extended periods, always avoided touching too many things in stores, and consistently hated crowds. So, nope, the real me, same old me, will not suddenly be rushing out to go shopping for hours on end.

Restaurants and dine-in?...No, thank you. Not anytime soon for sure.

Lastly, I'm a mask fan. Sorry, not sorry. Yes it's not the most comfortable thing on the planet, but it's definitely kept me and my family virus-free in the past year. None of us caught even the mildest cold, and it's been heavenly! I really hope seasonal masking, at the very least, will be here to stay.

Inasmuch as I'm with the populace at large in wanting this pandemic to enddrowning in exhaustion from the perpetual fear of becoming severely ill from this virus and losing loved onesit would be a lie to say I'm brimming with excitement about bursting my small pandemic bubble. During this past year, my introverted personality had the time of its life. I've felt in control, my boundaries enforced without feeling bad about it or needing to explain and apologize why I can't be around people. 

Though I know this isn't sustainableand I accept thatI've also been feeling like I need to remind the rest of the world to take it slow and be prudent with their excitement about going back to the 'old normal'. I have two words for you: Independence Day. I'm talking about the 1996 movie, specifically that scene where the military decided to nuke the alien ship and was so sure they had destroyed it, only to realize a minute later that their solution was a total failure and the enemy was unscathed. 

I'm not saying we are failing. All I'm suggesting is that we all take Will Smith's character's stance. He kept saying, "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings". 

The virus is still killing tens of thousands of people daily around the world. For God's sake, do what you can to be part of the solution. Wear your mask when needed. Keep your distance. Take the vaccine. Listen to science. It may be comforting to lie to ourselves once in a while and fantasize about a beautiful post-pandemic world, but this isn't yet the time to light that cigar and completely let our guard down...not until the fat lady sings. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

One Year Into This Pandemic From The Eyes of an Introvert

March 6, 2020 was when our school district closed after a confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in our county. It was a parent of a district student and, out of an abundance of caution, the district decided to close all the schools and do remote learning to control the spread of the virus. They never re-opened until the school year ended and we had no idea that March 5, 2020 would be my son's last day to ever set foot in his middle school building. When this current school year opened, we opted to go fully online, and my son has been learning (mostly) independently, asynchronously. He is given the materials to learn and he does what needs to be done. No daily lecture sessions with teachers, no interactions with 'classmates'. 

It has been a long year of being in our cave. We've not traveled anywhere; haven't seen family (since everyone's either in another state or country); haven't hung out with friends without donning masks and standing more than 6 feet away outdoors; haven't really stepped outside much without feeling like the air is out to kill us.  

The anxious side of me is obviously the one suffering during this pandemic. Though in our day to day, there isn't much stress to complain about, it's really when we need to venture out for one reason or the other when stress overtakes. On those rare times, it always feels like such a huge production number, with strict logistics in mind that will probably simultaneously put Dr. Fauci to shame, and make him proud. I make sure everyone is equipped with a mask. We never go to a store when we know it's crowded. We do to-go meals occasionally, but only from restaurants that offer drive-through or curbside pick-up. We've been opting for grocery pick-up but on those times we needed to step inside the store, I've timed our shopping trips to 15 minutes or less, but 30 when it's Costcomy husband holds a shopping list different from mine, items strategically listed in the order they're laid out in the store, we split up and meet again at checkout. I make sure I'm dehydrated enough so I don't have to use any restrooms. As soon as we're back in the car, I squirt sanitizer on everyone's hands and make sure we rub until our hands have dried up. When we get home, I sound like a drill sergeant reminding my boys to wash their hands for no less than 20 seconds. It's a lot for most people (even for my husband sometimes), but one has to do what one has to do to keep safe...AND sane!

It's the complete opposite in disposition and perspective when it comes to my introverted side. As far as that one goes, it's living its best life during this pandemic, experiencing greater serenity than ever as long as my family is safe inside our home...

With my son attending school online, I've not had to deal with the paranoia of him picking up an illness from outside. In years past, the most innocent sniffles could catapult me to the precipice of insanity. But since we've all been home for a year, no one has caught a bug and we have managed to stay relatively healthy. (*knock on wood*)

Because of recommendations to not gather with anyone who's not a member of your household, I've been set free from hosting any parties and have not felt any pressure to keep the house sparkling clean in case we get unexpected visitors. Such things are not recommended anymore and I'm not complaining. I also told my husband that in a way, it's great that we're far from where most of his side of the family resides because there is no pressure or discussion necessary as to whether or not to attend a family gathering. If we lived close to family, there'd be discussions about which parties to attend and which to skip. If it were totally up to me, I would insist on skipping everything for safety reasons, unless of course I knew that everyone in attendance had strictly quarantined for two weeks prior to the event. I would be impossible to appease, and they would hate me. It's best we're in a different state. No arguments, more peace. 

For school holidays or extended weekends, gone are the days of trying to figure out and plan where our family should vacation. Vacation now is far cheaper, more convenient, not hectic, and definitely sanitized to the level I require: We gather in our tv room, stream a movie or binge watch a series, make our own popcorn, and then retreat to our own cozy beds after. My introverted, germaphobe self can't think of anything more heavenly. 

Inarguably, there's plenty to hate about this pandemic. I hate the social injustices and inequities that it exacerbated. I hate that I can't book a flight to the Philippines to visit my aging and vulnerable parents, my family; I hate the divisiveness it has highlighted in our population, with still a significant portion refusing to believe in its reality, insisting it's the flu, refusing masks and the science behind such mitigation measures. It drives me into a state of poisonous inner rage when I feel gaslighted as I see people still gather in large groups to party, dine in crowded restaurants and bars, as if there was no pandemic. Yes, there's also all that angry, frustrated side.

But in focusing on the 'world' I have control overnot taking for granted that my perceptions are framed in privilegemy introverted self honestly feels relieved, unburdened, and validated. For the first time, it's acceptable and even recommended to stay away, not be social, shun close contact. It's recommended to keep our bubbles small, be selective with who to spend time with. We're told to keep outside interactions brief. We're supposed to keep much of our faces covered that we're all practically anonymous in public. Virtual interactions are preferred. Staying home is the ideal. Except for the presence of the virus, this is utopia for me. 

I still remember a meme from the early days of the pandemic: 

It's really only funny when it's true. And I promise you, this meme always makes me laugh. 


Friday, January 29, 2021

All I Could Think of Was That There Were Better Ways to Die


I seriously thought it was going to end me. As is the case for most people who meet their demise unexpectedly, it all started like any regular day with no warning of what was about to happen. I had gotten some easy chores out of the way, did some exercise, and then had my late breakfast. Then came the time to take my daily supplements. 

I took out the pills out of the pill box and laid them on the table as I poured myself a full glass of water. I needed to take 7 pills, 4 of which are ginormous, at least by my standards. And because time is precious and I just wanted it over and done with, and also because I didn't want to drink more water than I'd have to, I decided to swallow the two biggest pills together. 

As soon as I gulped the two with a bit of water, I immediately felt something had gone terribly wrong. I felt the tablets stuck in my throat, as if they had gone down horizontally. I began to panic, with grim thoughts coursing through my imagination as I simultaneously gripped my full glass of water and started drinking furiously...

"Oh my God, I'm gonna die! I'm choking and this is not how I imagined it will all end. Shouldn't it be more dramatic, more meaningful, less stupid??"

"Does my husband know how to do the Heimlich maneuver? If not, can I do it on myself against this countertop?"

"Is this how it all ends, me choking on my vitamins? Can there be a more ironic death? How stupid is this going to look on my obituary?!"

My husband had just left the table and didn't even notice something was wrong until he turned around and saw water dribbling down my chin. I didn't care anymore, my instinct was just to keep drinking as fast as I could. I managed to wave my hand at him as if to say 'stop' and then mumbled, "Wait, don't go, I might be choking."

I ran to the sink and kept drinking more water. At some point, my husband emphatically said, "Swallow hard!" and I hurriedly complied. After about three full glasses, I finally felt the pills had 'unstuck' themselves, and I'm sure had partially dissolved from all the water I had drunk. 

I let out a sigh of relief and assured my husband I was going to be okay. Then I immediately made a pact with myself never to swallow more than one huge pill at a time. 

I also wondered if I'll keep having more of these embarrassing 'almost fatal' experiences like this one, or that bike accident in CO in 2016. I hope not. It's beginning to be more annoying than entertaining. 

But if there's really anything I've learned from these experiencesother than chewables being the safer betit's that up until the end, I exhibited both vanity and pride as I helplessly desired to dictate how death should take me. I suspect this tendency is more common among us humans than most of us would care to admit. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

You Are Privileged

Photo Credit: Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

There's now over 85 million cases worldwide, and 1.85 million deaths. 

After a year since news broke of the existence of COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2, none of us on this planet can still say that their life has not been upended. Whether you've suffered through the illness, or remain one of the still fortunate ones to have been able to remain COVID-free, this pandemic has affected you one way or another...

None of us have been immune to the anxiety, wondering what more we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Children can't visit their elderly or vulnerable parents and family members. 

Workers have lost their jobs. 

Shortages on some food items and cleaning products hit certain regions hard. 

Faces are masked and we keep our distance from each other. 

Our mental health has been affected in varying degrees due to the physical isolation required of us in trying to beat this virus. 

Hugs have become risky. 

Dining in restaurants is a gamble, and so is stepping inside stores to go shopping. And don't even get me started on travel. 

The list of how our lives have been altered by this pandemic is simply too long.  

2020 was, unequivocally, a year from hell. However, it was also an undeniably humbling year which offered limitless opportunities for growth. From having to deal with forest fires, the pandemic, and heightened racial tensions, to murder hornets and unprecedented political division especially in the United States, I was almost sure it wouldn't take long before we'd look out our windows and literally saw the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 

And yet here we are at the beginning of a new year, still carrying with us hope for better days. I never believed in new year's resolutions, but I think focusing on a 'Word of the Year' feels less oppressive and more reflective of our intentions for growth. 

After all the turbulence brought by 2020, I'd like to suggest 'PRIVILEGE' as our word. I know it might seem misplaced, but seriously contemplating on how you are privileged, no matter how cursed you might feel right now, may actually bring you peace and some much needed fuel for the road ahead. 


If you've managed to remain uninfected by SARS-CoV-2, you are privileged.

If you've caught the virus and survived, you are privileged.

If you live where medical interventions are accessible, you are privileged. 

If you still have a job, a source of income, you are privileged.

If you are not blackand especially if you are whiteyou are privileged.

If you have running water, you are privileged.

And let's be clear, you're privileged just by virtue of still being able to breathe and inhabit this planet.

You are here, alive and capable of many things. 

Moving forward, it would serve all of us to be cognizant of our sense of privilege, whatever that may look like. 

If you start this year, or any day of your life, recognizing your privilege, maybe we'd all live with more gratitude. 

Maybe we'd all find ways on how to be more generous towards others, in what ever capacity. 

Maybe our sense of agency would be stronger as we become clearer about ways in which we can influence this world more positively, rather than be dead weight. 

Maybe we'd simply become kinder. We all know humankind is in dire need of that.

Focus on your privilege, and then open your heart and hands. That's the only way we can all find greater meaning in our lives and affirm our humanity.