My one year in captivity: Where are we?

Remember that the person with the widest smile
could be going through hell

Painting by Khaziev Madiyar Sharipovich (Honored Artist of Tatarstan)

My Chair Rocks

March 9 2021 marked one year in captivity.  On that night a year ago, with my eldest son and his family, I watched the last performance of Joseph the Dreamer at Maybank Theater.  We wore masks that night.  I had some left over from the January ash fall from Taal. The theater was packed. We were probably in the middle of a “super spreader” and didn’t know it.

News of the novel corona virus had been spreading but details were sketchy. Or maybe I was not paying attention. The seriousness had not sunk in. I had no idea.

But the next day I decided to go on a self-imposed quarantine. “Pandemic” became a new word. And much to my alarm, I was told I belonged to the endangered species.

Finally, on March 17, 2020 the official lockdown was declared, and life, as we once knew it, came to a compete standstill.

It was déjà vu for me: World War II.  1941

I had no idea what war was all about. I did not understand why we had to stay home.  But we were warned there was danger outside. And so we did.

I remember playing jackstones under the stairs. I felt safe there. And I want to be nine years old again.

Back then we didn’t have social media or trolls.  But we had rumormongers, and their own version of fake news.  We called it “balitang kutsero” and it also caused us fear and anxiety.

Covid-19 has been here for over a year now.  Why is it that even as each day drags on, it also seems to fly? Does it feel that way for you too? Half of 2021 has slipped away. I am afraid to take stock of the time that has flown. What did we do with it?

I know we prayed. And while in prayer we tried to make sense of our bleak situation. And we asked, “Is there a lesson for us in this painful experience? Which way is out? Is the vaccine our only possible way of escape from the dreaded virus? Is it literally the “shot the arm” we need to get out of this mess? And if it is, why isn’t everybody rushing out to get inoculated? And will there be enough for everyone? The scientists are optimistic, reassuring. But there is a strange reluctance. Why?

There are many voices; perhaps too many

There are many voices, perhaps too many.

And life goes on. Millions of jobs have been lost and the economy staggers. People have become creative. Professional and wannabe chefs have taken to online kitchens to concoct, teach and share. Community pantries have sprung up hoping to alleviate the hunger of the poor. We have learned to work from home. Nervous parents park their children in front of laptops and call it school.

God bless them and all the teachers who never trained for this new set-up but have risen to the occasion. With the rest of the front liners, you are heroes.

But there are many who can’t cope and silently suffer the sadness of being immobilized, of having to live physically estranged from loved ones. They spend anxious sleepless nights staring at the ceiling, weeping, filled with frustration, feeling helpless, hopeless. Too many have slipped into deep depression.

For a whole year, I was determined to reach out and encourage others. I was confident that together we could beat the blues out of this bad time and that all would be well.  I urged them not to put a timetable on our quarantine and to just think of how much we could do with the extra time even while “sheltering” in our homes. I proposed that they downsize, that they de-clutter their homes and their minds; to do what in the past they never had time to do. That perhaps this was a cue to evaluate and rearrange “priorities.”

The last couple of months have been dark for me.  I got tired of pushing back the clouds of gloom 

Then it came—a new surge.  We faced another lockdown.  And for some reason, it knocked the wind out of me.  I felt paralyzed. I ran out of pep talks, even to myself.

And guess what? I went under.

The last couple of months have been dark for me.  I got tired of pushing back the clouds of gloom.  It was like falling into a bottomless pit.  In my heart and mind I knew I had to get out.  But another voice kept saying, tomorrow.

My ditch was one of many.  They are everywhere.  All it takes to fall in is listen to the news about the climbing numbers, see the faces of hungry people. Soon it starts hitting too close to home and you hear about friends and relatives dying.  And before you know it you are in a dark place, deep and desperate.

Because you realize that here we are over a year later, still wearing masks, not allowed to touch or hug; staying away from people for fear of getting sick and dying alone. We can’t even mourn together.  And it finally gets to you.

It is quiet in that darkness.  All you can hear is your racing heart and the fading echo of a life that used to be.

Sundays were so special.  It was family day. We worshipped together.  Physically.  Sometimes we fell into one another’s arms from the sheer joy of the moment.  After church we had lunch. I remember sitting at one end of the noisy dining room and looking at my family, silently giving thanks. The meal over, we still sat around the table, telling stories, sharing the serious and silly stuff. No matter what, we had a captive audience.

We went to concerts, the bigger the crowd the better we liked it.  Today, if there are more than five people in a room, I go into panic mode and reach for my mask. We loved making plans to travel. Someone was always returning from a trip or getting ready to take off.  I have been “grounded” now for almost two years.

I guess we were spoiled. Not grateful. We took it all for granted

I guess we were spoiled. Not grateful. We took it all for granted.

By the grace of God, I found my way out of that place of doom and gloom. Here’s a word of advice. For those who are able to keep it all together:  remember that the person with the widest smile could be going through hell.  Do not assume that all is well.  Simply asking “how are you” could be all it takes. And for God’s sake, wait for the reply. Listen. Give your time.

And for those who feel overwhelmed by it all, talk about it. Tell someone. And pray. Look up to Him. He sees you.

Is there life after Covid? You’d better believe there is!

In the United States they have started un-mandating masks.  Vaccines have rolled out at a speed unforeseen even by the most optimistic. They even have million dollar lotteries to entice the reluctant population. The US should achieve herd immunity pretty soon, especially if the rabid conspiracy theorists finally consent to get the jab.

There are still several hot spots in the globe.  Unfortunately, we are in that miserable list. What will it take to finally get us off? They say the best vaccine is the one available.  Get in line. Please.

I believe this pandemic nightmare will end.  I pray soon.

Until then, I guess we will continue to mask up and stay home. Thank God for the new technology that keeps me in touch with my “barangay”.  There is nothing like family to keep you sane.

Whatever we do, we must look ahead. It’s time to make plans. Yes, in spite of it all.  Let’s get ready for the countless surprises, the amazing changes that await us when this is all over. I can hardly wait. I can almost taste it. I have this sense of expectation, of hope; a throbbing excitement in my heart that tells me to keep going, that joy is just around the bend.

In the meantime, I have resumed doing sitting Tai chi. I read. I listen to music. I chat with friends. And no I’m not a Netflix addict.  But I am hooked on The Chosen.

Do yourselves a favor. Google it. And enjoy the beautifully portrayed scenes from the story of Jesus. It is almost like being there.

The Chosen. It is the only good news there is.  And it is food the soul. God knows how much we all need it.

Credit: The Chosen/YouTube

Read more:

Biden inaugural: I ached to hear words that spoke to the soul

Wait for the dawn of a new day—can we do that?

I want my Christmas—now!

About author


She was once a journalist with Manila Chronicle, a book author. She is a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother whose wisdom and graceful writing style many readers continue to enjoy.

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