Commentary

What have we become?

There are lonely people out there who just need to hear another voice

MY CHAIR ROCKS

I wish I were the bearer of good news. Then I would happily announce that the virus is gone and that we, in unrestrained delight, can now resume our interrupted lives.

But no such luck.  COVID-19 persists. The Delta variant is still with us. Will it ever go away?

In the meantime, anxiety has risen and patience is at an all-time low. Frustration has overtaken fear. There is grief all around.

For me personally, it all adds up to almost 19 months confined to my casita; with outings, in moments of desperation, with a quick drive-by for a glimpse of my children and grandkids who live in the neighborhood.

I am not complaining. At least I get to do that. Here in my protected comfortable perch, I lack nothing—except of course the company of the people I love. Frankly I sometimes feel numb, as if I was living in suspended animation. It is not that I don’t care. It just has been too long.

I know I am more fortunate than most. And I thank God who faithfully wakes me up every morning and gives me the strength and energy to go about my day with a sense of purpose.

I find comfort reaching out to friends and family, online of course. Someone could be hurting. Maybe I can help? There are lonely people out there who just need to hear another voice asking how they are, even if only virtually. It matters.

My nagging concern is no different from anyone else’s in my age group.  I call us ‘the vanishing breed’ 

My nagging concern is no different from anyone else’s in my age group.  I call us “the vanishing breed.”  Almost all of us are fully vaccinated. And although not 100 percent immune, we have an extra layer of protection.

But how do we keep our minds occupied and productive?  Whatever it was that kept us busy in that “other life” has now ceased to be.  Our regular lunches out with friends are now dangerous and a thing of the past.

So how can we stay engaged, involved?

These long periods of isolation and disconnection are bound to take a toll on our mental as well as physical wellbeing. I shudder at the thought that one day my mind may refuse to respond.

As much as I have resented how today’s new technology has affected many of our personal relationships, I must accept that without all the gadgets, we would be in a desolate limbo.

And yet there’s a part of me that wishes we were back in the days of snail mail, of the rotary dial telephone, the annoying sound of a busy signal and having to contend with a nosy party line. I miss the telegram, although it was not your most eloquent way to send messages.

Admittedly, we would not be as well informed (or misinformed?) as we are today.  But indulge me as I quietly reminisce about those halcyon days “before the war.”

During those four troubled years, we learned to do without

World War II turned our lives upside down, pretty much the same way this pandemic has done. Like today, we were on our knees praying for it to end. I remember longing to wake up to just one normal morning, without the wailing of an air raid siren.

I missed going to school with cousins in a crowded car, vacations at the beach, meeting Papa at the dock, buying our favorite imported candies at El Canal de Suez, and all the wonderful things we had so taken for granted.

During those four troubled years, we learned to do without.  Our old clothes were repaired, hand-me-downs became a treat, worn out shoes were re-soled, and we learned to wear bakya. Munggo and fried fish became our staples for lunch and dinner. But we never went hungry.

We knew we were better off than the people who roamed the streets in the middle of the night with growling stomachs, begging for scraps or looking for trashcans to scavenge.

And in the middle of scarcity and lack, we discovered there was real joy in sharing.

In spite of the paralyzing fear of the Occupation, we were quite content. Even our nightly blackouts were bearable. Being with family made all the difference. It still does today.

During the war we stayed home a lot. I remember my spinster grandaunt spent long hours by the window with a faraway look in her eyes.  I often wondered what she thought about. Maybe she was seeking refuge in her memories to help her deal with this period of her life she couldn’t understand. She prayed her novenas. Once in a while I saw her wipe away a tear.

These days I get a little weepy, too.  And I look forward to quiet time, when I have long conversations with God. It is the only thing that calms my soul.

Getting out of your ‘safe bubble’ is tantamount to daring an enemy sniper to take a shot at you

The COVID-19 scenario presents similar painful constraints. Getting out of your “safe bubble” for any “non-essential” adventure is tantamount to daring an enemy sniper to take a shot at you, and hoping he misses. We have to stay indoors. Visitors are not allowed. We must wear masks. Meetings, worship, concerts, buying and selling are all Zoomed online.

If the internet falters, we panic. God forbid there’s a brownout! Children have been known to leave home in search of Wi-Fi.

There are countless reports from psychology experts about internet addiction. I recently came across an article that challenged the reader to redeem the precious time he/she squanders aimlessly browsing the Internet.

It spoke directly to me.

I must confess that since this pandemic, the internet has become my irresistible pastime, my escape.

I catch up on the news, real and fake. I do grocery shopping. Spider Solitaire entertains me.  I play trivia quizzes. I watch people cook. I listen to podcasts on life and living. And then there’s Netflix.

It is difficult not to linger on the current congressional hearings. But they affect my blood pressure. For a change of pace, there’s TikTok.

Surfing the net, I also see stories that make me wonder what the world has come to.  Scenes of total insanity in planes, trains, and shopping malls in the United States are not at all funny to watch. The F-bomb is no longer shocking. It is not even bleeped anymore. Racism is in full sway.

Why is there is so much anger? Where does all the hate come from?

On the other hand, we have seen acts of extraordinary generosity and kindness from people who, seeing the need and suffering out there, respond without hesitation.  It touches the heart to see such selfless service from our front-liners here at home and around the world. These are the heroes of our times. And they give us a glimmer of light in our present darkness.

We can’t remain “on hold” forever. There is a future up ahead, no matter how uncertain. It is almost the end of another year.  We must have learned something of value during this god-awful time.

Despite the lockdowns, I pray we have grown. In the middle of the fear and stress, we have been given precious time and the awesome privilege to discover what we are all about. More importantly, we have been gifted with this incredible opportunity to change.

An old friend texted to say that she has lately been behaving like a heartless neurotic, short-tempered and angry at the smallest provocation. I can relate.  Maybe our patience has given way to a sense of helplessness in the face of this invisible adversary.

She concluded: I don’t like myself too much these days.

Personally, I think I have become a skeptic.

I am suddenly wary, suspicious. My friend tells me it shows wisdom. I don’t know about that.

Sometimes I wish I were naïve. I want to once again believe in the innate goodness of people. I want to trust that not everyone has sold out.

Why is this happening?

Are we training up our children according to the Good Book, or are we letting them grow like weeds?

Do we bother to inquire why some people are downright rude and mean? Could they be fighting demons of their own?

And where have our sensitivities gone? Isn’t it strange how today a person who breaches all known limits of decency gets away with it? How someone publicly and shamelessly spews obscenities, and we laugh?

I ask again, what have we become?

We are not stupid.  We all know when a person does something that is not right. We feel anger. But we choose to look the other way. We are too tired to fight.

And so we watch, seething, but silent.

Forgive me for asking: Have we become part of the tyranny and decadence that prevails all around us today?

No? Let’s hurry then.  We must change the status quo. Because if this is the “new normal,” I want no part of it.

About author

Articles

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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