Saturday, June 6, 2020

The New Normal: Of Masks and Social Distancing

A co-pilgrim once shared that their government opened up a place for them to jog while on quarantine. He said the ennui was suffocating and it was refreshing to see the sunset and walk by the beachside to breathe clean air.

Flashback to the second week of March at work, all of the conferences scheduled this year, including our Annual Convention, were postponed. Our head told us to "chill" for a week while we awaited news. 

These two and a half months were far from relaxing. We had to stay home together while the "curve is being flattened," and while a vaccine is being developed against COVID-19. 

Work from home was instilled. At first, I hesitated to stay in the house but then we were forced to. The house which we formerly referred to as a "hotel" was gradually transformed into a real home. I developed a friendship with my older sister. The family started eating together... there was more time for conversations... more caring... more praying together.

I realized that what they called a "new normal" was something I have been living by all these years after I left the walls: The mask, the social distancing and handwashing.  I wasn't fighting against a deadly virus... I was isolating myself.

I have been wearing a mask before the pandemic due to frequent cold virus infection. Then I realized how convenient it was to hide my face from people so I kept wearing it even without colds. It prevented them from seeing my reactions and at the same time, it kept them away from me. It shielded me from being recognized and from shame. But doing all these defeated the purpose for which masks were invented.

I distanced myself from people, dissolved groups I participated in, blocked and deactivated social media accounts... but even before that, I was fond of hibernating when things get rough and the pain of relating was unbearable. Counting followers and their likes became an unreasonable metrics to gauge my self-worth and I just cannot keep up with it.

It was easier to point the faults to others. I became like this because of this and that."Handwashing" is a pleasant term for lack of accountability. I'd often confess this as a sin. The accusing finger never points back at me.

Back then, it was all voluntarily done [self-isolation], I admit to that. But things turned around after I have encountered Christ in my Holy Land pilgrimage. God did not only gifted me with memories but also sent me back to my country with a friend who'd journey with me through my personal crisis and the pandemic along with my twin heart. These were angels without wings.

My friend imbued a life of humility and simplicity... I was, on the other hand,  proud and complicated. 

She delicately pulled me out of my box and showed me different perspectives in looking at things. She showed me that life need not be mortified but BE ENJOYED contrary to what I thought holiness was. She challenged everything I "knew" of God. 

What was the primary but most difficult task of all? 
Loving myself.

She  motivated me to eat. People might find it funny, but listening to Fr. dela Rosa's homily on Pentecost Sunday, he said that the Holy Spirit infuses "breath" (hininga) and "zeal" (gana). 

 "Para kanino ka bumabangon?" 
(Who/What gets you out of bed in the morning?)

She told me that the Lord always alludes "food" to His Words --- bread and wine, appetite, fishes and loaves. And those without "zeal" for eating are the dying. My friend found me at that state, but when she showed me the way, I started choosing JOY every single day. 

She encouraged me to speak up and write everyday--- unreservedly... directly without constraints... without judgment and to forgive myself daily. 

She told me to look back at my past and to re-create the 'good memories' I can bring with me to the present. My mistakes have served their purpose and God's mercy awaits me. I began to search my albums and looked at my old photos which I have never done since I came back home. Her words attracted old friends who suddenly started sending me messages and rebuilt bridges I have burnt a long time ago.

She revived the talents God gave me and introduced different platforms to share them to others.

I learned to laugh at myself and my mistakes because of her.  In humility, she told me to acknowledge my faults and accept that I am not perfect, only God is.

But despite all the love and confidence she showed me, I was filled with insecurities. I have thrown away most friendships I have known... 

My twin heart shared points to deal with them.

In one of my prayers, I heard the Lord telling me to "remember WHO I AM."

You Speak by Audrey Assad

quote by Henri Nouwen
Looking at my life again, I reckoned that I have not really been running away...  I took the journey outside myself and started looking for my value someplace else... just like the prodigal son... 

only, to find myself back home...
where my heart is... where God... where Love abides.

These quarantine days, the Lord gave me time to RE-LEARN things in their proper perspective.

The fight is against a virus... 
against apathy...
against self-isolation... 
this is my NEW normal.