Columns Inside Voices

Inside Voices: The Unexpected Silver Lining

When a creature of habit turns into a creature of anxiety, you look for the upsides to give you some sort of relief and comfort

By MAGGIE F. FRANCISCO

Two months ago, my life as a 33-year-old careerwoman was going pretty well. Work was filled with meetings, photo shoots, product launches, and digital campaigns. I was preparing to attend a summer fitness program starting in March. I booked my ticket to Siargao as a post-birthday solo trip in April. But in one fell swoop, everything changed.

COVID-19 — Lady Corona, as I would now like to call her — has made its presence felt around the world in a way no one was prepared for, forcing the hand of governments to take extraordinary measures to contain the disease. Schools and universities closed down, malls and other “non-essential” establishments had to temporarily cease operations, restaurants and cafés are only allowed to take orders for takeout or delivery, and people have been ordered to stay at home — all in the hopes of slowing down the spread of this virus.

To my closest friends, I am notoriously known as a creature of habit. Wake up, meditate, drink coffee, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, go to work, power through, eat dinner, practice yoga, go home, freshen up, sleep. Lady Corona’s emergence has radically changed this routine; lately I’ve been feeling like I’m living in some alternate universe.

And yet every morning when I wake up, I realize this is my new reality.

On the upside, work continues. Working in the digital space has not slowed down. If anything, I’ve been working longer hours at home because, I just keep thinking, when this quarantine is lifted, I don’t want to have to deal with stuff piling up when we resume work at the office. 

As for the pitfalls? Since the quarantine, I have only been outside our condominium a total of four times. All those times, I’ve gone out only to run errands. Re-stock on bathroom, laundry, and kitchen essentials, make sure there’s enough food in the refrigerator for me and my family, as well as enough wet and dry food for my cat, and withdraw money in case of an emergency.

Armed with my Home Quarantine Pass (that I slipped inside a plastic passbook cover because I fear it might get torn up or folded), I would walk into the eerily quiet streets of our city. What used to be filled with tricycles, jeeps, and buses at all times of the day are now deserted. Street vendors are nowhere to be found. A handful of people are out and about, carrying two, even three big ecobags filled with what I could only surmise as everything they would need to last them a few more weeks. These are the scenes that I haven’t witnessed in a long time. 

Otherwise, the only view I have of the outside world is from our unit’s balcony, where I look at our plants and savor some peace and quiet, or when I go down to the condominium’s parking area at least twice a day to enjoy the surprisingly cool breeze.

Oh, do I miss my old routine.

I miss going to my yoga studio and being with my teachers and classmates to attend a class. Going to the park every weekend. Seeing my hairstylist who, for the past six years, has been making sure my locks are always in good condition. Getting together with my cousins for our monthly dinner dates. Going to church with my family every Saturday for anticipated mass. Taking my parents out every Sunday for afternoon snacks and coffee. I miss them all. 

In a time when everything in the world has seemed to stop, I realize that life still moves on. Days may be slower, maybe longer, but they move along. Whether we realize it sooner or later, we may find an unexpected silver lining in all of this.

Too often, we get so caught up in the mundane details of our lives that we forget to see the wonder in what we have, in the loves and friendships we find in our lives. We are so busy with our daily jobs, our academic load, our daily routines, that we forget to see the miracles around us. Weighed down by our everyday lives, we forget that in this world of rent, bills, and jobs, people may — through a series of coincidences — meet, become friends, find the kind of solace and comfort in each other. That is what human connection is about.

The silver lining may manifest differently for different people, but it should and it will. To some it may be a lesson, to others an epiphany. To me, it may very well be a sobering appreciation of every day things, like running into people. How I miss that! Whether you are reading this on your phone, your laptop, or your tablet, I hope to bump into you back in the real world real soon. 

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