This photo was taken the first few days into the lockdown declared by the national government. I am back in the peace of the very first place I called home (for all of 23 years until I got married and moved to the big city). I bask under a perfectly bright sun that does not quite mirror the dark times.
There I was just trying to keep it together, starting with giving myself permission to feel all of it — the fear, the worry, the anxiety, the full spectrum of what-ifs. And then also, as the days rolled by, the intermittent pockets of small mercies tucked like happy presents between all those bleak spaces — times when I was able to clutch at some joy, a happy thought, something to laugh about, no matter how fleeting.
I allowed myself to let it all flow in, and then out, mindfully trying not to label anything as good or bad. The reality of every moment in our new here and now makes all emotions valid.
So yes, I felt all of it. But I also told myself to keep breathing. And keep the love going.
The world is locked down; mankind is locked in. But strangely, in this new space where restrictions abound come some beautiful liberties. Count among the small ones languid time at your disposal (finally!), in light especially of how the years prior found us all wistfully longing for even just 30 more minutes of sleep, just one more day to add to the weekend.
There is also that freedom of waking up and taking time in the shower, and then slipping into house clothes (sundresses in my case, clothing I never quite outgrew since my toddler years), wearing them the whole day (dawn till dusk and all the way till midnight, if you must!), nowhere to go but home, with enough space within the hours to read or cook, pick up a new hobby, rediscover an old one (that had perhaps been pushed into the recesses of a distant memory by force of circumstance).
So, too, are we endlessly thankful for ancient wisdom passed down through generations, of traditional remedies and old recipes, potions and brews to fight this cold and that (it is the new adobo; everyone has a version), with commodities like ginger and garlic and honey, fresh fruits and vegetables, now all holding their weight in gold.
Then there is the work of the hands, of baking bread and nurturing gardens, the ease of farm-to-table meals. After all, food always tastes better when you go to the source. Suddenly (and wonderfully!) we are all able to assemble a homemaking/home-keeping skillset all our own. We cut flowers and put out pretty plates; make every corner neat and beautiful. It is like a balm to the weary soul, this whole bit of making things lovely, daily, as if our lives depended on it, and we do it not because we are being superficial or flimsy, but because it is one thing we can actually control in a world wounded by a virus that we can’t. Also, how absolutely liberating to know we can really live with so little!
I do not wish to gloss over or romanticize what I acknowledge by every measure as a difficult time for the world and mankind. But I do know for sure, now more than ever, that most everything in life is perspective, and how we are able to move forward is dictated by the courage of the kind of eyes we choose to see the world with.
The late, great Winston Churchill, during World War II, was believed to have said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” I try to remember that when the day is hard, assured by the truth that what we are going through now — all this — will pass. We will get through; mankind will outsmart this enemy. But that is getting ahead of the story.
For now, we must trust that if we stay with it — winging all that is beautiful and also messy, ugly, and uncomfortable about it — we will come out new. Never mind if it doesn’t always quite make sense at every moment.
Your reality is valid because it is yours. But alongside that is the responsibility to keep going, keep living. We cannot stagnate in fear. And with that knowing comes bigger freedoms — this chance to be kind to yourself. To honor your heart, do what feels right by it. It will tell you what it needs to do to survive the dark spaces.
Now is a beautiful time, too, to turn inward and look within. We have all been called back home. Back to basics. Back to gut. Back to heart. Back to simple. Back to whole. Back to God. Everything else is closed. But our lives have opened up.
It is precious, too, to guard your own peace. Because a big part of surviving this plague in one piece is also climbing out of it sane, mentally whole. So I say run — please run far, far away from emotional vampires. Switch off sometimes if you must. Go offline. It is human nature to want to be there for others, but no one can give from an empty cup. So retreat when you must, recharge, and then step out again like the sun only when your heart is full again. That is the probiotics of mentally surviving this difficult time.
What do I find most beautiful? The fact that life pursues you and there is no escaping it. And maybe, just maybe, as a matter of coping, we have to consent to what is, on the spot where you are standing, and bloom where you are planted. We navigate and make friends with both uncertainty and possibility. And, much as that will break, and stretch, and shape us, the sum of it will also allow us to discover a courage we did not even know we had.
It is wonderful how we have all shown up for each other. How the instinct to only do big things fades away in the gentle reality of having countless opportunities daily to be just as loving and thoughtful doing smaller, more personal things, starting with your own corner of the world — the household, your community, your own tender group of family and friends, every breath an act of kindness, every kindness a prayer. We are all like butterflies now, hopefully well on our way to becoming the best versions of ourselves.
And, until the world heals and is ready to make friends with mankind again, we do what we must to stay alive; we continue to show up for each other, living fully and loving much, knowing that in the fullness of God’s time, all will be beautiful yet again.