COVID-19 and Resolving an Existential Crisis

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

celine murillo
Like always, bird songs – wild and domesticated – pour into the late afternoon. The March sky is exactly how it should be, cloudless and crisp and ever so bright. Here, in my quiet piece of this lake town, it is easy to pretend like all was well.

Such a beautiful day,” I tell my husband as I stand by the doorway to our small balcony, taking in the spotless vault of gentle blue.

Too bad we can’t go out.”

The moment those words came out of my mouth, the reality of it all hit me.

For the past days, I’ve been bogged down in difficult thoughts and emotions. I may handle it better now, but – make no mistake – my anxiety is through the roof. I almost passed out from anger and fear when the enhanced community quarantine for the entirety of Luzon was announced. But to be honest, this whole social distancing thing wasn’t much of a disruption of my daily normal life. I work at home, and I like staying at home. Yet somehow this feels different, stifling – as if one of my human rights has been stepped on. It’s one thing to choose not to go outside; it’s another to be mandated.

I miss the mountains terribly, but, boy, how lucky I am to have the time and energy to worry about recreation.

I am not part of the one-percent, but, indeed, I come from a place of privilege. I lay on my couch typing this on my phone, connected to the Internet, with food in the fridge that could last two weeks, and a job that could sustain me notwithstanding the circumstances. My basic needs (and, in fact, more) are met. I only have my millennial sensibilities and woes to worry about. As far as high horses go, my thoroughbred can give the 10B health budget cut a run for its money.

Meanwhile, thousands of my fellowmen have no choice but to continue to go to work – because “No Work, No Pay”. Minimum wage and informal workers, who enjoy neither security of tenure nor hazard or overtime compensation, endure being touted as “hardheaded motherfuckers” simply because – through no fault of their own, mind you – they have to live paycheck to paycheck. They are left to stand on the streets, succumbing to long, risky, soul-crushing walks to and from work, on account of mass public transportation – which is in a terrible state to begin with – being suspended. And that’s if they don’t get arrested for not staying at home.

Don’t get me started on the homeless. Just don’t. We’ll be here all day.

I am all for putting this pandemic to an end (well, not really – but more on that later). I am all for abiding the law. What I’m not down with is people saying “sumunod ka na lang” when this government essentially puts us all into lockdown as if willy-nilly. I mean, my god: (1) giving us piecemeal information as if the whole country is a big sari-sari store, (2) agencies playing Sexbomb and laban-bawi-ing their way into each statement (y’all need to make a group chat), and (3) out-of-touch elitist remarks on the plight of the working class.

And oh, our frontliners, and other essential personnel – delivery guys, food preppers, salespeople, etc. – are also none the better.

They demanded contingency plans – shuttles at the very least – and the resounding response? “That’s your problem now.”

The DOH said to religiously wash our hands – off dirt though, not off accountability.

So listen up, I will obey (and am obeying) the imposed quarantine, but we deserve better. To borrow the words of a friend: Law-abiding ako pero hindi ako tatanga-tanga.

Now, I am surprised at how #triggered I am by all this. The fact that I am seething with rage from these layers of injustice is shocking – no, really. Eversince the outbreak, I’ve been confiding in some friends about how happy I am at the thought that Nature is seemingly retaliating. I am delighted by the inventive and ingenious ways She’s weeding out the population. I know I’m starting to sound like Thanos, but we humans – without exception – are the worst. This planet will be better off without us.

With this global pandemic, the planet has the opportunity to rest. Industries – the most polluting ones, especially – have grounded to a stop. To us humans, this is a worldwide disaster. To Nature, it’s just Her immune system on overdrive. She’s detoxifying. We’re toxic is what I’m saying. We’re the real virus. And, yes, the decrease in emissions might eventually prove for the worse, but that would be no surprise at all because – you got it – we humans are the worst.

For all the crap we’ve given and giving – and will give – this world? God knows we deserve every single ounce of ecological wrath – every single nasty bit of it. It’s good old-fashioned Karma, bitches. But it turns out I can hope for the eradication of humanity while still having none of this shitty government incompetence and systemic oppression. I take great offense in other people causing other people harm. Meaning: if you die from the virus, I shrug. But if you die from wishy-washy government policies and negligence, I will not stand down. I realize, in my book, only Mother Nature has the right to punish us – no one else.

Oh wow.

This went into a whole different way than I expected. I set out intending to write a sappy, maudlin account of the quarantine and how it’s affecting my well-being, causing a massive rift in my beliefs. But there we are. And hey, in fairness, everything’s clearer now. Crisis resolved!

So now that’s over and done, and since we’re already here, let me share some privileged bourgeois ways to ride this quarantine out.

1. Establish a strong morning routine
Try not to sleep in so much. Wake up early then sit down and have a proper breakfast. Drink coffee. Eat your instant noodles, and survive the virus but die from UTI – Kidding! Eat your veggies and fruits, gaddamit! There’s still power, you can still cook! Also, if you’re working from home, getting out of your pajamas really helps.

2. Move.
Before you hunker down for a day of Netflix, sneak in some physical workout. There are some great exercise videos on YouTube. Yoga. Crossfit. Cardio. There are tons of it on there. The release of happy hormones afterward will do you wonders. I personally subscribe to this and this.

3. Meditate
I tell my friends: protect your energy just as well as your body. These are stressful times obviously, but you can either be an emotional mess or a point of calm and ease for your loved ones. The latter sounds more dignified, doesn’t it? So spend a few minutes daily to center and remind yourself of what’s important. Download InsightTimer – it’s the best. 

4. Consume information mindfully
Social media is a treacherous place. Allow yourself to be informed but also recognize when you’re being pulled into a toxic vortex of negativity. Share uplifting news and concrete solutions but not without fact-checking articles first. We must also demand accountability from the government but let us avoid engaging in word wars with idiots. Use your wisdom to decide when to leave trolls on read and say “mga ulul”.

5. Entertain yourself
Slide in and out of the sphere so you may recharge. Books? Gardening? Music? Baking? Porn – who am I to judge? Choose your weapon. Here’s a list of travel shows on Netflix to binge on, and a Coronavirus Quarantine Playlist for good measure. Protect your energy!
what to do coronavirus quarantine

6. Check in with your loved ones
We need a community – or a reasonable virtual facsimile – and a sense of belongingness more than ever. Pop in and say hello to your family and friends from time to time. Digitally, of course. Lots of avenues to do so. This simple act reminds us that we’re capable of compassion. And if there’s one thing – apart from human extinction – that will save this world, it’s compassion. That and gratitude.

7. Find ways to help
If you are fortunate to have the choice to stay at home, then stay at home! That’s already a huge contribution. Get your fragile, potential-plague-carrying body off the streets and we’re one step closer to getting our lives back. You can also donate to efforts that’ll help our frontliners – like this bike drive. And please sign this petition demanding the Department of Labor and Employment to extend a 10k cash aide ASAP to every contractual and informal worker.  This Facebook group where people are brainstorming on how to help is also a good place to hang out in. 

Well, that’s it. That’s the post.

Stay safe and well! Namaste.

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