It’s week four of community quarantine and I am itching to go out. The government just announced a two-week extension of this lockdown and I feel like I’m gonna go crazy if I just have to live within the same four walls for another two weeks without stepping outside the gate of my house.
I’m good at quarantining myself. I’m way better than most people at it. When the government announced that it was putting the entire island of Luzon under lockdown almost four weeks ago, I was chill as fuck. In fact, I was raring to get started.
Stay at home? Keep away from other people? Isolate yourself from the rest of the world? I am a gold-medal champion at that! I’m an Olympic winner at quarantine. I even wrote an annoyingly cheerful post for the poor extroverts out there who have no idea how to entertain themselves while at home alone. Two weeks is chickenshit.
But we’re on the fourth week now and my feet are itching to take the short 10-minute walk to my mom’s house. And if I, a self-proclaimed champion in quarantine, is starting to go crazy at the thought of another two weeks and possibly more of the same sameness of it all, everyone else must’ve gone insane and eaten their hair a few weeks ago.
What to do, what to do? Even if I did go out of the house to distract myself, there’d be nowhere to go and no means to go there anyway. And even if I did find a way to distract myself, I will still have to come face to face with whatever it is I’m trying to run away from at the moment.
See, I hate to break it to you (or not), but this pandemic isn’t just about a virus gone rogue. Some noisy people on the Internet think all we need is a new person at the head of government and a few well-organized medical systems in place, and voila, everything will be good again.
Uh, no, sorry, but that’s not how hitting rock bottom works. Because that’s what this is all about. This pandemic is the equivalent of whatever unfortunate event that happens in your life that turns everything upside down, until you can no longer take the topsy-turvy and head straight for rock bottom.
It’s the global equivalent of me suddenly losing my dad—who was then the only source of certainty and stability in my life—even when I thought he was going to live to a hundred years old.
We all go through something similar in our personal lives. Yours could be the sudden death of a person you love, like it was mine. It could be getting fired. It could be your business blowing up in your face. It could be getting jilted by a lover, over and over and, painfully, over again again. (This happened to me too, but I refused to pay attention to the lessons it brought.) It could be losing a part of your physical body. It could be breaking your blood ties with your family—the very people you think you’re not supposed to break up with. Or it could just be the daily torture you put yourself through living your life with no passion, no excitement, no anything to look forward to.
Take any of that, or all of that if you’re brave, and magnify that a million billion times on a global scale. That’s what this pandemic is all about. The death of a loved one isn’t just about the loss of the physical body. It’s followed by years, even decades, of grieving, reflecting, searching for reasons why these things happen in our lives and what we’re supposed to do with them. And, often, if you’re courageous enough, it’s starting over from scratch because what else is there to do?
So too is this pandemic not just about the virus, or the things that governments do to fight it. It’s also about grieving, reflecting, and searching for the reasons why this pandemic is happening and what we as a people are supposed to do with these reasons. And, if we’re courageous enough, it’s also about starting over from scratch—because the social, political, and economic systems we’ve put in place are too flimsy to see this through.
So many people in lockdown are sitting on their asses hoping for things to pass so that life could go back to normal again. Don’t you get it? Life will never go back to normal again. Whether or not the pandemic ends in two months or two years, things will never be the same again.
How could things be the same again when all the hidden ills of this society we’ve built have been laid out in the open for us to come face to face with? The brutal ways we treat Mother Nature. The stark inequalities between the rich and poor. The incompetence and corruption of the people we hired supposedly to be our leaders. And our own foolishness for thinking these people could lead the way.
But also, all our own hidden ills we’ve buried deep within ourselves are starting to come to the surface. That’s why you’re starting to get sick of quarantine. After you’ve grown tired of Tiktok and Netflix and quarreling with people a little bit on social media, you start to realize there’s really not much else to do to distract yourself from the fears that are demanding for you to pay attention.
It’s the nasty, uncomfortable things about yourself you refuse to acknowledge. The fears you have about losing control of your finances when the world economy collapses. The uselessness you feel just staying at home when others are braving the streets to go to the hospitals and take care of the sick. The creeping realization that you really have no idea what’s going to happen next and that there’s no government or employer who’s going to save you in case the world implodes in on itself. And, of course, all the insecurities that have always been there even before someone ate bat soup and shut the world down.
Unless you find the courage to confront these things now, life will simply keep slapping you in the face with opportunity after opportunity to learn the lessons you refuse to learn. You can keep distracting yourself with Tiktok and Netflix, but life will find a way to force you to acknowledge all the ugly feelings you keep shoving under the rug.
And make no mistake about it, life has begun slapping us in the collective face with the lessons we need to learn. And it’s not gonna stop until we step the fuck up and take responsibility for all the things we’ve done, the words we’ve said, the feelings we’ve felt, and this world we have all created.
This pandemic will pass, as does everything else. But if we insist on taking things back to the way they were before—you know, governments ruled by big businesses, big businesses fucking the people over, and people being led to believe they have no freedom to choose—then expect life to come back at us wtih bigger, scarier shit to get us to wake up. Not to frighten you or anything, but that’s how it works. Life will come at you harder the harder you try to ignore its call.
Whether or not we listen is our choice. It has always been our choice. We can choose to ignore it for the sake of going back to a normal that is no longer there. Or we can choose to finally stop running away from the scary things we have created for ourselves.
How about it?
Will you keep distracting yourself with videos of lip-syncing strangers who aren’t even that good anyway?
Or will you find the strength to stop doing all those things you don’t like doing so you can finally dig into your inner muck and stay there until you no longer feel bad about having some muck in the first place?
The first brings a sense of normalcy into the world. That’s what’s you’ve been doing most of your life—distracting yourself with inconsequential things and activities because then you’d have to face yourself.
The second is what frees you and, consequently, everyone else. But first, it will cut you. It will hurt you. And then it will heal you and release you and help you realize that, even with all those chains, you were never tethered to anything in the first place.
Remember, the coronavirus may die, but God always finds a way to get us to listen. One way or another, in this lifetime or the next, God will get us to listen. And the sooner we do, the sooner we can all start to heal ourselves.