For the most part of this year, we were forced to stay indoors with nothing but time. Lots of it. Time to catch up on our sleeping schedule, time to binge-watch Netflix on the couch while munching chips and drinking soda, time to TikTok or bake cupcakes and cook meals, time to bond with our family, time to learn new musical instruments, time to catch up on our readings. At least only, in the beginning, when we were still burning with hope. But as time goes by, when we realized that the quarantine might go on for longer than we first expected, it started to wear us out.
It’s a known fact that being sedentary for the most part of the day impacts our mental health as much as our physical. We get moody, gloomy, and irritable; we even start to notice the people we share the same roof with are becoming annoying day by day. Imagine Jack Torrance isolated in the Overlook Hotel with his wife and kid in The Shining. We got nothing but time to be miserable; to worry about our health and become anxious about our future.
So, what do we do about it? We pile ourselves with more distractions upon distractions to prevent ourselves from becoming a real-life Jack Torrance. Suddenly, you find yourself downloading meditation apps on your phone, breathing your way to much needed inner peace. You become a certified Plantito/Plantita (a Filipino coined term for someone who is intensely dedicated to owning and taking care of a ridiculous number of indoor or outdoor plants). You start following a 2-week core workout challenge on YouTube, hoping to have impressively toned abs within an unbelievably short period of time.
You do almost literally everything just to feel some sense of normalcy. And you know what? That’s totally okay. No one is questioning you for doing these new things you’ve never done before. You may feel embarrassed but no one is judging you for doing some crazy workout routines no matter how funny you think you look. And even now that international borders are opening up, business establishments are doing their best to recover, and as we slowly start to go back to our normal routines pre-COVID, we are still in the middle of a global pandemic.
I always tell myself lately that I want some respite from hearing the words pandemic, Covid-19, or anything related to it. I’ve been finding myself not watching the news on the TV and avoiding reading political and COVID-related articles on the internet. I filter out all the information I’m getting. If I didn’t have to, I didn’t even want to hear anything about it, at all. But I can’t just shut news organizations out and run from the entire world all the time. Besides, where else could I go? That’s counterproductive. I can’t change the world I’m living in. I can’t boss people around to stop talking about it. But what I can do is to change my perspective towards it.
This is going to sound pretentious but I think I’ve learned the best lesson I could ever learn so far from my entire existence (which I wish I learned a lot earlier). I have no control of changing anything external of my being, but I have the full capacity of controlling my own thoughts and everything that’s going on in my head. I can always choose to get offended, hurt, or affected by certain people and circumstances. But then again, I can always choose not to. And knowing the fact that I can change the narrative in my head is worth all the trouble this entire situation is causing if I’m going to benefit from it for the rest of my life.
There’s enough stress going around these days. People talk. They choose to be happy, idiotic, express their opinion. They choose to get angry, be judgmental, and miserable. After all, like you and me, they’re only doing what they have to do to cope. Be gentle. Be kind. Educate, not shun, and humiliate people for not knowing better. We always have tons of options.
The question is, what would you choose?