It is Day 61 of sheltering in place. Fortunately, I’ve had a job that I go to every week day that keeps me sane. I know others aren’t so lucky.
2020 was supposed to be my year. I feel like an entirely different person from the start of 2019, and for the better.
I’m more self-assured, I’ve learned to self-soothe and I give zero fucks about what most people think of me. Of course, I hold the opinions of friends and family in high esteem, but others’ perceptions of me no longer paralyze me or galvanize me to behave a certain way.
I’m just me, for better or for worse. And I like to think I’m always striving to grow and better myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes I think that’s my sole purpose, to be the best version of myself I can be while helping others along that path themselves.
Anyway, 2020 is a wash. I had so much hope for the year, and although we still have half of it left, it will look very different from what I imagined. This pandemic has everyone in a tizzy, and the selfishness (and stupidity) of others has never been more on display.
What were my hopes for 2020?
More traveling. More dating. More being my authentic self.
Well, the first two won’t be happening any time soon. But being authentic is something I can certainly continue to work on.
By “authentic,” I mean that I want to be true to my needs and desires. Growing up, I usually put others’ needs above my own, to the point that I neglected myself. And I’ve also always been wary of asking for help because the idea of being vulnerable and then being rejected was just too much to bear.
Through therapy, I’ve recognized these faults and how they negatively affect me. It’s been a long, hard slog but I’m finally recognizing when I’m inclined to downplay my needs and how to circumvent that detrimental habit. Seriously, it’s been really difficult.
But now I leave social situations when I want to, not when I think I’m expected to leave. I speak up when something bothers me. I vocalize what I want and need and directly address issues that are important to me.
It doesn’t happen every time with everyone, but it happens more often than not and I’m proud of that growth.
But where was I? Oh yes, 2020.
Now all I want to do is fly to LA to see my family again. Now that I can’t do it whenever I want, the desire to see them has doubled. I especially miss my nieces and nephews, the lights of my life.
A couple of weeks ago, my 8-year-old niece called me out-of-the-blue to video chat. It made me deliriously happy. We talked about everything from books, to baby teeth, to our shared Filipino heritage. I often worry that some of my nieces and nephews aren’t learning enough about their Filipino side because their dad is only half-Filipino and didn’t learn much about it during his own childhood.
My nieces and nephew called me again this past week via Snapchat. I think they were just bored, but it’s nice to know they are thinking of me. I try really hard to be a part of their lives even though I live 400 miles away. I want to be that adult in their lives they can reach out to when they don’t feel comfortable enough to talk to their own parents. The cool tita who lives by herself in the big city. The auntie who lives by her own rules but still sticks to her family responsibilities. I want to be the person I needed when I was young: An adult who would validate my feelings and my opinions when the rest of the world just saw me as an overly sensitive kid.
My emotional growth was stunted. I grew up too fast and never felt seen or heard. I just put my head down and focused on surviving and protecting my younger brother from all the problems I saw. I don’t want that for my nieces and nephews. I want them to just be kids and not have to worry about adult problems and relationships.
I finished a book yesterday. For the first time since this shelter-in-place started here in SF. I read “How to Be Happy” by Eleanor Davis, a series of short graphic stories full of poignancy and emotional realism. I bought it chiefly for the cover, and Ms. Davis’ reputation of course. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was left feeling a kaleidoscope of emotions. It was exactly the type of book I needed to jumpstart my reading habit. Now I’m unsure what to read next, but it will probably be another short graphic novel. They’re about all I can handle mentally/emotionally right now.
The only things I do with any routine regularity are taking care of my cat Gizmo and my jungle of indoor plants.
In some ways I care for them better than I care for myself. My cat and my plants are on strict feeding schedules, and during the week I periodically check on their growth and overall physical appearances. Can’t admit the same for myself. I’ve been letting my physical health fall by the wayside, giving in to comfort cravings and just generally overeating.
I’ll grasp at anything to feel remotely good during this pandemic. It’s a struggle.
I’m a planner. I can’t plan shit right now. I don’t know what next week will bring, let alone the next few months. I truly believe my anxiety has only been in check because of my meds; otherwise it would be manifesting more physically than it has been. I can only muster enough energy to get through work.
Outside of that, I’m fairly useless. I sleep a lot. Or I sleep very little. I practically live on my couch when I’m home. I was never much of a snacker, but that’s changed during COVID-19. I try to keep only healthy snacks around, but even those can be bad if you eat too much.
I keep hoping this all might end sooner than I think, that we can go back to “normal.” But the reality is we’ll never get back to that version of “normal,” so I might as well shore up my reserves and start moving forward.
Take better care of my body.
Take better care of my mind.
Take better care of my soul.
Operate within the uncertainty instead of futilely railing against it. Much easier said than done, but I should also remember I have a strong support system of family, friends and professional staff behind me. I’ve succeeded before. I can do it again.