TWO weeks ago, everyone marked a whole year since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and the world went into varying degrees of lockdown. At around that time, I was chatting with my best friend who is based in Madrid, and she said they were in the middle of their fourth surge. For the first time in 25 years, she and her family will not be able to go on Easter holiday to their favorite resort on a sun-drenched beach in Cadiz as travel to and from certain areas (and in most of the world) is prohibited at this time. Nevertheless, she still welcomes the break. Everyone is feeling the burnout from dealing with one pandemic year—with the end still nowhere in sight.
Here in the Philippines, concerns about the pandemic are hitting hard on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to a recent report on Rappler, unemployment is at 8.7 percent (a slight improvement over October 2020), while underemployment (employed but needing additional work to increase the ability to meet their needs) increased from 14 percent to 17.1 percent. What this means is that out of the 45.2 million Filipinos in the labor force, 41.2 million are currently employed. Roughly four million are wondering how they are going to feed themselves and their families.
At the beginning of March 2021, in an effort to help jumpstart the economy, travel restrictions around the country were relaxed. Baguio’s LGU did away with the required PCR and antigen testing for a few short weeks. Although I knew this was being done for the good of the economy, I decided to hunker down with my own family. It was like we were in ECQ again. I left the house only when I had to do the groceries, refused work that required I be indoors in a place other than my home (I thank God every day that I have this privilege). We decided not to reopen our guest space, as it is located inside our home. As we saw the daily reported cases rise, first to over 3,000, and then a few short days after to 7,999, and as of this writing to 9,838, we wondered if there would be some kind of response. My husband and I heaved a sigh of relief as the required antigen testing was put back into place a few days ago.
The backlash, however, was swift. Some of my fellow Airbnb hosts reported cancellations because the cost of antigen testing (even at a subsidized PHP500 for tourists) was prohibitive, especially if you are a family of five or more. The brief heyday restaurant owners enjoyed during the two or three weeks without required testing to enter the city declined once again with the re-installment of the testing. Two steps forward, cha-cha-cha, then two steps back, it seems. It’s hard to know what to value. Economy or safety? Freedom to move around, or freedom from infection?
Frontliners (medical personnel and those offering essential services), the elderly, and those with comorbidities are now receiving vaccinations against Covid-19. But because of difficulty in acquiring the vaccine, it will still take a long while before we reach “herd immunity” levels.
The constant back and forth, the cycle of hoping and managing expectations and hoping again, is exhausting. No wonder many are feeling some form of burnout. Even those who have employment are having difficulty meeting deadlines, achieving normal performance levels, trying to manage their feelings when the present is in flux, and the future is hidden in a nebulous haze.
The other night, my Assumption high school batchmates and I (ACHS ’91) had a Zoom meeting to discuss our outreach program for our Pearl Homecoming. Our theme since our silver homecoming has been “Radical Relevance”. Aside from raising funds for Assumption schools around the Philippines, we will be coming up with programs for parents and children on how to not just survive, but thrive during these uncertain times. Having said that, survival is a real issue in certain areas, especially NCR. Discipline is lacking in following safety protocols. Parents are too busy working or looking for work to properly look after their children. Children and teenagers lack understanding of the impact of their actions.
My input in the lively discussion about values and concepts and man-on-the-street anecdotes was basically what I tell anyone who will listen: it all starts with the radical love of self. For when you value yourself as a soul, a divine spark from God, and you are able to see other people as fellow expressions of God’s energy on earth, then all this talk of values and concepts of mindfulness and discipline will have some sort of coherence. All these actions geared towards our highest and best, and for the highest and best of others, will hopefully make sense. So many of us have gotten used to being told that we are worthless, we are nothing, our lives mean nothing, our efforts are futile. Why should people care to follow the rules when nobody has taught them that they are all worth saving?
We can begin with the words we say and use each day. Words are so powerful that they can change the crystalline structure of water. Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto discovered this when he taped a variety of words on samples of both healthy and unclean water, and then froze the samples so he could study the crystal structure. He discovered that words and phrases like “I love you” and “thank you” had the power to transform water into beautiful crystal structures (the prettier the crystal, the healthier the water). Even water that was taken from canals or put in a microwave oven (their structure is absolutely destroyed by microwave) was repaired and transformed into beautiful crystal structures by these positive words. On the other hand, the water samples that had words like “hate” and “kill” on them showed damaged or uneven crystal structures. Our words carry ideas, and ideas are thoughts, and our thoughts give off an energy, a vibration. We are constantly sending out vibrations to the world, starting with our own bodies, our own cells. We are, after all, 70 percent water.
Louise Hay was a pioneer of the self-help movement, and she healed herself and others with the use of affirmations. In a pinch, she once said, “Tell yourself ‘I love and approve of myself’ several times each morning, maybe while you’re looking at yourself in the mirror. It will feel ridiculous at first. Your mind and body, which may be used to a majority of the 60,000 thoughts you think every day as being negative, may rebel at this new directive. It takes time to rewire your brain, to teach it a new way of being, to reconnect the concept of “I” with “lovable”, “I am loved unconditionally”, “I am worthy of love just by virtue of my existence”. But it can help you because it is the truth. And the truth can heal you. Reaching for a thought that is closer to the truth of who you are, closer to spiritual truth, can literally set you free.
Empowerment, in the end, is about realizing that you have spiritual power, in that you have a choice. You have the power to choose your state by choosing your thoughts. Empowerment is realizing that you have a choice to make and that not making a choice is also a choice. You can choose who or what to put your focus and attention on, and who or what to ignore and avoid. You can choose to begin to notice the thoughts in your head, and ask yourself, is that really true? If the thought makes you feel small and constricted, this thought is probably fear-based and not aligned with spiritual truth. If the thought makes you feel expansive and opens your heart, then you are going in the right direction. Keep reaching for a better thought, and better thought, and a better one, until you embrace and love your life.
This is the essence of self-care. No amount of aromatherapy and two-hour massages or munching on organic vegetables can teach you that you are lovable. But if you engage in your self-care rituals and practices, knowing that your goal is to embody the truth of who you are, then these practices will definitely have a positive effect. When you learn to switch off from “mainstream programming” and instead take charge of the broadcaster in your head, then you have a chance to change the vibration that you are and that you’re sending to the planet.
In the beginning was the word, says the Bible. The word was so powerful, that it created the world that we now know. And that’s how it has to start there, in your heart. You are a complicated, multilayered, and multidimensional being, and every wonderful cell and atom in your body came from the energy of Creation. Yes, you are a child of the Creator, and Life loves you.