Home life and the pandemic

Every morning before 7:30, I would prepare my ebook reader (or a real book), coffee, and smartphone and head out the door to spend thirty minutes under the gentle warmth of the morning sun. As the months move forward, my sun time changes to find that window when sunshine is at its most delicious. Being in a pandemic made me notice seemingly small things like counting minutes and making sure I step out at exactly the right time.

As a freelance writer, I am used to the quarantine lifestyle. I’ve made my home my fort, my gym, my entertainment center, café, church, karaoke bar, sanctuary. I’ve always made or found time for spiritually nourishing things that many 9-to-5 workers only discovered in the time of COVID. In other words, most of the tools for survival and sanity are already here. The rest can be ordered from Lazada.

But celebrations — and also grieving — can be quite challenging. Along with the rest of the world, I needed to learn how to spend holidays and “vacations” with the same people I spend every day with. I had to be comfortable about celebrating birthdays by sharing only pictures, rather than food and live laughter. And the people we’ll never see again —I know our lists are growing and we carry this heaviness around as we negotiate life in the new normal.

All of these small and big things happen in the home: drinking tea, learning a new language, ordering bread, celebrating a graduation, mourning a cousin’s death, falling in love, breaking up, closing a big business deal, getting sick, taking care of a pot of basil, and so on. When our pandemic life flashes before our eyes at the moment of death, we’d probably realize that almost all of the scenes happened inside the house.

Someone I know used to tell me all the time, “Walang mangyayari sa iyo kung palagi kang nasa loob ng bahay.” (Nothing will happen to you if you’d just stay in the house all the time.) He is probably sitting in his living room right now, eating his words.

Right after reading a couple of chapters from my book, and sipping my kapeng barako while I did that, I would pick up my phone and open the Duolingo app. I would spend less than ten minutes learning Italian, then I would open another app that’s supposed to help me eat better. (It’s called Food Trainer; check it out.) The sun wouldn’t be too hot yet at this point so there is a slim window for another activity on my phone, which is playing a game that I’ve been at for more than a year now.

I do all this right in my front yard, every morning of every day. Then I’d walk back to the house, passing by the young neem tree in a white pot, a baby snake plant, the oregano with very big leaves, the hardy ZZ plant, pothos, my bright Mayana with her purple foliage, among others. I’d turn the knob knowing that the rest of the day — but hopefully not the rest of my life — now waits to be spent behind the closing door.

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