At the start of this year, I received the perfect planner as a gift. It was a real thrill using it. Everything was on track and I loved ticking off little boxes that meant I had accomplished what I had set out to do that day, week or month. The possibilities were endless! COVID-19 was but a distant whisper in the back of our heads.
However, toward mid-February, the rumblings of COVID-19 were starting to get louder and worrisome. I began to think about how things would turn out. We started to be more cautious and avoided crowds. I took a domestic flight for work and wore a mask for the first time. I kept it on throughout the flight and wondered at one point if I was being paranoid. I brought out my planner and began to carefully reconsider some of my plans.
By March, I was in the third month of my masteral classes, when COVID-19 started to make itself felt on our shores.
I had a scheduled trip to visit suppliers and order new stocks for my furniture shop at an international fair. My youngest son was going to graduate from kindergarten and was looking forward to moving up to his kuya’s big school. My daughter was scheduled to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in November, while my middle child was excitedly planning his summer birthday trip to Cagayan de Oro with his best friends.
As for my husband, Miguel, going through his list of things to do for the year would take up too much space in this article. Suffice it to say, it was going to be a packed, fast and active year for all of us.
Before I could properly figure out what to do and how to proceed with the virus threat, COVID-19 hit home for us. Literally. Miguel was patient number 142 and even before the beginning of the enhanced community quarantine, we had already shut our doors and locked down.
Relying on faith
For all my planning, I most certainly never saw this coming.
The first night was the hardest. At that time, we hardly knew anything about the virus and experts were issuing contradicting statements. Information would change from week to week. I was not sure about anything except that I knew I had to be strong and make sure everything worked out fine for my husband and our children.
Like many Filipinos, I was born and raised in a Catholic home and had always relied on my faith to see me through difficult moments. This time was no different, other than perhaps being the most difficult time I had ever encountered. At that time, the fear was real for me. Fortunately, the bigger the problem, the more ardent faith gets.
And so, as my friend encouraged me to do, “we hunkered down, cared with all our hearts and used our smarts.” A month later, just in time for Easter Sunday and his birthday, Miguel was finally free to leave his quarantine space and celebrate another year of life. Though this was perhaps the smallest and most quiet celebration he ever had, it was perhaps the most meaningful and special as we celebrated the promise of new life.
Though Migs was fully recovered, I continued to turn to prayer to anchor us in what felt like endless drifting in the ocean. I felt a little overwhelmed by how powerless I was over my own life. There was so much going on, and so little I could do. Once again, it was faith that kept my strength up and pointed me in the right direction.
I regained a sense of purpose which permeated into all my daily activities. It made me see the challenges of lockdown parenting in a new light and learn to appreciate the time and opportunities I had to educate my children. It inspired me to commit to new responsibilities and say yes to everything that came knocking on my door, and in the process, grow beyond my comfort zone. It pushed me into action, reminding me of our endless responsibility to serve and help one another.
Gratitude and meaning
In this way, the next half of the year went by. Slowly but surely, the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, and now, here we are.
It is December and my planner has long been put aside. Truth be told, I have long since given up on filling it out. It is empty, which would make this year appear as though nothing happened.
But on the contrary, I look back and I see that the year 2020 was a full year indeed! It is full of gratitude for the small blessings that we took for granted in our previous life—blessings of good health and simply being able to breathe in deeply and fully. It is dotted with sunsets that capped off slow days spent with loved ones. It is marked with personal passion projects that fostered growth, learning and wisdom.
In between great accomplishments, I see newfound appreciation for the small joys and victories of life. It is filled to the brim with prayers for our much appreciated front-liners, loved ones and complete strangers. There were days where we mourned and wept for lives taken too soon, and for reasons we will never understand. But on other days, we celebrated as one with families who were blessed with healing and recovery.
Though we never left our homes, our hearts traveled far and wide across the country as we embarked on a journey of an unprecedented level of bayanihan that had all of us focus on service and the well being of others. As one calamity after another struck, hearts after hearts continued to open, and we loved, cared and looked after one another in a way we had never done before.
This 2020, it is so easy to be blinded to the good that happens all around us and be overwhelmed by the darkness. But faith has allowed me to find a way to fill the days with gratitude and meaning, without in any way denying or glorifying the challenges and pain that this year has brought. It has kept me fully cognizant of our blessings and the responsibility we have to one another.
Today, as we look forward to the birth of our Savior and the much anticipated New Year, I am most grateful for the faith that has carried me through the 12 months of 2020. INQ