Sanity check

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star ) – August 23, 2020 – 12:00am
Dear Readers,

How are you doing so far?

I hope you are all good. I know there is a lot we all have been dealing with. This COVID pandemic has changed almost everything.

I am fine since last time I checked. That was this morning. In fact, I check on my sanity almost daily. I hope my diagnosis of myself is accurate. It’s been close to five months since COVID-19 first struck fear in our hearts. A lot has changed since and, remarkably, I can say that I am not close to losing my mind or going crazy, breaking down, or anything close.

I have been trying to stay busy and have had some success at it.

Since two months ago, I have had two successful runs of my songwriting workshops online. I am at the moment conducting my third songwriting class and will be starting my fourth one in two weeks. I have also been preparing to launch other workshops via Zoom including a self-made creativity seminar that I have successfully run close to 90 times in the past. It will be the first time I am conducting it online. I am quite excited and challenged.

I am happy that people from the Philippines, US, Canada and Australia have responded to my music classes. I have also written and recorded three new songs, which I will soon include in a new album called
“Quarantined.” Watch out for it on Spotify, Apple Music, etc.

Despite all these activities that I have been doing, I must be honest and say they don’t exactly pay all my bills. But at least I am earning something. They also help keep me sane. I am quite grateful that I have found the will and courage to face this isolation and loneliness head-on and have turned it into a productive time in my life. I am empowered to discover that somehow, I am not entirely useless, nor powerless against this threat to mankind. I have been looking at COVID straight in the eye and have not blinked nor flinched. I am not paralyzed by fear and hopelessness. In some ways, I am even thriving. I am alive and well. And sane.

Sure, I miss my close friends. I miss hanging out, talking and singing with them. It has been quite awhile since we’ve been physically present under one roof. Time is passing. Things continue to be uncertain. Some days are tougher than others. But we are all here for each other. That is a comforting thought.

I am deeply saddened, though, that I have lost one sister to Alzheimer’s, two close friends to cancer, two classmates to COVID in the past 50 days. Their deaths were dramatic and shocking reminders that every single person in the world will eventually die sooner or later.

But in the midst of this time of imminent danger, I am not cowering in fear. Thinking of the possibility of sickness and death daily has, in some ways, been a blessing, strangely enough. I count each day and say a
“thank you” to God that my loved ones and I are alive. I also have become more attentive to other people knowing that every word exchanged with them may be the last one for a long time. Or maybe even forever.

Lately, I find myself being more forgiving of others. I have found a deeper well of patience, gratitude, and love that I have been drawing from and giving to people I encounter. And thankfully, I have also received these things back in great measure.

I will admit, though, that I have been suffering from survivor’s guilt ever since I left the Philippines last end of April. Here in Sydney, I know that I am much safer than if I had stayed in Manila. My wife and kids are relieved that I am here with them. I am less vulnerable staying in a place that has far fewer infections and fatalities than what we have in the Philippines.

My being away makes me feel more intensely for my classmates, friends, family, kasambahays and the rest of my countrymen who are fighting hard to survive a worsening situation. Every day, I read the official DOH infection and death count, and I feel like I get punched in the stomach each time.

Meanwhile, here in our humble Sydney abode, I find solace and peace doing housework, and helping Lydia with the daily chores around the house. I have learned that there is unexpected joy and inner peace in hanging laundry, sweeping, mopping and fixing things around the house. I look forward to delicious dishes that Lydia prepares for me every day. I exercise three to four times a week. Scheduled Zoom sessions with fam, friends and my students are moments I look forward to.

As I said earlier, I am not without money problems. But then again, who is not suffering financially? Many are in more dire situations. I am seeing more and more messages from strangers who post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram desperately asking for financial aid to help them enroll in school, buy meds for sick relatives, stave off starvation, etc. I imagine and feel their suffering.

We are also dealing with a lot of craziness and stupidity everywhere. There are those who spread fake news, and those false voices leading people astray into the realm of ignorance, fear and denial of science. They are the ones who are continuously feeding this pandemic. I am constantly learning discernment.

I am resigned to the fact that the world has changed forever. I may never again feel the euphoria of performing for thousands of people physically present in a live concert. I may never again enjoy walking as carefree in public places, nor travel randomly to different destinations in the world like I used to. These are big losses for me.

This is the new world we have awakened to. And scientists warn that this will not be the last epidemic we will face in the foreseeable future.

But I also know that every crisis brings new opportunities and new situations. We do not have to live in fear of them. Perhaps we may even thrive in this new world. There will be new joys and passions to discover, and new goals to aspire for.

I wish you, dear readers, all the best in this time of uncertainty and existential danger. With God’s help, may we all be delivered from sickness, the death of loved ones, job loss, and financial instability.

Most importantly, I pray we do not lose our sanity. This is so important these days. Depression and desperation are understandably widespread. By keeping sane, we inspire others to remain sane as well.

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