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When the World Paused

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Taking a time out is not something new to many of us. It’s certainly not something new to me. I’ve made it a practice to pause once in a while. You know, step out of the little bubble we’ve created and take stock of what we do or not do, where we fail or need to do better, what else needs to be done, how all these relate to the bigger picture. As we’ve been told several times when we were younger, one needs to be silent from time to time to be able to listen to the other things not spoken or not said too loudly. Pretty much like walking slowly sometimes to be able to smell the flowers.

The pause of these past months is a totally different story, however. Not only was it a pause imposed on us at a time we didn’t expect but it was also something we had no control over. We had no idea how long it would take and until now, we don’t know how long we will have to stay indoors and limit our exposure outside. As much as some of us may thrive in the short pauses life allows now and then, this pause caused by the pandemic is far from being reinvigorating.

We are instead finding ourselves increasingly restless and anxious. Finance and job concerns are more than enough reasons already to lose sleep over. Lots of free time despite WFH and home duties have many of us turning to new hobbies or resurrecting old ones just to avoid being idle and think about what life post-pandemic would likely be.

How much longer would this imposed pause be? If everything that happens does happen for a reason, are we finding the reason or reasons behind all these?

Perhaps we are being asked to pause so we can discern – or reframe – where our lives are headed and if what we’re doing today will take us to our life’s goals. Maybe we are being challenged to revisit our beliefs and priorities. Has the world being put to a standstill made us think about the power that is greater than any of us? Do we realize how much we’ve been given and how sudden they can all be taken away?

How many of us are using the free time to improve ourselves, work out a little or eat more healthily, pursue interests set aside for so long or make new plans for the future? Am I making the most of this imposed isolation by thinking about how I can improve my attitude and way of thinking as well? How can I be a better spouse, parent, sibling, daughter or son? a more caring friend? a wiser leader? a more responsible citizen?   

The halt in our activities reminds us of something that we’ve always known but sometimes forget: family always comes first. Who do you want to be with the most these challenging times? Who do you care or worry about the most? During this difficult period, we’ve realized who our true friends are and who we can let out the door. 

For those of us who are always so busy with work and do not have time for family, have the past months helped us rekindle the bond with our partner? Have we learned more about our children? Have we been able to actually catch up with our parents, siblings and other loved ones? Or are we so busy updating our social media life, justifying these platforms are the best way to stay connected with family and friends?

Is the pause of these past few months asking us to check if the connections we are building are those that matter? In these digital-heavy times, many of us have steered more toward investing in virtual relationships. While this isn’t all bad, especially if virtual is the only way to connect with loved ones from far away, some focused too much on their lives and connections online and forget that the real life is in the here and now and that lasting relationships are built with actual time and experiences with people. Flowers look way better – and you can smell them, too – in the real world than anywhere online, after all.

How simply or extravagantly are we living our life? The forced isolation has many of us thinking about this. With budgets running thin, many of us are compelled to live a lot more simply again. Well, a huge chunk of the population already live below poverty line. But for those with more means, the realization that really we don’t need that much must have hit home somehow. Since March when we were told to stay indoors, it’s been the basic necessities that we’ve emphasized and stocked up on. This says a lot already, right?

Without the need to go out as often, perhaps we have realized how little need we have for the many clothes or shoes or bags we chase after so vehemently. Gary Granada says in one of his songs: Habang maaga’y matutunan, Ang mamuhay nang payak, Habang marami kang kailangan, Ang bagahe bumibigat. Henry David Thoreau even went to live in the woods for a couple of years (and chronicled this in Walden) to reflect on the importance of simple living. He says: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Indeed, with our thirst to accumulate things, are we realizing how much we’re contributing to waste buildup and environmental problems? Is this pause asking us to think about outside of ourselves? About our country perhaps? the environment? the world? How many posts were there in previous months about EDSA looking much nicer without the congestion we’ve been used to seeing? Weren’t there more picturesque shots of the Manila skyline and even the Sierra Madre without the smog, making us think the air has been much cleaner with fewer vehicles on the roads?

Perhaps Mother Nature needed a pause as well. Or maybe the pause is for us to think about how much we’re contributing to damaging the earth by our actions – or inaction. With the extra time in our hands, maybe we’re to ponder on what we can do to help fix the problems in our community and our country and of course the whole world. Could this plantita or plantito trend for planting and growing vegetables at home be a good start? Perhaps. It’s one way to make better use of one’s time at least.

It’s the Ber months already and sooner rather than later, Christmas would be around the corner, and New Year after that. Even if the holidays find us still forced to celebrate indoors, perhaps we can bring with us into the new year all the realizations and learnings we’ve had during this pause of the past months and with them hopefully be better people contributing to a better world.

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