By Jessica Asprer
As the country continues to grapple with a pandemic, attempts to bounce back to normal remain an uphill climb.
While much of the world is changing, so are our homes.
“‹”‹In a lockdown, chances for a change of pace are almost elusive as people are left with little to no choice but to continue living life within the confines of their homes. Although restrictions have been eased in the meantime, the possibility of being restricted again is just another case surge away.
Life upended and altered
The not-so-great shift of homes into workspaces demands even greater adjustments to get in the right headspace and allow creative juices to start flowing again.
This is true for Noreen Bharwani, 21, a 3rd year multimedia arts student from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
Used to working at local cafés, “being stuck in one space is very emotionally draining”, she lamented. “Especially as artists, it’s hard to find new things to create when the inspiration you are surrounded with is very limited.”
From an inconsistent sleeping pattern, she gets up at 10:00 a.m. or later, she steps into her kitchen, cooks lunch early and then prepares for a day of cascading workload from schoolwork to freelance jobs.
Classes do not start until 1 o'clock in the afternoon, before which, she would be catching up with other requirements and tasks from The Green Grocer, Bebo’s Conversation Cuisine, and other multimedia projects for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church where she is also a youth leader.
Having more control over her time is a double-edged sword: she would spend less hectic days reading, she said, as “it helps to not only feed your mind but to also feed your soul […] it’s good to take a step back and grab a book and just relax.”
But because everything became routinary, she said, she struggled with the tendency to push back and procrastinate.
Before the turn of events, being outside of her home was Bharwani’s kind of normal, spending the entire day at school then heading to church fellowship in the evening and bonding with people over food.
“I guess I would say that I miss people the most,” Bharwani said, “I miss getting that morning coffee with my friends before heading to class; I miss the deep conversations in coffee shops and milk tea shops that took hours and hours; I miss the road trips that led us to new adventures and places with the people we love; and I miss the hugs important people gave on difficult days.”
Making ‘room’ for gratitude
Having one space for everything is a different kind of burden as distractions make it difficult to stay focused and perform the way you are expected, shared Sherry Ann Bael, 31, who is currently working the night shift as a supervisor for a corporate travel account at Teleperformance.
“I can no longer separate the stress from work even [if] my shift already ended, or even if I’m on rest day, or on leave since my workplace and my rest place [are] now in one room,” she said.
Daily duties at home are divided between her and her husband, since her nine-hour work timetable has been turned upside down, her day ending in the morning.
Bael, not a fan of online shopping, prefers to acquire the basic goods by going to the marketplace directly, setting aside non-essentials.
She has found creative ways to keep active while managing her household – home DIY projects to complete and new recipes to try out, especially ones for dim sum, pastries, and pasta, she said.
Out of town travels, team building activities, planned and unplanned dinners with her colleagues and friends after a long and tiring week at work – all these went out the window.
But Bael likes to see some of the good in the work-from-home set up as the hours spent on a pre-pandemic commute are now traded for sleep, more time for herself and for family.
“Although I can’t think of anything that I want to stop post-pandemic,” she said, “I’m hoping that everything will be back to normal after we surpass this crisis.”
Despite the stress and the pressure, home, Bael said, was a reminder of why gratitude should still persist.
“Home is still my resting place where I can take time to re-organize my thoughts, re-energize myself, and take a look [at] the things that I should be grateful for,” she said. “There were times that I almost forgot how blessed I am despite of what’s happening.”
To and fro the front lines
Patient care, delivery of babies, and surgeries – there is no room for a strict routine here, not when you are in the medical front, responding on an on-call basis.
Dr. Minda Uy, a 56-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist from General Santos City, is always on-the-go, going to and fro the clinic she is affiliated with which is about a five-minute drive away from her home.
Sometimes, she would return home from work in the wee hours of the morning; on other days, she would leave early to attend to a patient's delivery.
She starts her mornings preparing breakfast and lunch for the family, then squeezes in some household chores before the day picks up.
Uy’s outpatient clinic consultation is open at 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. four times a week, but those hours can stretch depending on the number of patients and their health problems.
Scheduled webinars or virtual meetings of the medical society fill in the rest of her schedule.
“As I go to work, I always pray for guidance and safety,” said Uy. “Foremost in my mind is to be able to deliver service to the best that I can while ensuring the safety of my patient and myself, as well as my clinic staff. And when I come home from work, [I think about] the safety of my family as well.”
She and her family have adopted a new set of practices like taking off and leaving their shoes outside the house, frequently sanitizing their bags, keys, and other things that they carry outside, and taking a shower after arriving home before interacting with each other.
Since the pandemic began, they had temporarily closed their doors to visitors, only connecting with friends and family through video call, chat, or text.
Grocery shopping is done in the shortest time possible.
Attending medical conventions physically and seeing friends and family, Dr. Uy said, were some of the many things she missed. “When the pandemic is over, I want to visit friends who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and whom I have condoled with only virtually.”
“To colleagues in the medical profession,” she said, “we pray for strength and safety as we continue and persevere in our work in delivering the medical service to the people in need.”
Maintaining structure and balance
Mornings are a bliss for 27-year-old entrepreneur Jamaica Guban; she gets up at 6:30 a.m. or earlier to start the day with a prayer, devotion, and personal reflection. “It gives me the relaxation of the mind and calmness of the soul,” she shared.
After breakfast, Guban goes straight to her desk to work and arrange flowers for one of her businesses, Awesome Blossoms.
As an entrepreneur, she said, she had relatively more time to carry out household chores and responsibilities than her sister, with whom she lives and shares the tasks.
Rest is essential. This is why Guban likes to keep a structure, one she patterns after the corporate setting, making sure to complete work by 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m.
When stress looms, “I would do some [flower] arrangements even just for my home or my bedroom,” she shared. She also finds time to take a siesta later in the afternoon.
“For me, ‘yun na lang i-aambag ko sa health ko. Kasi we’re always stressed. We’re always thinking of something. Minsan ‘di ka na makatulog sa dami mong iniisip,” she said, adding she tries, as much as possible, to get seven to eight hours of sleep at night.
Road trips, visits to the beach, target shooting, speaking with people face-to-face, being able to have physical shops open, and Sunday mornings at church are among the long list of activities she misses deeply but needs to set aside momentarily.
While the pandemic has impeded activities people called their “normal”, the lockdown has its own lessons to teach, as it reminds people of the things that are valuable.
For Gabriel Tiu Go, 27, the graveyard shift has completely altered time at home and his sleeping patterns.
For him, the day begins late in the afternoon. Rising from his bed, the first thing he does is check on his 1-year-old son, who, by that time, will already be preparing for bedtime.
Go is an account manager for shared services company Reed Elsevier Philippines, handling multiple clients in need of online legal research tools.
When not attending to lawyers, judges, paralegals, and law librarians, he spends time with his wife watching new K-drama shows or sitcoms on Netflix; an activity Go said he wished to keep since it had become a new avenue for them to bond.
Go lives with his in-laws. He does the groceries to make sure the pantry is stocked for the entire family. He also cooks for them when he's free.
“I could say that we are spending more,” he said. “I allotted my transportation allowance to groceries to have more stock in case another lockdown comes.”
But balancing responsibilities and tasks at home has become difficult since their schedules are practically opposites; the family’s dinner time is his breakfast and vice versa.
Once a month, he meets up with his friends to catch up or visits his parents’ home for them to bond with their little apo.
Like many, he misses being out with friends on a daily basis, going to the cinemas, playing basketball in his free time, and traveling.
But above all, he hopes son will experience life without a pandemic to be able to “visit the mall, and enjoy breathtaking views, and go to other countries that I visited before”.
“Home” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.
But as the world is thrown into disarray, we are reminded that home knows no boundaries, no distance, and is not constrained by circumstances.
It is where rest is abundant, where you are comfortable and protected, where the thoughts and emotions quarantined in your head can be let out.
Home is the people that make it and the state of your heart when they are in it.