Just like many people, I’m trying to find ways to spend time during the COVID19 lockdown in a way that is productive, or at least caring for my wellbeing. Turns out, that involves listening to some of the bands that I really loved during my late teen and young adult years.
One thing I didn’t quite realize fully is that metal and rock songs are quite insightful, that they can be quite deep in their meanings, after one stops to listen to the lyrics and pay attention to the music videos and the images portrayed.
I’d like to share some of the songs I listened to from some of the bands I love, and how they feel even more relatable during this time. Many of them criticize the social, economic, political, and environmental issues we have been facing for a while, that are highlighted even more during this time. Some of them, either the songs themselves or the music videos, highlight the feelings of despair, hopelessness and suffering, and that there just might be a source of hope, recovery and redemption.
Within Temptation: Mother Earth
Disturbed: Land of Confusion
Seether: Fake It
Within Temptation: (Paradise) What About Us
Disturbed: Another Way To Die
Seether: Rise Above This
For anyone who check these out, I hope that you enjoy it!
It is to be expected, that in a crisis like this, many people will be put in a difficult position (or a more difficult position) and are in need of help. One incredible thing about this pandemic is that there were lots of opportunities to help, and there are different roles to fill.
It’s pretty neat to take a break from being on the organizer role (I’m talking specifically about my job), since all our programs are cancelled. My job is the main way I do something that helps people in need in a direct way. My volunteer work as a member of a board of directors is also important, and I appreciate it, but a bit more removed, a bit more big-picture.
I was not surprised that social media pages and groups were set up to help people in an efficient way. Facebook groups specific to COVID-19 that enabled the average person to have a direct way to help with advice, positive commentary on social media, and buying items online to help those with emergent need. For a Facebook page that is just barely a month old, to have 20,000 members, is pretty darn impressive. I wanna buy a case of wine for each of the founders and moderators of the page. What an incredible labour of love.
Another way I have been helping is by being in “super seamstress mode”. Since last year I’ve been making fabric bags for Boomerang Bags Edmonton, and that has proven useful during this time. Hundreds of people throughout the province started making fabric laundry bags for healthcare workers, so they can separate their dirty (and most likely contaminated) work uniforms and toss them right away into the washing machine.
In my neighbourhood, with relief, I discovered ways to do a little something cheerful right by my front yard. Sidewalk chalk art. Staying connected with community leaders. Volunteering from home.
For my workplace, I realized that disseminating information, especially online, is really important. It’s part of my duties anyways. Handling marketing and communications for work and the clients we serve who need help is a part of my daily duties as I work from home.
These are the “doer” type of roles. The soldiers in the field. The cog in the machine. I know there are hundreds of volunteers doing seamstress work right now. I know (and it’s incredible) that there are thousands of people on the Facebook group, that almost every single time someone make a post asking for help, an offer is made within an hour or less. I am seeing dozens of photos drawing positive messages of pavement or fences, even if there’s a risk of snowfall or watery puddles the next day that would wash it away.
I’d like to take a moment to give a shoutout to all the administrators, organizers, facilitators of these on-the-ground initiatives to help others. Because it’s more stressful to do it at this time, but the relieve that these gestures of support is also of a greater impact.
This will be one of the several posts I will likely write about my personal reflections regarding the pandemic. My thoughts are pulled in different directions and I’m hoping to write about different parts of them, one at a time.
At this rate, it would be almost a month since drastic measures have been implemented here in Edmonton to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Given my line of work, my tendency to get involved in the community, and how I stay connected on social media, I get to witness how different people react, respond, and adapt to the current situation.
This is one emerging theme in my mind since the beginning, and as of this time, which is early April. It is my unavoidable tendency to compare this time to the typhoon season in the Philippines.
The Philippines gets at least a dozen typhoons every year. Since I was 16 years old when I moved to Canada, I have lasting memories of the disruption that this season causes every single year. The last few days of warm summer around the end of May, getting ready to go back to school in June, with the anticipation that in about six weeks, at least a few days of school will be cancelled because Mother Nature’s wrath is too much for safely walk or drive to school, work or do a lot of activities.
When school is cancelled, you stay at home and try to stay occupied. When school is cancelled because of a typhoon, it’s also very likely that access to utilities will be interrupted. In my very young memories (and I mean, really young, when my parents and sister were still alive), I recall memories of playing with my sister with a deck of cards, under candlelight on the dining table. Or we can convince our parents or nanny to very briefly knock on the apartment, right across the all, to see if my sister’s best friend, Ailea, wants to play. We’d then invite her to play house in the bedroom that we share.
Even dressing up to stay protected was a norm: from ensuring you have an umbrella that is less likely to flip and break into pieces, to letting it go altogether by making yourself waterproof with a raincoat and boots. Well, at least dressing up for the weather is also something that needs to be done in Canada, particularly during the fall and winter.
My mother, running a convenience store, is an essential business because people do need to buy food, and candles, diapers and medicine. After they passed away, my grandmother and I ended up being the storekeeper that has to keep their doors open, while making sure that the strong winds don’t knock over our display shelves of products, and our roof stays intact.
In short, having life disruptions, being home-bound, and experiencing numerous cancellations of regular activities is something to be expected, like the seasons.
In comparison, there is not a lot of reasons that massive disruptions happen particularly where I live. I’d say in Canada, there can be disruptions (that cause cancellations of events and evacuations) due to wildfires and floods, but most people don’t prepare for that every single year. I imagine that for many, this is part of the reason why the current changes can be quite stressful.
My feelings can be summed up as concern, uncertainty, but not crippling fear. I guess there is something to be said about getting used to something. Being home-bound because of a pandemic might not be 100% the same, but the tangible impact has enough parallels.
The experiences in the Philippines helped build an emotional foundation to help manage this. In fact, by comparison, this is significantly more comfortable! From making sure that one’s home is in order as much as possible, paying attention to the media and any directions from goverment officials, waiting out the worst part of the storm, and eagerly looking foward to when things go ‘back to normal’, being able to do this in a healthy way is key to riding out this particular storm.
May is Sexual Violence Awareness Month. It seems like every week, month, or day is dedicated towards something that it can be hard to keep track, this is something I’m not complaining about at all. Sometimes it can be something fun and casual like National Puppy Day, or something deeply important like Black History Month. I feel fortunate that in Canada, Alberta, Edmonton and other places worldwide, there were opportunities to talk about this important (and terrible) issue, give support to those affected, and have conversation on how to be aware and put an end to this.
The issue is a bit personal to me, since I myself have been a victim/ survivor of sexual assault. I purposefully used both words because these horrific act definitely have harmed me, and that should not be discounted one bit. At the same time, similar to the other life hardships that life threw at me, it is something I have survived from and changed who I am, hopefully for the better. The month had provided me with tangible opportunities to meaningfully participate.
Attending a Fundraising Gala
It seems like fundraising galas are everywhere, and attending them is actually pretty cool. I attended the fundraising gala for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton at the Edmonton Convention Centre. While giving a hefty donation or a regular monthly donation is not within my budget at the moment, I figured that doing a one-time activity and donation is still something.
When it comes to food, I’m not picky anyways, and simply welcome the opportunity to have something different from my regular routine. This gala was a bit special as well, as I managed to join a table with other people who are actively involved in Edmonton. Some people at the table were familiar faces and names, which is thrilling! The keynote speaker, a gentleman who is a lawyer, was wonderful! What I appreciate most about the keynote speaker is that he addressed head on some of the misconceptions that surround sexual assault, from the act, to how survivors behave, and to how a perpetrator can look like. As someone who is part of the legal community, I also appreciate how he humanizes the flaws of the legal system. ‘These are human institutions with people who care‘ he said. I think that when we don’t get the results we are seeking, this is something that we forget in the midst of our anger, pain and discouragement.
Attending an event with a host who is also an auctioneer was a first for me, and seeing how the on-stage sign language interpreters keep up with the host was entertaining! I was blown away by the generosity and disposable income that some people have. Hearing the thousands of dollars being announced during the live auction bids made me gawk, and the tables of items available at the auction tables made me hope that lots of funds are indeed going to support the organization. After this, I definitely feel more inclined to make time and attend more fundraisers like this.
Educating Myself and Learning More Stories
There are lots of ways to make this convenient, specifically through social media. Simply following a few pages that talk about feminism, social issues, storytelling/artistic ones like Humans of New York, give a steady stream on my social media feed about stories and insights that people have. It can be heartbreaking, empowering, informative or hopeful depending on the story or the article. What I know for sure is that it is a reminder of how these experiences are common and universal. My goal is to spread awareness, reduce stigma and victim blaming, and seek out comfort for myself and others.
Evaluating What I Learned from Therapy
It has been almost two years since I went to therapy, and the effort to diligently apply what I have learned is going well. Other positive and healthy habits are being integrated in my life day by day, which also feels very promising. One thing I know is that it will take the rest of my life to remind myself to not be so outcomes-focused in my approach in life, and that is okay.
Also, as it turns out there are times when these calming or self-regulating techniques do not work and I’m not panicking about it. That really is the bigger victory. The calm that comes from accepting that I am a person that grows, changes and that have some weird quirks is liberating. I’m as messed up as anybody else, and this is not a crippling idea anymore.
The dictionary definition of internalize is “to incorporate (the cultural values, mores, motives, etc., of another or of a group), as through learning, socialization, or identification.” This is the biggest victory of my therapy experience, to internalize that it was okay to feel angry and sad and hurt about being treated poorly, to internalize that is is okay to set aside time to acknowledge these feelings, to internalize that there is a way and I deserve to process these feeling and release them, to internalize that I deserve all those good things I life that I didn’t have for a while.
I encourage anyone to find a cause you care about that has a date/ week/ month dedicated to spread awareness, and take it as an opportunity to spread awareness, provide support, and improve ourselves.
With all the conversation about social isolation, mental health, and disconnectedness these days, I have been thinking more about the concept of belonging.
My explorations range from simply thinking things trough, mulling through my head various things I read or hear about and reading books on the matter. I read a few books by Brene Brown on vulnerability, shame, and the idea of ‘daring greatly’ and ‘braving the wilderness’ which on the surface sounds really isolating.
As someone who immigrated to a different country, the concept of belonging gets a bit more muddled. One challenge is the labels we use to identify ourselves can mean not belonging to other groups. Or that more effort or clarification is needed to make the broad connection.
Perhaps it is just a sign of getting older, that I am faced with more paradoxes in life, it’s making my head spin. Assertiveness and collaboration, boundaries and openness, vulnerability and courage, sharing and preserving.
It wasn’t until a few years in university that I discovered a term that resonated with me: introvert. It is a part of who I am that I have learned to embrace and even let shine. I laugh whenever my colleagues and volunteers claim that they don’t believe me since I seem to be so social and cheerful when I interact with them at work. But most of my work is done well within the confines of my closed office door. And that at the end of the day I crave isolation while writing a blog, reading a book, or browsing online. I have attended a ‘Paint Nite’ event with a friend, where we were in a bar following instructions from an instructor on how to make a certain painting. That is fine and neat, but I felt greater satisfaction and artistic expression by doing arts and crafts in isolation, making a mess in our dining table all by myself.
There are times when I feel unease – not as intensely as guilt though – over the fact that I have not really spent time socializing with my relatives. I feel conflicted on who, when and how should we really hang out. Should I ask first? Should I wait for them to reach out? I feel that those gatherings are not as fun as they used to, or was that because I haven’t seen them for a long time? Is the fact that we are related by blood, enough reason to find time to meet up, despite differences in schedule, preferences and values?
Then there is technology. There are now plenty of online communities to connect with like-minded people, even over just that one thing you may have in common. In my opinion, these types of connections are still under-valued. The great benefit of these online forums is how specific they can be, and that specificity of common interest is what makes it difficult to find in real life sometimes. Currently, I am a member of online groups for bullet journaling (essentially a DIY planner/ diary/ scrapbook/ notebook hybrid), sex education and positivity, and being childfree by choice.
One thing I am trying to remind myself is that there is no such thing as feeling like you belong 100% in every single location or setting. And that IS okay! It seems like the excessive pressure to hang out with people is the very reason why social interactions can be unpleasant or not satisfying. Being present, and mindful, and curious are a few things I’m trying to integrate in my life. On in other words, rolling with the punches.
The last thing I am trying to remind myself in the quest of belonging, is that its imperfections and impermanence is not something to be afraid of. It is okay to have a childhood friend for a decade, be disconnected during the adult years, and perhaps, rediscover the kinship upon retirement age. It is okay to take a break or unflollow online groups if it seems like the right thing to do. It is okay to formally break a friendship or let it fade away by not corresponding. It is okay to mumble and be awkward and focus on your group’s activity, taking extra time before disclosing personal details.
The two statements I heard not too long ago that resonated with me is “I feel complete in an empty room” and “You are amazing, just the way you are”. I think that convincing myself of the first statement, and viewing other using the second statement, will be valuable guides in navigating the colourful, unpredictable, messy, journey of connecting with fellow humans.