Like many people, I have been staying home most of the time. It started March of last year when Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic. Faced with varying degrees of uncertainties, doubts, surprises and disbelief, I said goodbye to many of the things or activities that would normally make my day to face what the “new normal” was in store for me.
Twelve months have already passed – months that seemed like years – and I still have many unanswered questions. However, I am glad that I’ve maintained my sanity by maintaining contact with my friends, relatives, and with the world through the magic of technology like Zoom and Facebook. In short, I’ve survived.
Whether I am at home watching television or doing some yard work or driving my wife to buy groceries, I make sure that these activities are time well-spent, that is, that they are done not as a result of the pandemic but in spite of the pandemic. They are the new ways of making my day. They are essential to a purposeful life in time of this contagion.
So what else can I do to meaningfully spend the rest of any day while in lockdown?
The other day, I looked up at some 40 file folders in my laptop. The combined folders contained more than 350 assorted articles, haikus, and essays that I’ve written during the last 40 years. Most of the articles, except for a few free verses that I wrote in an attempt to be poetic, had already been published in various newspapers and magazines in the US, Australia, and the Philippines.
As I read some of the old articles in a cursory manner, everything was pretty much the same as I originally wrote them, including some misplaced modifiers that I eliminated and a few paragraphs that I corrected for mistakes in punctuations. Of course, seeing my corrections was not a surprise. In fact, the experience made me realize that I continue to remain a writer in training. Indeed, writing is a craft that needs to be developed through the years.
What was missing, however, as I was reading some of the articles, were the number of hours I spent writing and revising them. I must have gone through more than 1,000 plus hours and countless bottles of beer to write these 350 articles. Sometimes I would miss taking a snack or would stay up late at night to meet a deadline. Overall, I’d like to think that the experience was not a waste of my time.
This pandemic has forced me to look for alternative activities to avoid the boredom of not being able to frequently eat out or visit our grandchildren in Texas.
At the beginning, I said to myself that I would regularly play the piano to regain whatever skill I developed as a young lad. It did not even last for a day. I just could not keep my interest. I tried playing the guitar but with the same result. Biking was never an option because of the hot Las Vegas weather during summer and the cold and windy afternoon during winter.
So, back to writing.
With the lockdown, writing has become my favorite pastime in addition to watching television. I don’t have much of a choice. I don’t know how to cook. Emptying the garbage is only once a week. I don’t do laundry. So, writing is the logical choice because I can do it in the comfort of our home. I don’t have to wear a face mask and there’s no social distancing. Besides, I am able to send my article via email without going to the post office and, thus, avoid being exposed to people.
If I am not mistaken, I think I started writing for a local paper in Naga City sometime in 1978. I had a regular column. I had to use a pen name because it was martial law in the Philippines then. I often wrote about political issues to show my principled stand against military abuses and the lack of justice during that period.
I did not know then if I was being idealistic. I just wanted to use the power of the pen to fight the Marcos dictatorship. I wanted to expose the evils of martial law. Period.
But as I grow in age – and hopefully in wisdom too – I’ve realized that I can also write about family pets, Covid-19, friendship, family, class reunions, to mention a few, and still make sense. So, during the last 12 months, I would write about anything that is important to me, believing that what is important to me may also be important to others.
As I write this piece, I have no way of knowing what the future holds. Millions of people are still out of work. Small businesses have shut down. People are hungry. People worldwide are dying from coronavirus. While Covid-19 may be eventually controlled via vaccinations, no one really knows absolutely if the virus can be totally eliminated.
Paraphrasing Umberto Eco, the Italian cultural critic and novelist, to survive in this contagion, I will just continue writing stories.
Wrote Toni Morrison, American novelist and essayist, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
No harm in taking to heart the wisdom of Morrison. Hopefully, it will bring the best in me. The editing can come later.