I am Maida Pineda. Just like the rest of more than one-third of the world’s population, I am sheltered at home. I live alone in Melbourne, Australia where we are only allowed to go out to go to the grocery, pharmacy/doctor, go for exercise (you may have one companion only to walk, bike or run) or if you are an essential worker. Except for my daily exercise outdoors, my life is now limited to the four corners of my small studio at the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Just like the rest of the world, there is no school, or work, or meals with loved ones, or daily gym workouts, or Sunday masses in church, or hours in the library. My life is on hold right now. Just like everyone else, there is so much uncertainty in my life. It is probably made more stressful being an international student living in a foreign land right now. I am certified yoga teacher currently continuing my studies in yoga teacher training. But I seek to put that on hold while face-to-face classes are not possible. I am a freelance food and travel writer. But with this pandemic, both food and travel industries are struggling. Restaurants are closed. The food trade magazine I regularly write for is not sure how many issues they will publish this year. There are no advertisers. Same is true for the other publications, they have no longer have a budget for freelancers. In my 22 years as a freelance writer, this is a first. But the cold reality is this… This whole Covid19 Pandemic is an unprecedented time. We don’t know for how long we are stuck at home. We don’t know when there will be a cure. We fear getting sick. We fear our loved ones getting sick. We don’t know when the international borders would open again. Here in Australia, I read an article yesterday saying it might be January 2021.My heart sank knowing I may not visit my mom in the Philippines for a long time. I don’t know when I would be reunited with my dog Spark, who was scheduled to arrive here in April if not for this pandemic.
I admit I have much to be grateful for. I give thanks each day that I am alive and healthy, and my loved ones are well. I am grateful I have food to eat and have a peaceful home to stay in. I give thanks for the big window where I can see the Yarra River and Melbourne trams continuing to operate, with a handful of cars on the road. I am grateful for the sunrise I can watch every day right from my bed, and my communion with nature in my daily walks. These may be simple things. But right now in my books, they are big blessings.
My days alone in my tiny studio are comprised of meditation, yoga, prayer, writing, applying for jobs, pitching to editors, daily Facetime with my mom, viber calls with my best friend, whatsapp chats with my yoga classmates, viber groups with friends, zoom calls for school and my meditation sangha, and phone calls with friends in Australia. This is my “new normal.”
About this time two years ago, I was struggling with anxiety. Similar to a panic attack, I felt jittery and afraid. It was not at all fun. In fact, it was scary. It started a few months before, but I didn’t know what it was, with doctors initially thinking it is high blood pressure. Only to later realize, it was my anxiety causing my blood pressure to go up. I did not know what to do with myself. But one thing was sure. I wanted to get better. I sought help from my aunt, Dr Carol Llamanzares, a family friend who is a child psychologist and reiki practioner. The first time she met me. I was frazzled, anxious, and confused. She told me I needed self-care. I stared right back at her at the edge of my seat, asking, “Like how?” My entire being was begging her to tell me how to do this self care thing, as if it were a joke or a puzzle I could not figure out. At that time, my concept of self-care was getting a spa or taking time off for a manicure. She did not give me a list of things to do or define what self-care is. But she what she did was even better. She journeyed with me, catching up regularly to talk and to have reiki sessions. I also regularly went to see Lissie, a counselor too at Emmaus at the Ateneo de Manila and visited my dad’s friend Dr. Cornie Banaag, a child psychiatrist several times for a chat. I went to acupuncture sessions, regular Iyengar Yoga practice, worked out with a rehab trainer for my neck and back pain, did my zen meditation practice, talked with a Jesuit priest and Cenacle nuns, prayed a lot, used essential oils and homeopathic treatments, asked for a lot of help, and got myself a puppy.
Tita Carol described it as a holistic healing process. It took months to feel better. There was no formula. She did not tell me what to do. There was no instructions or recipe. But I did put in the work. I showed up daily and did the work. But one day, I saw the spark back in my eyes. Organically, I found my way. Thanks to numerous friends who helped me. In the process, I learned what self-care is. It is definitely not a spa or manicure. It is so much deeper. I got to know myself deeply, and finally learned to love myself. I learned to love myself a tiny bit more than I loved others.
For the past thirty days, I have been pretty much alone. I’ll be honest, I feared the social isolation of this lockdown. It isn’t easy. There are some days, I feel heavy energy of the pandemic: the fear, the uncertainty, the grief the world was feeling. But I also realized the self-care tools I learned and continue to use (thanks to my anxiety) are very much needed in this time of the pandemic. I started sharing on Instagram videos on yoga and how to meditate or what to do in a panic attack. My thinking is– if I can help one person with my videos and posts then it would be worth my effort. I couldn’t shake off this desire to help by having this conversation about self care. So here I am today embarking on a commitment. Today and for the next 100 days, I commit to #DesperatelySeekingSelfCare, a #100dayselfcarexperiment. Each day for the next hundred days, I will share a self care act, or a lesson from my own self care journey. So many people have kindly blessed me with their time and expertise to get better, it is time to pay it forward. It is time to share my knowledge and support others.
Come journey with me. Read the posts. Join me for lessons in yoga, meditation or other things that may help you ease the anxiety you are now feeling. And please share it and pass it along. Many people may be anxious without really know it right now. We’ve got this. We can do this. We just have to show up day by day. This too shall pass. We’re not in this alone. We’ve got each other.
April15,2020- Melbourne, Australia.