To live –
Two years into a global pandemic and here I am, still learning to LIVE.
And I guess every human being out there has their own definition of those words today—to live. To a healthcare worker fighting at the crux of this lethal virus, it would mean living in its most raw and literal sense—fighting to save lives in a climate where a patient whose hand you held one day is gone the next. Having the harrowing task of warding away family members who beg to see their loved ones one last time, turning away so many in critical condition—repeating the words “no beds” day after day. Call after call. Tuning out excruciating and boundless cries for survival. Fighting to help someone gasping for breath, to see another day—while battling exhaustion and unfathomably long hours—missing out on hugging their own children goodnight. Selflessly trying to persist both physically and mentally, knowing that every minute they fight to keep someone else alive could mean forgoing their own right to make it to tomorrow.
And what seems like a whole world away, there’s me, learning to live in the now, in the safety of my home, food delivered to my doorstep, wondering whether I should take a pilates class online, privileged to be surrounded by the love of the human beings I call family. So, I guess as realms apart as we are, we are all learning to live in the now, because let’s face it, collectively as a generation, this whirlwind of a disease is probably the most relatable thing we have in common with each other. And what an undeniable lesson it is.
To learn –
26 years into this life and I’m still struggling to learn, and even more so, to unlearn. Of all the things we’ve witnessed lately—be it mass murder, the devastating results of climate change, the endless war on basic human rights, or closer to home—losing a loved one at a time where you are no longer afforded the opportunity to kiss them one last time, to sit by their deathbed, or even say goodbye with the bare minimum of a casket and a eulogy. We have been pushed into the deep end of what seems like a 100 ft pool, no training, no warning, no lifejacket, no floaties, no air. Just you and your will to make it.
And as morbid and daunting as that sounds, I’ve also come to learn that I have been handed an express ticket into the silver years. I cannot classify it as gold (because being the extrovert that I am, nothing seems as golden as when I’m reunited with my world of people) but silver, because the next best thing is the time I’ve been given, forcefully I might add, to sit still and listen, sit still and learn—this time without the loud noise of my best friends and our off-tune karaoke, no glasses shattering at the bar, no drunk soliloquies, void of convenient distractions or any of the deafening opinions of the outside world.
Just me, cocooned up under my coziest blanket. Me, imprisoned within four walls, stripped down of all the socializing I choose to hide behind, me with only my piercing thoughts and my tempestuous feelings. And through it all, so many years later, I am learning to be there for her, learning to listen to her, learning to love her.
To love in the now—
This is a big one. To me, learning to love in the now is waking up every morning and sending whoever crosses your mind an immediate text saying “Hey, I just thought of you” while you guzzle down your coffee at 7 a.m. before getting lost in your hectic work day. Because none of us really know how any of us are doing, and the tragedy of our times is that we don’t even really know if we will get a reply to that text message at all. Love in the now is organizing a zoom surprise party for your friend who is stuck at home on their birthday and staying up all night preparing a slide show of Snapchat memories together. Love in the now is smiling down at the seven missed calls from your grandma and buzzing back after a meeting to promptly walk her through your busy day in vivid detail because you know she just has to know what you’ve had for all three meals of the day, and then taking a moment to thank your lucky stars for a love that is so fierce and unending. To some, love in the now is the privilege of teaching 60 students from the comfort of your couch and still getting to see their cheeky grins as they proudly show off all their new bruises and share their summer adventures with the class. To others, it’s the absolute bliss of skipping the long and tedious commute to work and spending those few extra minutes skin to skin, locked in an infinite cuddle with the love of your life. Love in the now is getting completely dolled up in your olive bridesmaid dress and fighting off tears that could potentially ruin your makeup while streaming your cousin’s wedding online because you’re stuck a continent away. It is sending a bottle of wine, chocolate mousse, art supplies, and a note saying “for our date tonight” to a stranger you hope will become a big part of your life. Love in the now is calling someone who did you wrong in the past and letting them know you’re hurt, but you’re working on letting go. Love in the now is realizing that all your exes, everyone who has let you down in this lifetime is human, that we all make irrevocable mistakes, and that all of us are just grappling to grow out of our younger shells and working to fit into the armour and training to be strong enough to carry the heavy artillery that will see us through what seems like the most unpredictable and unnerving days to come.
To love the now –
Finally, and by far the most important of all—learning to love the now.
Learning to love going to bed at 4 a.m. because you talked a friend through a panic attack. Listening to six minute long voice notes as they finally strain their brewing thoughts into words, mumbling and close to tears yet relieved at the thought that there’s a soul at the end of this line, ready to piece this puzzle together. Learning to love the now is waking up at 7a.m. on just three hours of sleep because you promised your boss you’d take on a sick colleague’s load of work, knowing he’s a single dad of two, struggling to stay afloat. Loving the now is sitting in bed with a ginormous mug of coffee and thinking to yourself that this monstrosity of liquid motivation is all you have to get through another daunting day. And then cracking a smile at the neighbor’s vigilante cat, always somehow outside sunbathing on your balcony. Learning to love the now is plugging your laptop into the kitchen wall and muting your mic so that no one suspects you’re sneakily whipping up a breakfast fit for a king! It’s opening the blinds to let the amber rays of sunlight dance over the bacon grease, sizzling as it browns to perfection. It’s watching the golden syrup dribble down a stack of pancakes, teasing you for having less than 4 minutes before you have to clock in for work. The now is greeting a screen full of profile pictures of coworkers and wondering if yours looks half as professional as theirs. It is staring at the clock in the hallway, mocking you as it takes eons to change from 10, to 12, to 1:30, to 2. The now is reheating the microwave lunches that you inhale in under 10 seconds because you have to get out of your pajamas and put some pants on before a Zoom meeting with the board of directors. It’s laughing at the fact that you never ended up putting any pants on but instead succumbed to an embarrassingly bright pair of boxers because no one can see you waist down anyway. Learning to love the now is dressing tea time up as the most exciting part of your day—when you spend an entire hour and a half baking scones, or perfecting that homemade cappuccino recipe you followed off of YouTube, and dragging a chair out onto your lawn, enticing your brother to join you with freshly baked banana bread, and watching the nimbostratus clouds swim by at a pace you envy—so slow, so calm, so soothing, so far from how violently the world spins around down here. Love in the now is fighting your tired body to keep a promise to a friend who has left his corporate job to follow a dream and supporting his new coaching venture by attending an after work HIIT session. It is also feeling rejuvenated post-workout not only because you’ve trained your physical being, but because you now know, more than ever, that nothing is more important than showing up for people you love. That in itself is everything. It’s skipping your designated Friday night Netflix hour to FaceTime someone you know is hesitant to ask for help. It’s learning to be empathetic in a world that thrives on the concept of me for myself, a world that functions on being successful, over being there. Loving the now is FaceTiming your pregnant friend every day so you don’t miss out on her belly growth. Or three-hour calls with your long-distance boyfriend while he plays a video game you know nothing about and cheering him on as you lay back in your Korean snail face mask, reminding each other of the endless list of plans you have for when borders open up, saying “when all of this is over” like a prayer at the end of every night. Loving the now is convincing yourself you deserve a reward for a long day and attempting Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington recipe, which is 3 hours and 10 minutes prep time, 5 minutes to gobble down, and approximately an hour and a half to clean up, because hey! You made it through another day. Loving the now is taking the longest hot shower known to mankind and kicking your legs up on your balcony ledge, soaking up the blue moon, watching the ants march home in a frenzy like an excited bunch of school girls sneaking out to the mall after school—it is remembering those days that seem a lifetime away. A time when we would dramatically run and jump into our best friend’s arms, catapulting right into a safe space, as we hug each other ever so tightly, no hesitation, no second thoughts, completely carefree—basking in an endless embrace. Or at least what we thought at the time was endless, now a polaroid picture of a memory, a chapter that seems to have truly ended. “Those were the days” has become an all too familiar phrase we’ve borrowed from our parents far too early on. The now seems an oxymoron, it is Zoom meeting after teams meeting after Zoom meeting, screen after screen after screen, and yet we’re never really meeting, are we?
Loving the now is shaking off all of these overwhelming thoughts and cautiously storing it in the file cabinet right at the back of your brain titled “impending doom”. It is picking yourself up from the gravel and dusting your bruised knees, looking forward to the Batman band-aids that seem the only silver lining in sight. It’s breaking chains of anxiety by learning to do anything but shut down in the face of fear. It’s being brave enough to finally use and overuse the words “I love you” at every chance you get, because now, we are frighteningly aware of how very little opportunity we have left.
It is being brave enough to pick up your phone and call a friend you’ve been neglecting, brave enough to leave a job that’s been harmful to your mental health for as long as you can remember, being brave enough to let go of the relationship that’s suffocating you, with or without the added trauma of being in the midst a global pandemic. It’s being brave enough to jump into a small business online and daring to make a living off of what some spend a lifetime looking for—one’s passion. It’s being brave enough to FaceTime a family member who broke your heart and being the first to take a step toward reconciliation. It’s being brave enough to bungee jump headfirst into exploring yourself, what you love to do, what you can’t stand, what you would rally up and want to march in protest of. Loving the now is being brave enough to find your purpose and screaming it out loud into a blaringly critical world. It’s learning to chase the things that everyone said was not enough for you and propelling yourself into that passion project. It is learning to search for what calms your boisterous soul; it’s leaning on your God, your cosmos, your favorite author, or even just prioritizing a daily 20-minute online meditation class. It’s blindly plunging into finding yourself, and not just talking about getting started for years to come, but beginning today, and then again every day, for the foreseeable, uncertain future.
Loving the now is being secure in this season, of yourself, your purpose, the “pandemic you” that you’ve flourished into—a person so brand new, you are now unrecognizable to the outside world. It is also then getting yourself a celebratory box of cupcakes from UberEats, because you became this person in a surreal world that is both stagnant and spinning out of control.
It is learning to love the now—the magic in the manic and the mundane.