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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Find your ‘normal’ in these abnormal times

/ 04:04 AM September 28, 2020

When the government announced last March the first of a series of nationwide lockdowns, I feared that the country would not be able to endure more than three months of severe restrictions before our nation’s economy would grind to a complete stop.

It has been six months since then, and the economy is still on a semi-lockdown state because the movement of people and goods is still hampered by quarantine restrictions. Many businesses remain closed because of customer limitations, since many people are still afraid to venture out, and few people remain with the means to indulge beyond necessities in this crisis.

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Is it a testament to our people’s survival skills that we have not seen or heard of widespread hunger among our less fortunate countrymen? Have they adapted to the crisis by eking out alternative means of livelihood such as the many online selling ventures that have sprouted like mushrooms in our neighborhoods? Is our extended family culture resulting in crucial support provided to clan members who face survival challenges? Are incidents of hunger being overlooked by media or underreported by government?

The impact of the economic crisis is less severe in the rural areas. Rural folk don’t pay rent on their dwellings, they don’t incur daily transportation expenses, they draw free and unlimited water from their wells, they have backyard vegetables and livestock, and they earn from their farm harvest apart from their day job wages. Urban folk don’t have these advantages, and that is extremely worrying if this crisis extends beyond this year.

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Apart from issues of physical health and economic survival, there’s also the strain on our psychological well-being as a result of prolonged home confinement. Even senior citizens are vehemently protesting quarantine rules that strictly prohibit them from venturing out of their homes, and they’re demanding for their freedom to go out even if they face increased risks of contracting the virus.

We can only watch so much drama, suspense, action, and thriller movies on Netflix, but after a while it gets drab and draining. This is especially so because when we read or watch the news, we already get bombarded with so much real-life drama, suspense, and action with all that’s been happening in our country and the rest of the world.

How do we create a sense of normality in our lives to preserve our mental sanity in these very trying times? A friend of mine, lawyer Ariel Magno, posted on Facebook his personal advice in this regard, which others may find helpful: “We’ve been seeing great games in the NBA the past week and this gives me some sense of ‘normalcy’ during this pandemic. It’s no surprise that it’s basketball for me and I thank the NBA for the bubble. Try to find your ‘normal’ during these abnormal times. It helps.”

In my case, watching online art exhibits has been my bubble place, providing some sense of normalcy in these stressful times. Even before the pandemic, viewing works of art had been the therapy that helped relax my stiffened nerves after a day of stressful work. With online art exhibitions thriving, I get my fix that harks me back to normal times.

Others go beyond “normal” by taking on new hobbies that give them a sense of adventure. Many people have taken on the hobby of planting and selling rare and colorful plants. Others have honed their cooking skills, and they’ve happily discovered that their food concoctions can have patrons online.

My wife and I have taken on the new hobby of searching for and planting native trees, especially flowering ones, in our small farm. Since the pandemic started, we’ve planted more than 500 native tree seedlings, including rare and endangered ones like Mangkono, Salingbobog, Malabulak, Siar, Dao, Rarang, Mabolo, Molave, Ipil Gubat, and Malabayabas. We plan to have our farm become a Noah’s Ark for fast-disappearing trees.

We need to brace ourselves for the possibility that these troubled times may linger for some time. We need to find our “normal,” and seek new adventures to help us survive these very abnormal times.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, COVID-19 economic crisis, Flea Market of Ideas, Joel Ruiz Butuyan
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