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A summer of gratitude

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 21, 2021 5:00 am

Officially, summer starts in March and stretches into the end of May. Now that the season has begun, I ponder on how to spend these lazy, sunny days that have further slowed down with the limitation of movement due to the pandemic.

As cases of COVID increase in the thousands, I am gripped with fear. Will it be a summer of dismay for me?

I consciously make a choice to step away from all the angst and refocus. Let me flip those negative emotions and find the pinprick of light in the darkness. I am well, and so are my loved ones, which makes me very grateful. I shift from the doubt and anger to prayer for those afflicted with this unstoppable illness, for those who have lost precious kin and friends, and for those whose livelihoods have been affected by this devastating pandemic.

We can’t help but be changed by COVID. Mental health has become a focus. Aside from the physical hardships, our mental and emotional well-being has taken a beating. Everyone has his or her own ways to cope. Mine has been meditation.

I love walking on the beach and will do this as much as possible. The crashing of waves, the wind on my face, the big blue sky, and the piercing rays of the sun fill me with deep appreciation. As Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower says, in that moment, ‘I feel infinite.’

I started practicing this a year ago and I am feeling the benefits now. It has made me calmer and my kneejerk reactions are far less. There is also less drowning in negativity. I have decided then that my summer vacation goal will entail activities to benefit my overall wellbeing.

Being surrounded by nature is a remedy for weary hearts. Wide-open spaces, fresh air, and trees just uplift you. I love walking on the beach and will do this as much as possible. It’s a sort of meditation for me, too. The crashing of waves, the wind on my face, the big blue sky, and the piercing rays of the sun fill me with deep appreciation. As Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower says, in that moment, “I feel infinite.”

 My alarm clock: Two orioles outside my window

I now notice the chirping and presence of migratory birds outside my window. A pair of yellow and black orioles wakes me up with their loud noises. I can say that it makes me so happy to have them as my alarm clock. I try and extend that joyful feeling throughout the day.

My pre-COVID self would have appreciated this for a couple of minutes then moved on. Come to think of it, I never really lived in the present, as my mind was focused on what was next. Happiness was always just fleeting back then. While the birds are here this summer, I will enjoy them, greet my day with a smile, and try to prolong the moment.

I have to say that I never loved my family and friends as much as I do now. It took a pandemic to really, really feel this. When allowed this summer, I will surround myself with people I care for again. And hug them.

I never thought that human interaction was a necessity, as if our lives really depend on it. In an article called “Lost Touch: How a Year Without Hugs Affects Our Mental Health” by Eleanor Morgan for The Guardian, it states that “touch has a huge impact on our psychological and physical well-being.”

 WFI (work from island) with a view of the ocean

As I emerged from my cave after months of lockdown, I spent time with a small group of family members and close family friends. I was like a dry plant whose thirst has been satiated with much-needed cool water. I didn’t realize this until I saw them. Hugging them felt so good that I was on the verge of tears at times. I have to say that I never loved my family and friends as much as I do now. It took a pandemic to really, really feel this. When allowed this summer, I will surround myself with people I care for again. And hug them.

Compassion is key. This is nothing new. Acts of kindness generate a feeling of happiness. It benefits not only you but also the recipient of your actions. I was so touched when I received a text from a messenger thanking me for his tip because it meant that he could have lunch that day.

He even said, “God bless you!” An act that seemed at first insignificant ended up encouraging me to do more, making me feel I have a purpose and use in this life. Many acts of kindness, small or big, just elevate your feeling of worthiness. This is not just one of my summer goals but a lifetime one.

 Awestruck at a double-rainbow sighting

I now look at and feel my surroundings intensely, especially in nature. I saw a double rainbow last December and I was awestruck at its beauty. I kept on thinking that it was a sign from God. I felt at peace, instead of the usual anxiety, when I did with my WFH duties with a spectacular view of the ocean. I called it WFI, meaning “Work From Island.”

 I can’t help but stare at the moon.

I now look at a moon with wonder and don’t want to look away should it disappear and be gone forever. Sunsets, too, are soul-stirring sights. They signify a day’s end, only to be followed by a sunrise to begin a new one. Isn’t that just a beautiful metaphor for life? I love the quiet. I love music, too. I love eating in silence and savoring each bite. I love the chats I have with friends. I love laughter.

 Soul-stirring sunsets

So I decided that this will be a summer of living with gratitude. I will never take for granted the sound of waves crashing on the shore, or the glow of the moon, or the chirping of birds, or the wind on my face, or sunsets, or hugs from my loved ones. Never, ever, ever. Hello, summer.

Banner photo: Hermana Mayor Island\