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Dancing in the dark and other survival tips

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 01, 2021 5:00 am

We are starting to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. I am excited and a little fearful. In a strange way, I have gotten accustomed to living within the safety of my bubble. I don’t feel like a caged animal wanting to be free.

A friend told me that life will never be the same and to have a mindset that COVID is here to stay. We should just adjust our lives. I take this to heart because I know it’s the truth.

Recently, I went out to do a little Christmas shopping. I was so out of sync with the rhythm of the world. I walked, I think, too quickly and aggressively away from people.

My vision was somewhat hampered by my double mask. I ended up bumping an exit door, just like a bird smacking into a glass wall. The result: one bigbukolon my forehead.

I went home thinking, “I don’t want to go out anymore.” You see, I have been so affected mentally with recent events, but I have to overcome it. I know I am not alone.

Dancing in the dark for me is therapy. I just hope nobody sees me.

So how do we all continue to survive mentally during this time? There is just too much out there. I’m allergic to toxicity and it is sometimes the environment we live in.

My survival tactic to counter this is to find cheer in everything. Sometimes, the more ridiculous, the better. It could be anything lighthearted that would cancel out all my frayed nerves, and make me ask myself, “Why so serious?”

I dance in the dark. Yep, I do this. I would put on in full volume my favorite upbeat tunes, from past disco hits to current hip-hop, and dance away in front of a mirror.

There is a caveat, though. I would cringe when I see my “body language” moves and my automatic snapping of fingers (I can’t stop this. Help me!). So I simply would turn off the lights, close my eyes, and dance with abandon.

Dancing in the dark for me is therapy. I just hope nobody sees me.

Meditating is a lot of letting go and I can’t start my day without it.

Meditating with clenched teeth. This is how I started with this daily practice.

I consider life changing. In the beginning, I was so tense and forced myself to “empty my mind. It wasn’t only my teeth clenched but my whole body, and not to be dramatic, my entire being.

When I couldn’t clear my thoughts, I would get so frustrated and end up in despair. I had pictured myself as a calm and all-knowing meditating sage, unbothered and unruffled by external events. This didn’t happen.

While I sat cross-legged with my open palms all tensed up, I would think of my grocery list, people who annoyed me, what’s for lunch, imagined conversations, and what I would do after meditating.

But I kept at it and “showed up” every morning. My perseverance paid off. I started to just relax and accept it as normal to have passing thoughts, and not to be hard on myself.

When this happens now, I just gently shift and focus on my breath, or a warm light. Meditating is a lot of letting go and I can’t start my day without it.

Walking.in public in a mask is a liberating experience.

I’ve already written about my journey of walking and my new “look.” I enjoy the pace of walking, the sun on my face, even perspiring (a little, not so much). I actually like walking with a mask on and being incognito.

To be honest, I don’t really want to talk to anyone and to be just left alone, be quiet, and appreciate this personal time. Only those who really know my eyes will recognize and approach me.

It is no wonder Korean stars wear masks. When I walk in public in a mask, I feel anonymous but not invisible, liberated, footloose and fancy free, and like a K-pop idol.

Another survival tip is to watch comedies and sitcoms. I loveSeinfeld. It is my favorite show of all time. I actually have two boxes (I couldn’t just have one) of DVD sets of the entire nine seasons of this series.

I have memorized my favorite episodes, and all the shallow characters crack me up. It’s totally my humor. Now that it’s on Netflix, it is my default watch. Who knew that this hilarious “show about nothing” has become something of a pandemic panacea for me?

Now that human interaction is still limited as we still approach people with caution, chatting with friends on the phone or through video calls is the next best thing.

Of course we talk about problems and issues that matter, but it is when I am comforted or laugh that I cherish. Light banter with like-minded people can provide you with a lift during a dreadful day.

Now that human interaction is still limited, chatting with friends on the phone or through video calls is the next best thing.

I have favorite chat groups in Viber, WhatsApp, and Messenger, where the online camaraderie brings a smile to my face, especially if friends included are hilarious.

The names of my groups are even funny. There is the Seoul Sisters, Sexy Sisterhood, Bond Girls, KFrangirls, and And They Say PR is Fun??? Usually posted are memes, reviews on dramas or movies, photos, somechismis,and comments that make me laugh out loud. In these chats, there are many LOLs, Ha Has, and laugh-crying emojis.

The focus on our mental health is rightfully given importance. We must take care of ourselves somehow. How do you take care of yourself? As for me, when events around me get too heavy, I like to keep it light.