Did you know that in the Catholic Christian tradition, we celebrate Easter for about 40 days? This makes complete sense because Jesus roamed the earth and appeared to His disciples before ascending to heaven.
So I greet everyone, “Happy Easter!” And just like Jesus, I too have “resurrected from the dead.” After a year-long of sabbatical, (yes, I decided to hibernate last year during Lent of 2020 to discern my life’s direction, not knowing that the world would join me, when the pandemic broke in March), I gained more clarity about my vision and mission by writing my memoir. You won’t find it anywhere because it’s a sacred text that shall only occupy the shelf of our family library.
And if you’re an aspiring writer who wants to grow in your practice, I highly recommend starting with a memoir. It will bring you clues from the past so you can navigate your future with ease.
Grab Lisa Dale Norton’s “Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir.” It’ll show you an easy method so you don’t go around beating the bush and unleash snakes and rats in the process.
Memoir-writing can be very therapeutic as well, just like journaling. As an advocate of holistic health care, I find that caring for the mind and spirit is just as important as caring for the body. And don’t forget, you need your heart and soul in this journey.
What the pandemic taught me
I learned how people cope and it’s as classic as the process described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s Stages of Death and Dying. When we die to our freedom, which is what essentially the pandemic brought to the world, we undergo the following stages as exemplified by the following reactions:
Anger - “This is insane! We cannot be in this lockdown for ever. We cannot wear mask. It will kill us!”
Of course, by now, we know masks don’t kill the wearers. I for one can attest to that. I have worked in the operating room for years as an anesthesiologist. We wear masks all the time because we want to protect our patients from the bacteria and germs from our mouth and nose. We cover our hair with caps because our hair can trap all dusts and microbes from the outside and bring it to our patients. When the surgeon opens up the abdomen, any microbe that can fall in there can potentially lead to infection.
Healthcare workers sacrificed much of this freedom to breathe freely during the pandemic. They had to wear more than the regular surgical masks. The N-95 masks had to be fitted snugly to the point that wearing it for 12 hours (a regular shift for most hospital workers) leads to skin breakdown, wounds, and sores. But they do it anyway. For the sake of the patients. That’s why I was greatly disturbed by the attitude of the anti-maskers.
Denial - “All these will go away soon. This is just like the flu.”
The first time I heard of this coronavirus variant, I got worried. I had lived through the SARS-CoV-1 outbreak when it hit Asia. I had intubated patients who went into Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. But the lower risk of transmission didn’t lead into a pandemic. The mutation in the first subunit of SARS-CoV-2 makes this bug more contagious and cause a more serious illness. The route of entry may be respiratory, like the flu virus, but the manifestation of the disease is more systemic and vascular. Some long-haulers have experienced injuries to the brain, heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. It is an inflammatory virus. I knew this virus wasn’t one I wanted to mess with, not with my auto-immune condition, which closely resembled some of the symptoms. I didn’t know whether I am more resistant or prone to its systemic effects. There was no room for denial in our home.
Bargaining - “We can partially open the school. Or we can lock down half of the country. We can allow half the kids to be exposed.”
In this dysrhythmic tango, many overstepped and failed to follow the steps. What’s more unfortunate was the conflicting messaging from various authorities. We were like flocks without a shepherd. As a result, many got bitten by the lion of a virus and succumbed. There was no room for bargaining in our home. Everyone went remote. We were all willing to sacrifice our freedom in exchange for our lives. It was hard. My high schooler voluntarily searched for a virtual schooling program and withdrew from her school. My college daughter chose to do the purely remote learning, although she could barely hear half of the lecture and struggled with the fact that she was just one of the few who chose the path least travelled. My husband cancelled all business trips and by the grace of God, his company made it easy for everyone to work remotely. All these brought challenges for everyone.
Depression - We know how many have lost their lives not just from the virus but from self-inflicted harm brought about by depression. The rise in behavioral and mental consult is a clear evidence of the struggle that we all experienced as a humanity. Alcohol consumption increased too, and not just to disinfect the hands but to deaden the mind from the situation. Various coping mechanisms emerged. And we learned that the best way to thrive and not just survive this pandemic was to accept that the world will have to change if we are to win this war. We fight an enemy that we can’t see, that evolves with every jump from one host to another, that preys on the careless, the clueless, and the immune-deficient, and that lingers for as long as we allow it.
Acceptance - “This will get worse before it gets better. We must adapt to the situation, adopt effective ways of preventing transmission, and abandon baseless and harmful practices.”
We knew we had to work as a team to get through this pandemic alive and healthy.
As people of science, we knew from our preventive medicine and epidemiology classes that a pandemic can only end when herd immunity occurs. This means 70-80% of the population have developed resistance to the disease and stopped transmitting it to others. There are two ways that this can happen.
Two Ways to Herd Immunity
1) By active infection - this type of immunity means that 70-80% of patients, after getting COVID-19, will develop antibodies that lasts for a long time. But based on evidence, the level of antibodies from patients dropped after three months. Meaning, they can get sick with this virus again when exposed to a dose that can overcome their immune system. To get herd immunity through this route, the world will lose many lives first.
2) By vaccination - this type of immunity confers a more promising route. Some studies have shown that by vaccination, the level of antibodies stay longer in the system. If about 70-80% of the population will have this kind of resistance to COVID-19, then the virus will naturally die from a lack of host to infect. But sentiments against vaccination may prove deleterious to this process of herd immunity. Unless 70-80% of the world population become resilient to the virus, it will continue to jump from one host to another, mutate, and even become stronger, so that we need to develop vaccines that will be able to fight it. Unless the world reacts and acts as one, there’s no way we can end this pandemic fast enough. Factors that make the fight more challenging is the constant movement of people that encourages transmission of the virus. As long as the virus finds a vulnerable host to infect, it will continue to replicate, mutate, and spread. And that has been the life story of viruses from time immemorial. History will attest to this. It was only with much vigilance that we were able to eradicate smallpox in 1972. I still have the marks of the vaccine for that virus. So you can guess how old I am.
Which brings me to our journey as a family.
How we coped during the pandemic
Creating safe spaces
With everyone at home, we had to create a space for each member. That entailed moving furniture, donating stuff we no longer need to free up the home. It also entailed letting go of toxic personalities. We cannot be a constant sandpaper to each other, which although did smoothen up some of our rough spots, because it also leads to abrasion and wounds. We learned to be more mindful, patient, kind, and comforting. That was the only way to keep everyone healthy, happy, and holy.
Creating music and crafts
The creative people will always find a way to deal with hardship and turn it into opportunities. We unearthed talents that were abandoned because of lack of time. Now, we had all the time in the world to learn the ukulele, pick up the guitar again, and learn new piano pieces. Music therapy is just as effective as art therapy.
Creating a greener backyard and home
Doing the groceries every two weeks to lessen our exposure had its challenges. But I’ve learned that washing some of the vegetables can make them last longer. And the greens that tend to wilt in days remained fresh when stored in the freezer. I invested in hydroponics that provided us with fresh herbs and did some garden work where I harvested okra and cantaloupe. I also learned composting and found that nature therapy is an effective mood lifter.
Learning new things
We all learned many skills from doing remote work. Navigating Zoom and investing in its stock sure paid off. This encouraged my daughters to learn how to invest in the stock market, start their retirement and investment funds. They earned a thousand fold compared to the measly earnings they had from their savings accounts. We supported companies that developed vaccines and developed infrastructures that proved beneficial during the pandemic.
Learning to be creative in the kitchen
With four mouths to feed round the clock (except when they’re asleep, of course), I spent more and more time in the kitchen, and am not complaining!
What cooking in my kitchen?
The lockdowns and quarantines gave me the time to complete the Culinary Medicine course, a career I decided was worth my investment. In December 8, I took the board certification exam and early this year was conferred as a Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist.
Many wonder what is Culinary Medicine? In the words of Dr. John La Puma, author of Chef MD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover’s Road Map to Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Getting Really Healthy, “Culinary Medicine is a new evidence-based field in medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine.”
Not only did it give me an outlet and platform for my passion, but it also gave me a pathway to deal with my auto-immune disease. Finding health and healing in the kitchen is what Culinary Medicine is for me. It marries well
with my Certification as a Professional for Healthcare Quality.
My hope is to be able to teach the lessons to the community for free, but the licensing for the course from the Health Meet Food program will cost me $1,500/year.
Will you help me raise the funds and together we can work for a more healthy, happy, and holy society starting at home?
Bringing the family together back to the table sharing healthy meals is a foundational approach to rebuilding a sustainable world. You can be my first students and we can journey together in this path towards health and healing using food as medicine.
In my quest for a better quality of life, I found the pandemic as a blessing in disguise. Although the light at the end of the tunnel looks like a tiny spot, the fact that it’s there gives us hope to endure. The world needs to change in the process, and we evolve with it for the better. I don’t think we can ever go back again to the pre-pandemic period without learning our lessons. Otherwise, we would have failed as a society and humanity. The pandemic brought some strong messages that only the blind and deaf would miss.
And it’s not a message of despair or doom. It’s a message that calls people to become good stewards of our home.
As a Christian, I hear a call to stay and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, we prepare and pray.
I believe that we shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. We wait for the Lord with courage. Stouthearted, we wait for the Lord.