Keeping an Art Journal Through a Pandemic

To say that the past few days have been difficult would be the understatement of the year. It’s been brutal on everybody, and harder for some than for others. It’s hard to fight off the existential dread that has been eating away at many of us these past few weeks. We’re almost at the middle of the third week of lockdown and though things are settling down a bit at home, it’s not always comforting to look at the news and see what the government is doing (or not doing). You look at how other countries are responding to the same existential threat and you see very clearly how much our own government has neglected us for years. You don’t really notice it if you’ve worked all your life to not need anything from the government, but when you’re put in a position where your life depends on it, things can get pretty bleak. I started documenting COVID19 around end of January, at a time when I was still wondering I’m overreacting to it (turns out I wasn’t). My husband and I were cautious about this novel virus, at a time when not a lot of people were taking it seriously yet. Then there was a lull in the local news about it, and things went back to “normal” for a time. Then the mad rush to get food before the “enhanced community quarantine”. It seemed like all of a sudden, reality spun out of control and we were struggling to secure our food supplies, herding our little family home, keeping out an invisible enemy while trying to make sense of the government’s haphazard, wildly-swinging policies about the lockdown.

I can still remember the last time I was outdoors. My husband and I were rushing to buy groceries at 6:50PM, making it through the door just 10 minutes before SnR closed. Then rushing home just a few minutes before the 8PM curfew, nervous about how we’re going to get my brother-in-law home from Quezon City when cities are closing borders. It’s like waking up to a new, dystopian version of your world. It’s very disconcerting, to say the least.

To keep calm and to help myself process what’s happening, I’ve begun to write more focused entries on the pandemic, hoping that I will be able to read them a few months from now and marvel at what we all went through.

I’ve started using a Hobonichi Cousin again earlier this year so it’s been fun establishing a kind of journaling routine where I include a little sketch about what we ate that day and whatever news was circulating. Before this, it was all about work, home, books, stuff like that. I long for the time when I would wonder what I could write on my daily page.

I try to write about the little, everyday things that I find beautiful and comforting. I write about family and faith, and finding peace in the storm. Of course I write about the government and the people, and how we really need to vote for better leaders. At times, my writing routine and work really keep me focused on moving forward each day, when one day seems to bleed into the next. We’re going through such a difficult time in history, one that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. I choose to be hopeful that we can look back at this time and marvel at what we survived. I choose to keep writing so that the lessons won’t be lost, even if the current situation is sometimes too bleak to commit to paper.

As someone on the extreme end of the introversion spectrum, I’m very used to the isolation. I’ve been working from home for over 10 years and I enjoy it a lot. I thrive in isolation, even. But this isn’t easy even for an introvert like myself because there’s a lot of suffering around me. We will all deal with our personal trauma once this is over, and for me, writing my way through this pandemic is an important form of self-care.

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