In 10 days, I close in to complete 16 weeks as a COVID -19 evacuee from our overseas post in Jakarta, Indonesia to seek a safe haven with my sister and her family in Southern California. The last time our military family experienced a deployment was six years ago. This time, it was my daughter and me who informally deployed while hubby stayed home in Jakarta. How times have changed the roles we play in life!
During this pandemic, the chaos of homeschooling, working from home, and the uncertainties of the year bring a lot of anxiety and fear. In every angle, the call for self-care and wellness come up in every conversation at home and work.
In Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s book, The Mountains Sing I listened to her voice as she laid out lessons of enduring courage and kindness - of starting from scratch, of clutching on to hope and unwavering love. It is indeed unprecedented time as we undergo feelings of isolation while in quarantine and what hurts the most is being ‘near yet too far’ with family and friends I wish to share a hug or a simple get-together to break bread. Losing a dear cousin of mine, whom I went to college with felt like a punch in the gut. Grieving is a process – that I am fully aware of, she fought the big C for two years and I admired her determination and will to beat it. In the end, it was not losing the battle but what she has gifted me in return. The desire to leave a legacy for my only daughter felt stronger than ever. If by chance, as my best friend Febe coined the term “earth walk” has come to its end, there is one question, I would like to have answered with full conviction.
Caroline McHugh said that there is the simplest and the most complicated question you will ever ask, “Who do you think you are?” and yet the well-meaning people in our lives’ usual response to our rumination is “Just be yourself.” This time, I would like to drop the word “just” from my vocabulary.
The process of learning who we are never ends
For the last sixteen weeks, I made space for the things that are more aligned with my quest of answering the question, “Who do you think you are?”. The first phase is defining the who and what deserve my time and attention.
- I left a job because it failed me to live up to its own values. I respect myself as a professional and if an employer could not have the civility to extend respect and treat me as such, the worse is having senior management in the organization that does not know how to lead - I am out.
- I decided not to nurture relationships that I have to explain to myself that I need to. Life is short for me to provide assumptions for others.
- Professional networking. I became more mindful of whom to connect with and be naturally curious about what they do, compliment their work, and identify how I could be of service rather than what they can give.
- What felt very good is reconnecting with old friends, colleagues, and our younger selves. It feels magical to pick up where you left off.
- Loving unconditionally and it starts with me. Forgiving oneself is something I fail the majority of the time. Perfectionist tendencies. I will start with peeling this layer of setting standards – to whose standards are they anyway?
- Embracing the NOW wholeheartedly and keeping my brain active. Morning walks have never felt more invigorating when you treat it as an adventure. Reading books, while it has been a favorite hobby of mine, an audiobook is my ideal companion during these walks.
- A deeper commitment to spirituality. My almost daily practice of yoga via Yoga with Adriene and documenting the things I am grateful for each day to keep me grounded. Not only does it set the tone of my day. A practice of mindfulness and appreciation for all the things surrounding me bring a sense of calmness and clarity.
Because I am happy
Thank you, Pharell Williams, I clap along because I feel happiness is the truth. My personal pursuit is not to be happy. I already am. I know that the succeeding phases to truly answer the question of “Who do you think you are?” is how to continue to spread that happiness is my truth. The real challenge will come when the ‘great pause’ brought by the pandemic brings us all back to the routines of our everyday lives. I would not want my days to turn into “just another day.”
As an author and mother, I will write more and keep my conversations with Elise more regularly. As a wife, I will continue to make decisions for our family to be together and pursue only things that resonate with us. Mirroring what I set out for myself in words and action is my mission to answer, “Who do you think you are?” I am that person that conjures excitement and enthusiasm, and each morning says “One more day in paradise. The whole ME is ready to make it one of a kind!”