Christmas Eve

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

~ Clement Clarke Moore, Twas the Night Before Christmas

 It is Christmas Eve, in the year of our Lord 2021.

I was able to fly home to the Philippines to finally see my parents whom I have not seen since before the pandemic in 2019.

Travelling here was no small feat.  

Last Sunday, I made an appointment to get an RT-PCR test at 12:00 noon.  I arrived at the testing site at 11:40 a.m. thinking that I would be about fifteen minutes early and be done by 12:03 as the place had promised.  “Appointments are 3 minutes or less.”

But when I arrived there, it turned out that about fifty other people also had a 12:00 noon appointment, and there were only five testing personnel.

We all ended up waiting outside in the bitter cold for almost an hour.  The actual swabbing test itself did take less than 3 minutes.  A cotton swab swirl in one nostril, a swish in the other nostril, boom, bam, done.

I paid $175.00 for guaranteed results in 24 hours or less.  I figured that was plenty of time for my early morning Tuesday flight.  I did not have to be at the airport until about 23:00 on Monday night.  However, as Monday afternoon turned into Monday evening and the time was getting close for me to start to worry, I suddenly started feeling sick, mostly with anxiety that (a) I would not receive my results in time, and (b) that I actually tested positive since I had been in the same vicinity as people in my office who had tested positive earlier in the week.

It was not until about 20:00 that I finally received my negative results.

Off to the airport I go.  Once I arrived to check into my flight, the agent told me that the Philippines was only accepting passengers that were current Filipino passport holders or former Filipinos with proof of birth in the country.

“Please produce a copy of your Philippine birth certificate, or you will be denied boarding on the flight.”

Wait, what?

I thought I had read the travel requirements carefully, but apparently I had missed that requirement.  I was thinking to myself how the f*ck was I going to be able to produce my birth certificate at that very moment.  I definitely did not have enough time to go home and come back.

And then I had remembered Google docs.  I had scanned a bunch of important documents and saved them onto my Google docs account.  I logged into my account from my phone and there I was at the airport, sweating and praying that I had scanned my birth certificate.  

There it was.  I had scanned my birth certificate and saved it on my account sometime in 2011.

Crisis averted.  I produced a copy of my birth certificate, boarded the plane, and settled into my seat.  The flight was nearly eighteen hours long, but the sheer stress of the last thirty-six hours exhausted me to the point that I had slept through about ten hours during the flight.

When we landed on Philippine soil, we were immediately escorted to this large area that had the Philippine coast guard there. We were approached by guards who checked our papers and asked us a series of questions regarding our health. We were then instructed to complete an application for a OneHealth pass that you would have to carry for the duration of your time in the country. I had completed the application days in advance, but it was never approved because they had sent a follow-up email to me asking if I was pregnant, but I did not see that email because I had been on a plane for the last eighteen hours.

After about three more health station checks, I was escorted to the baggage area to claim my luggage, and after that, I was immediately taken outside to the official government taxi stand and then whisked off to my hotel where I am now to undergo a mandatory six day quarantine period (swabbing on the fifth day, plus one day to receive the results).

I am to be here until Monday, December 27. I will be spending Christmas locked in a hotel room.

Progress

“In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead.” ~ Tony Kushner, Perestroika

The move to my new apartment this past July was really difficult for me.  Firstly, I did everything by myself.  While I did have movers to lift and transport the heavy stuff, I did all the packing and unpacking and rearranging on my own. 

The idea of cleaning out my old apartment felt good at first.  I had felt like I was shedding dead parts and growing into a new and improved version of myself.  I called a junk removal service and scheduled a day for them to come and take away all those items that I no longer needed or wanted to bring into my new space.  But when that day came, I panicked and I ended up directing them to take away far less than I had originally planned.  As a result, I was still stuck with an apartment full of items and furniture that needed to be discarded.  The stress of having wasted time and money on the failed removal project started to weigh heavily on me and I felt as though I could not continue.  All I wanted to do was to go to sleep and never wake up as the task of completely cleaning out my old apartment felt too monumental for me to accomplish.  

Somehow, I was able to pick myself up and just get it done.  The next step was to unpack at my new place.    The excitement of moving into a brand new space did not last long as the unpacking process was a brutal reminder of how alone I really was in this world.  With the pandemic and health safety concerns, I really did not feel like asking for any help and instead unpacked and set up the entire apartment all by myself.  I cried on many nights, drowning in self-pity that I had no one to help me with putting away things on high shelves or to help me lift heavy stuff like the mattress.  The moving process made me miss the convenience of having someone like my ex who was very house-handy, and that led to me pining for him, even though I knew it was not really him that I missed.  I just missed having a body around to help me.  Mostly I just wished for someone to just be there.

After a lot of tears and sweat, I managed to get it all done.

It came along, slowly, but I did it.

I now look forward to spending cozy warm nights in my new home.

Post-Pandemic

“How much does your life have to suck to want the Apocalypse?” ~ Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone
 
The pandemic lasted 457 days in New York City, with the Covid restrictions ending on June 15, 2021.
 
Post-pandemic life has been a series of highs and lows.
 

Highs:

  • May:  I went to Miami, for the first time ever, and loved it.  I met my high school and long time friend there to celebrate our landmark birthdays.

  • June:  One day after the lifting of restrictions, I went to Cape Cod.  I got to see the famous lighthouses and eat fantastic seafood.

  • July:  I moved to a great location in the city, right on the East River.  These are views from my apartment.

  • September:  I was able to participate in the Tunnel to Towers Run to honor and pay respect to the thousands of lives that perished on 9/11.  It’s surreal to me that this year was the 20th anniversary.

Lows:

My cousin went into cardiac arrest in July, just two short months after I last saw him in May.  He had looked to be healthy and on the mend from a recent medical procedure.  He fell into a coma and never fully regained consciousness.  He passed away in early October.  Even worse, I found out about his passing through Instagram when one of his sons posted a note about his passing.  I loved my cousin and am hurt that his family never even bothered to inform me.  People (especially family) are freakin’ weird.

Another low this year is the sudden character regression of my daughter.  I had posted in March about how proud I was of her seemingly becoming more mature, and sometime between March and during the summer, she transformed into a lying, sneaky, and unreliable little jerk.  I know she’s my daughter and I should not refer to her disparagingly, but I call it how I see it.  She had three sessions with a therapist, and those sessions went well.  I have encouraged her to continue, but she refuses to go, instead choosing to be rebellious and defiant of house rules.  I am nearly at my wit’s end with her, and am running out of patience.

Looking Ahead

It is now December and God willing, I will fly out in two weeks to see my family in the Philippines.  The clock is ticking faster these days, it feels like, and I am anxious to see them, especially after this long pandemic that does not seem to end.  Hopefully I will get to spend my Christmas and New Year with them.  In the meantime, I am enjoying the festive decorations here in the city.  It is such a welcome sight, made much more appreciated after having missed it last year with the city on lockdown.

Night Drives

“I hadn’t realized that music could unlock things in you, could transport you to somewhere even the composer hadn’t predicted.  It left an imprint in the air around you, as if you carried its remnants with you when you went.” ~ Jojo Moyes, Me Before You
 

Day 356.  Last Night was Friday night.  The girls and I drove around the city and ended up on the Lower East Side.  We parked the car and walked out in the blistering cold in search of a place to eat.  With the restaurant gathering capacity still limited to thirty-five percent, we settled on dining inside a bubble at this place called Route 66.

Photo credit: Route 66
 

The inside of the bubble was warmer, but by no means warm enough to take off your coat.  It’s uncomfortable to eat in such conditions, but even more uncomfortable to just sit there idle, so I ordered a cocktail and some french fries.  Not exactly healthy, but hey, you only live once.

After dinner, we got back into the car and drove around the city some more.  I swear to God, New York is so bloody beautiful.  We turned up the music in the car and with the lights of the city shining around us, it almost felt like we were in a nightclub.

Song: Breaking Me, Topic & A7S
Excuse the smudges on the windows.
 

Scar Tissue

“The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see–the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes.  No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it.  A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived.  For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.” ~ Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits
 
Day 347.  The days seem to get heavier and heavier.
 
I was fortunate last year that I was too busy at work to really feel the full blown effects of this pandemic, but the workload finally slowed down a bit during this first quarter of the year, and so the powers that be have been encouraging us to log offline early or use the vacation days that we did not use last year.
 
Idle time is dangerous for people with depression.  I am least depressed when my days and nights are consumed with work, and when I have down time or “free time”, my thoughts go dark, and  then I am caught in a black hole of despair and hopelessness from which I am certain there is no escape.
 
My daughter and I talk a lot, and that helps quite a bit, but she is at an age where she prefers the (virtual) company of her friends.  I understand that.  After all, I was once her age, so I try not to impose too much on her time.  
 
I read a lot, though nothing new – mostly rereading the old books I have.  There’s a certain comfort in knowing how the stories will end, and reading a story again can feel like visiting an old friend.  There is comfort in familiarity and so whenever I am feeling particularly lonely, I pick up an old book and relive the parts of the stories that make me feel like home.
 
Binge watching Netflix can be entertaining at times, but I found that I can spend an entire day just sprawled out on my couch.  I would feel a huge amount of guilt at the end of the day for not being productive, so I rarely watch television anymore.
 
The short of it is that I do not find anything pleasurable anymore.  Sure, I have my occasional trysts with NP and FF, but even that feels empty.
 
I get up every morning, put on my work face, smile when I need to smile, perform my duties at work and at home, exercise fanatically every night – basically live my life like a high functioning human being – but I am dead inside.
 
I know this just is just a cycle, and soon, I will feel better again.  But for now, all I can see in front of me is darkness, and during these times, I pray for nothing but everlasting sleep.
 

Heart Restructuring

“The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number.” ~ P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!
It is Saturday, the 20th of February, in the year 2021.  It has been three-hundred and forty-two (342) days since the quarantine/pandemic started for me.  It has been nearly one year.
 
All in all, the pandemic has been good to and for me.  I feel horribly writing this, as I know so many people have suffered unimaginable losses, but aside from the long periods of sheltering in place and the limited social and physical interactions with society and people, overall I have done really well the last eleven months.  
 
Financially, I made more money last year than I have ever made in my life.  Corporate restructuring is my line of work, and as you can imagine, with the fall of the economy as a result of the pandemic and the shutting of businesses, I was busy, and this is stating it mildly.
 
Physically, I am in the best health and shape than I have been in years.  I started a fitness regime last year to stave off boredom, and I stuck through it this entire time.  The hard work has paid off.
In the physical relationship department, I also flourished.  A friend had introduced me to one of her clients, a Nordic pilot (“NP“) twenty years my junior.  He and I got on in September, and until now, we enjoy an easy, no-strings attached friendship.  With the massive age difference, we both knew that this “thing”would never develop into anything further, but we enjoy each other’s company whenever he is in town.  I genuinely like him as a person, and hope that even when the flames die, we will still be friends.
 
In October, I connected with a male friend who I met in 2014.  We were both in relationships when we first met, but we since have both broken up with our respective partners.  We decided to meet up one afternoon in October.  The sexual tension had been building up the last six years, and on that afternoon, we finally succumbed to it.  The reality was even better than the fantasy we both had created in our imaginations, and my only regret now is that we did not explore this opportunity earlier.  His touch is always so gentle, yet wanting, and oftentimes I find myself daydreaming about our interactions, replaying them in my mind over and over again.
 
He is a fantastic man overall – a loving son to his parents, a kind and caring brother to his sister, and a hero to the city as a firefighter (“FF“), and if the situation were only different, I really could see myself with him.
 
However, much like NP, he is much younger than I am.  Thirteen years younger, to be exact.  Better than twenty, but still too much.
 
And that’s where my good fortune ends.  
 
I realized that I was catching feelings for FF when one night in January, NP called to say he was in town and asked if I wanted to meet up.  I told him that I was feeling under the weather and said that I would catch him the next time he was back in town.  I sensed his disappointment, but I figured it was better than if he were to come over just to feel that my heart was not into it.
 
The truth was, I could not stop thinking about FF, and I felt guilty as though I were cheating on him with NP, even though he and I had not established any kind of commitment.  Even more so, I had broken my own heart when I had told FF early on that I was only looking for a FWB situation.  I am not sure why I told him that, but I can only imagine that it was for my own self-preservation.  Better for me to setup the hurt myself, than to be hurt by him in the likely event that once he bores of me, he would break it off with me and say “you’re just too old for me” or something to that effect.
 
I just don’t think my heart can withstand another breaking.
 
Matters of the heart are where I have never been successful.  Ever.  All other parts of my life may be flourishing and prosperous, but my heart has always been bankrupted.
 
I am an expert in corporate restructuring – I only wish I knew how to restructure my heart to make myself believe in love again.
 

Autumn in New York

“Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad?” ~ Dodie SmithI Capture the Castle

While the quarantine period ended sometime in May, we are still working from home and schools are on a blended distance and in-person schedule.  It is day 223 since they shut down the city.  More than half the year.  And in no time, 2021 will be upon us.

The summer came and went quickly.  I can count on my fingers the number of days I spent outside and actually felt a semblance of normalcy.

In late May, we took a drive to Connecticut.  They were the first state within driving distance of the city to open restaurants and public spaces.

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We had a lovely lunch at L’Escale.  After eating oatmeal and salads during the quarantine, this tasted like the best steak (and meal) I have ever eaten.

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In late June, we took a drive to the Hamptons.

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In July, we were tourists in our city.

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In August, we took a short trip to Saratoga Springs.

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In September, we stayed home and paid our respects to the fallen heroes of 9/11.

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And now it is October, and it is autumn in New York.

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There is a somber and dreary look and feel this season.  Or maybe it’s just me and my dark, depressive moods.  I always try hard to battle my ongoing depression, but this year has been especially difficult.  

I battle it every day by sticking to a workout routine.  I started using the pull-up bar, though I am still unable to do one proper pull-up.  I also started to work on my handstands, and I have done a solid job of sticking to a routine.  

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I even have abs now that are not covered under layers of fat and disappointment.  My fitness routine, and the positive side effects that come with it, is the highlight of my year.  Hey – I have to take the wins anywhere I can.

Vingt-Huit

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping.  You probably can’t.  You know the month, the year, the day of the week.  There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car.  You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie.  Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late.  A dog does not check its watch.  Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.  Human alone measures time.  Man alone chimes the hour.  And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures.  A fear of time running out.” ~ Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper

Today is the 28th day of the quarantine for me.  Today is also Easter Sunday for the Roman Catholics and the Christians.

Yesterday was also my 49th birthday.

It is difficult to not feel despair and hopelessness during these uncertain times.  A general wave of gloom and irritation washed over me yesterday, and it was not lost on those who called to greet me a happy birthday.

One of my friends texted to wish me a happy birthday, and she asked, “What are you going to do today?

I was not angry with her at all, but I knew my response was snippy and mean as soon as I hit the  SEND button.

I’m going clubbing tonight.  Wtf do you think I am going to do?  My choices are limited to what side of the couch I am going to sit today, or what part of the apartment I will spend my day.”

I felt badly for being so bitchy, so I picked up the phone and called her.  She also felt badly and we talked about some of the difficulties she is facing in her own life with this COVID crisis.

As a little bit of a treat, I ordered pizza and seafood linguine from one of the few neighborhood restaurants that are still open for delivery.  For dessert, we had carrot cake that I defrosted from my Omaha Steaks order that was delivered on Thursday.  It was not the best birthday celebration, but neither was it the worst.  We just have to make do with what we have, right?  And always remain grateful no matter what.

Twenty

I was tired of doing much the same thing everyday. My friends pursued their course with uneventfulness; they had no longer any surprises for me, and when I met them I knew pretty well what they would say; even their love-affairs had a tedious banality. We were like tram-cars running on their lines from terminus to terminus, and it was possible to calculate within small limits the number of passengers they would carry. Life was ordered too pleasantly. I was seized with panic. I gave up my small apartment, sold my few belongings, and resolved to start afresh.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence

I just finished the twentieth day of isolation/quarantine.  I did not leave the house this entire week.  The CV situation has reached a devastating level – over 3,500 have died already, with over 680 deaths in a 24 hour period.

I went outside today, only the third time in the twenty days that I have been in isolation.  It was a quick stop to the food market, and when I saw that the line was wrapped around the corner, I headed back home.  It took all of twenty minutes.

I have to admit that I had a hard time this week.  I know – I am not the only one.   This has been rough on everyone.  I still feel grateful in my heart that I am working and that my family is safe and healthy.  But if I am being honest, being grateful does not mean that I cannot hate being in what feels like house arrest, and feel anxiety for the uncertain future that we all face.

G was so bored this week that she cut her own hair.  Surprisingly, it turned out quite nice.  I was not happy at first that she did that, but after some thought, I realized that she has had to adjust to this quarantine life, and if something as innocent as cutting her own hair makes her feel better, than how can I be mad at that?

I dreamt last night of G.  She was younger in my dream, maybe six or seven.  I was standing in my living room, aware of the chaos outside, and saw that she had sneaked outside to play.  Behind her, as she was blissfully unaware of her surroundings, a Neanderthal-looking man was swinging around his firearm.  I screamed through the glass sliding door for her to come inside, but it was as if she could not hear me or the Neanderthal circling around her.  I frantically kept screaming for her to come inside, and I woke up right as the Neanderthal was about to close in on her.

 

Arithmós Dekatria

“There are many who don’t wish to sleep for fear of nightmares. Sadly, there are many who don’t wish to wake for the same fear.” ~ Richelle Goodrich, Dandelions: The Disappearance of Annabelle Fancher

I’ve lost count, but I’m pretty sure today is day 13.  Days 9 through 12 were uneventful and were spent inside the apartment, working eleven hour days and not much else.

I ventured outside today and ran to the store to get some essentials.  The streets were even more empty today than they were last week.  I actually walked on the street rather than the sidewalk and kept a considerable distance from other people.  Nearly everyone on the streets and inside the supermarket had masks.

The supermarket shelves were also more sparse than last week.  It was a sad, sad spectacle.  There was not even one roll of toilet paper to be bought.  The frozen vegetable freezers were also empty, with the exception of maybe two bags of frozen peas and frozen corn stuck together.  I thought to take a picture of the empty shelves, but then decided against it.  This is not something that I ever want to see again, and I really did not want to document this, not even for posterity.

In the end, I was able to only buy one package of chicken, two bottles of water, and one small bag of rice.  Even with that paltry amount of groceries, I felt thankful that I was able to get anything at all.

It started to rain on my walk home from the market, and I suddenly had the urge to burst into tears.  Not because of the rain, but because as I looked around at the empty streets and at the other people walking the street, I could see the level of fear and despair in their eyes, and I could tell from their gait that like I, they were feeling like this is the end of the world as we knew it.