Dear Covid, You suck.
At this time of writing , I am in Dorset, England. We are one of the lucky ones to have slipped thru the COVID “net” and able to travel for family. Approval did not come easy, we applied and reapplied, called and waited til the ring tone died off, on some important stranger’s desk 300kms away. A month and a few weeks later, through some magical loop hole, someone from that office picked up our application and stamped “good to go”. We flew 3 days later , armed with caution, sanitisers and a pack of disposable masks each. My boy , after 7 months, was finally reunited with his Da. ..Covid, on behalf of all of us, you suck.
What used to be mundane and boring activities with loved ones became the most important yearning we all shared. Forced reflections and self realisation squashed us down to the humble and basic need of physical touch. My kid totally shut down. You think kids are resilient, you’re thinking if you give him enough activities, feed him enough, talk to him often everything will be ok. My boy curled deeper into his own self, it was hard enough being 13, but not to see his Dad was breaking his spirit. Dear Covid. You suck. You break hearts.
I don’t mean to grumble. We left behind friends who are still separated from loved ones, there are also those without homes, and jobs or even enough food. And those who are trapped in their homes, vulnerable, suffering and ignored as I write this.
Here is Mandy’s story.
” I live in Penang, Malaysia … I am an artist first and a muralist second. I have been painting for the past 12 years. My partner and I are in a long-distance relationship…we took turns to visit each other every 2 months. Ever since the pandemic spread worldwide and strict travel restriction, I have not seen him for more than 8 months now.”
“We planned on getting married in Croatia in the summer time earlier this year. After that we were to take my family for week of sight-seeing around Croatia as they have never been before. We were all excited and looked forward to it. As the pandemic worsened, we had to cancel all plans. We’re still wondering what’s next, but staying positive.”
“We would text and video call each other as often as we can. We keep each other updated with our daily life – the highlights and the lowlights, our work, our family, supporting each other emotionally and remind each other to stay positive. We are getting better at it too.”
“When we’re together, nothing else mattered. We’re just happy to be together and able to hold each other. We enjoy every moment, at home or outside. We make every moment count. We are less petty; we take pleasure in doing everything and nothing together, from doing mundane chores to planning a short weekend trip. Besides being physically close together, he has helped me tremendously as the second parent in the house and being supportive when I need it. We hold each other longer, we don’t take each other for granted, spend time doing the things we love, laugh at and with each other and have stupid arguments about what and when to eat, especially in Penang.
What I took for granted? Freedom.
“Freedom to go anywhere, travel, to do any outdoor activities, freedom from the air you breathe without a mask. Hawker food is a big one too, and just being spoilt of choices. I still remember how much I enjoyed that hot plate of Mee Goreng after 3 – 4 months of home cooked food. I was getting really sick of my own cooking and doing the dishes! “
I am Thankful.
“Essential workers working at the supermarket to the groceries and food delivery guy delivering our meals. We hardly take notice of them, but during the pandemic – they are the ones that are actually keeping us alive. Healthcare workers – hats off to them for working tirelessly around the clock, having to make a lot of sacrifices and risking their own life to save ours. “
I am woke.
“When the world shuts down, the eminent sound of nature is amplified, you see and you hear the birds more often in the mornings, beaches and rivers cleared up. It is a true wake up call for us and we need to do better and take better care of the environment.
“Community spirit from volunteers, charities, support group has really come together for a lot of us. School, companies and office workers are adapting to the new way of learning and working from home. For decades, they believed it can’t be done – well, yes you can. Hello Zoom! Lower carbon emission around the globe – that is always a good thing. Global platforms for e-learning anything, has really opened up the opportunity for a lot of people who might not had the chance to immerse themselves in if it weren’t for Covid.”
Time is Mine.
“Art participation and exhibitions worldwide providing artists window of opportunity to expand beyond their bubble. It has also given me plenty of time to start on a new series of artwork and keeping me busy, focused and productive like never before since I couldn’t leave the house. From the new series, it has gotten a lot of positive feedback and I’ve managed to sell some of the pieces as well, which was really nice and having some income during this dark time, I am very grateful and thankful.”
When I look back at these works, they remind me of the my artistic journey and experiences. Each photo marks a different mile stone and growth. ( image : Mural of Dick Van Dyke. Shoreditch, London 2018)
“The day of my supposed wedding day was one of my lowest point throughout the lock down. Not being able to be with my fiancé and being so far a part, when we were supposed to be together
celebrating our nuptial with close family and friends. ” (image : Solo exhibition “Self-ish” TAES , Art Gallery , Straits Quay, Penang 2019)
“I kept myself busy in the studio, trying not to think so much about as there is nothing that we can do about it. We video called on that day, as disappointed as we were, we felt thankful that we were still both safe and healthy. For the rest of the day, I tried to make full use of the opportunity and kept focused on what I wanted to achieve. ” (image : Acrylics & Oil with Gold Leaf, “BIG” competition Penang State Art Gallery 2019)
A day at a time.
” I set mini targets to complete at the end of the day, week(s) and then months, to keep the momentum rolling. It’s important to know that there are certain things in life that we can or can’t control, find out what matters most and invest your time before it’s too late.” (image Oripig)
“Having a schedule or list for things that you need and want to do is important, and take it one day at a time and be flexible enough so you don’t stress yourself for not sticking to your own schedule. Spending time with a friend or two besides your own partner is crucial to your mental well-being as well. ” (image Orichicks)
Confront and Accept.
“Allow yourself to feel all the emotions of anger, sadness, happiness, numbness, helplessness, hopelessness at these times; but never keep it to yourself- share it with someone you’re comfortable with.” (image Oribunny)
My Safe Place.
“I spend most of my time working on new paintings, creating new pieces, find inspiration and the motivation each day to show up and work towards the big outcome that I have in mind. It helps keep me focused and in checked on what is important. This is my safe place.“
Links on Mandy Maung