Did we ever imagine that we’d be on day 148 of lockdown? A willing form of detention, house arrest and solitary confinement. When President Cyril Ramaphosa or Uncle Cyril (as the social media streets call him) announced the lockdown back in March, I knew it was going to last more than the three-week period. But, I had no clue that we’d far surpass those weeks, spending our autumn and winter indoors.
Prior to the lockdown in South Africa, I was scouring the internet; reading every bit of information I could find about this mysterious virus. And I was shocked at how it had brought countries like China, Spain and Italy (at that time) to its knees; mankind was being held captive by it. I read and I read, and I read … until I had to stop reading because I was fuelling my own anxiety.
I was particularly upset about missing autumn as it’s my favourite season. I know some people dislike autumn, seeing it as a symbol of death or the end of something, but I love autumn because of the various colours and shades. There is something about witnessing the leaves turn from green, to yellow and finally to that burnt orange, reddish colour. Autumn reaffirms my belief that our world was indeed created by God, stilling all doubts I may have – no man can create such beauty. I have also imagined I’d get married under a canopy of autumn trees (yes, my wedding is all planned out in my head. Hehehe!).
As for winter, I have missed the fashion! I could easily skip the fashion of the other seasons, but there is something about trench coats and boots that make me feel extra confident, extra sassy and extra pretty. Then pair that with red lips and the world ain’t got nothing on me. Having missed my fabulous fashion season, I’m definitely going to wear all my trench coats and boots next year (all in one day if I must).
But, now that I’ve digressed and shared my fashion and season preferences with you, let me focus again on lockdown.
As I was saying, I would never have imagined that not only would lockdown last this long (and still be continuing), but that each and every one of us would have been impacted so much by this mysterious and what seems like a mythical virus. The impact has varied from financial, emotional, health and finally to our mortality. My company was one of those that very quickly implemented salary cuts. In April, I had to rejig my budget, prioritising where and how I was going to spend my money. I paused certain payments such as my Retirement Annuity and prioritised my bond payment, insurance and household expenses such as groceries, lights and water. I know many of you are in or have been in the same or similar position – and worst we can’t really imagine the end.
But as much as my salary cut has been an inconvenience, I know I am still one of the privileged individuals in our society. I have not gone without and if I’m really honest, my quality of life has not been altered much. I still have a comfortable and spacious roof over my head. I still eat what I want, when I want (which hasn’t helped the waistline). I have kept warm during the cold days and nights. And more importantly during this time, I’ve had the comfort of knowing that should I contract the Coronavirus I have access to private healthcare, and can self-isolate or quarantine in my own home. But as we know all too well that is not the case for millions of South Africans.
Many South Africans struggled daily, prior to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Now those struggles seem like a walk in the park. If anything, this pandemic and lockdown have further highlighted the ugly truth about the social and economic inequalities within our country.
And have you realised how the emotional and mental health of South Africans have also been impacted by lockdown? During conversations with colleagues and friends, many shared how they’ve really struggled during this period. Words such as lonely, isolated, no sense of purpose, and feeling down seemed to have become more common. I too, found myself struggling, particularly at the beginning where I felt like I had no control or power over staying at home, working from home, whether or not I would get the virus and how things were going to pan out in general.
We’ve certainly moved past the phase where the virus was just someone else’s problem – the ten who were on the international flight from Italy. We’re long past the stage where the infections and deaths reported as part of the daily statistics are nameless and faceless. When the health ministry releases the statistics, we can now personally account for those numbers, even if it is just one person. Friends have contracted the virus. Colleagues have contracted the virus. I see several people on social media who have contracted the virus. The deaths are also getting closer and closer to home. My mom has had two friends pass away due to Covid-19. Colleagues have lost family members, and the list goes on for all of us. And perhaps like me, you are fighting off the thoughts of whether a Covid-19 death is going to land right on your doorstep? Yikes! I don’t know about you, but that thought really unsettles me.
But, like all hardships, difficult times, shitty as f*ck times, they come to an end. History has proven that time and time again! At the risk of being that person who says, there is a lesson in every hardship or something good comes out of every hardship, I do however believe that some good has come out of this global pandemic. Firstly, I believe that the earth has had the opportunity to heal just a little. How you might ask? Well, flights have been grounded, factories were closed for a little while, we’re driving far less – our carbon footprint on the earth has reduced and nature has had an opportunity to renew itself. By the way, I haven’t researched this, but I’m pretty certain that my logic is right. Lol!
Secondly, we have been forced to slow down and just be. There’s no sitting in traffic to get to work, or going out with friends and family, or taking the kids to parties to keep our minds busy and occupied. Even if the slower-paced lifestyle doesn’t appeal to you, I’m sure it has given you the opportunity to reflect and re-assess how and where you spend your time and energy and to ask yourself the all-important question, “Are those things as important and fulfilling as I think they are?”
How have you been doing this lockdown period? Please share what has impacted you and what you have learnt.
P.S – I wrote this blog prior to our move to level 2, which brings with it much excitement and relief. But remember this isn’t the end – this mysterious virus is still among us and it’s important that we remember to remain cautious and safe, despite our new-found physical freedom.
P.S.S – The beautiful image for this blog is by a young Sofiya Kalitvintseva, 18, Mariupol (eastern Ukraine), which I found on www.voicesofyouth.org