I’m going to start this post much the same as I did my first post of 2020 – A New year…Always such a joyful and hopeful time, right? A feeling of a fresh start and a renewal of hope as we sit amongst the embers of the year that has passed. A symbol of new beginnings, a clean slate with which to start (and fail) again and again with the same tiresome resolutions – lose weight, exercise more, eat clean, slow down, be more present. Until we inevitably plunge back into the rat race, the hamster wheel, the busy lifestyle that distracts us from what’s important. But not this year though. This year has gone a whole lot differently for all of us, and nobody – not a single soul – could imagine that this would be the trajectory – A global pandemic that has most of the world under lockdown.
People often talk about how their lives changed in an instant; and I know that for them, the circumstances for saying so are far more catastrophic; but this year, life as we knew it really did change in an instant for everyone, and we were all left grappling and struggling to adapt. One minute we were planning for the future, the next minute, the future we were picturing seemed to have been ripped out from beneath us. For some of us, it’s been small changes…small things we had to let go of and give up. For others, it was big dreams they had to put on hold. For most people, the uncertainty of an income has been the most prevalent. For everyone, the territory was unchartered. On the most part, lockdown has looked very different for everyone. If anything, I thinks it’s amplified our realities – our privilege, our poverty, our broken pieces, the shadows looming. All of it has become louder than before.
At first, 21 days seemed like just the break we needed from a reality that left us constantly scrambling. A welcomed reprieve from the external noise and chaos. A vacation of sorts as we cocooned ourselves – nestled in our personal comforts. I know I speak for myself here; and it’s a feeling that has left me hyper aware of my privilege, juxtaposed against the vast majority of our country that was left reeling in struggle and strife. But then 21 days quickly turned to 50…and 50 became 70. We went from stockpiling, to panic baking, to working from home (for some of us), to working in the frontline of the pandemic for others; all while still having to keep it together and maintain a semblance of normalcy for our kids. And now, more than 100 days in, we’ve become vaguely accustomed to this new kind of normal while still hopefully hanging on to the notion that life will return to the kind of normal we were used to. But also, not really. While there are certainly some freedoms I wholeheartedly miss, there’s a certain appreciation for the slower paced life. The pause. The lull that has ensued over the last 100 and odd days. So how exactly have we been keeping it together? I guess these are the areas where life has impacted our family the most over the last 110 days :-
Being a stay at home mom means that nothing really changed for me…except maybe for having to be on call 24/7 and the fact that I’ve cooked more meals in the last 4 months than I did in the last 2 years! And that now I’m headmistress of this home learning thing we’ve got going on and I also haven’t had a spare minute to myself and the laundry is somehow never ending – Ok, everything has changed. But at least I don’t have an actual other job I have to juggle in addition to all of this.
Besides obviously for our health, one of my biggest immediate concerns has been regarding my kids’ education. With my daughter being in matric, and the older of my two sons close behind in grade 11; and both being big years in terms of transitioning into tertiary education; there’s a great deal of uncertainty with everything still being largely up in the air. The idea of them returning to school in the middle of a pandemic with no set precedence to follow and no definitive reassurance, has plagued my conscience and I question myself constantly as to whether I should follow the flock blindly, or ultimately forge my own path. Thankfully, their school has adapted well to online learning from the onset of the pandemic and continues to do so until things settle down. For the youngest, there is a little more flexibility and a lot less uncertainty, but if I’m honest with myself, even though I am grateful to have them safe within the confines of my vision; taking control of the reigns of their academic year has proven to be…problematic for me. Initially I was very lax about the whole schedule and routine, thinking that things would return to normal soon enough. But as the days have rolled on, it’s become clear that normal may never return and I have had to face my own lack of structure, order and routine in order to help everyone adapt to the new norm. And while I am being honest over here, I’m still struggling in that sphere. In an instant, a whole generation of kids is being forced to adapt to a future that is still in the process of being shaped, and if anything, what I want my kids to learn from this, is to be able adapt to the unpredictability of life.
I feel like this pandemic; and subsequent lockdown; came so unexpectedly, that nobody had a proper chance to emotionally prepare for the long haul. We didn’t get to have a last supper, or get together, or final embrace before the long months of separation we now find ourselves in. I guess we all thought that if we sat tight in those initial days, it would be over by now already, and I guess we all just scurried along to get last minute supplies (not toilet paper) and retreated into our cocoons. We’ve gone from being in constant contact, to barely having any physical interaction with my folks over the last few months since both of them are in a risky age group and my mom especially being at high risk with several concerning underlying health issues. And even though we’re still communicating in different ways, we have missed out on the big family gatherings we’re accustomed to for birthdays and Eid and everything in between…and even missed out on giving a proper welcoming my new niece who was born during this time. On the plus side, this time has been the biggest gift and blessing for me and my nuclear family (husband and kids). Life under lockdown has been just the oasis we needed… the reprieve we required…the little lifeboat thrown to us after emerging from the turbulence of a cutthroat regime. It’s given us the chance to settle into our new home, enjoy an uninterrupted calm, granted us some space to heal some wounds and thrive…been to us a placebo of sorts. In a time where so many things remain uncertain; being enveloped in each others constant presence has been the silver lining amidst it all.
It really does feel as if our whole existence was halted at the beginning of this pandemic. A lot of us didn’t know how to carry on without the normalcy of a familiar routine. But as we’ve woven our way through the last four months, as we come to terms with the gravity of it all and make our way through the thick fog of uncertainty; our hearts continue to beat. The sun continues to rise and fall. The days continue to pass us by – and consequently, so is life. We are beating hearts and we need to stop waiting for better days to start living again; and instead, find ways to live in this new kind of normal.
Thanks for reading!