We had a bit of a milestone here today as the country moved into Level 3 of lockdown. Retail is fully opened up except for personal care, and the restrictions that remain enforce social distancing more than anything else (no gyms, organised sport, must work from home if possible, etc). But the biggest change seems to be in the mental mindset: we are in this for the long haul, the virus aspect of it is going to get (much) worse, but we have to find a new normal that allows economic activity. For sure, among my friends and colleagues there is an unwritten understanding that everyone is responsible for their own health, and their own social choices, and those choices will be respected. So while the country tries to (somewhat arbitrarily) direct us in staying safe through regulations, we are individually taking responsibility for what we deem to be safe or not. And, while we do that, our biggest challenge is the economic one.
But I want to record what the lockdown has, thus far, meant for me.
Ctrl, Alt, Del
It has, without a doubt, been a circuit breaker. It unexpectedly created two eras in my life, the before and the after, at a time when I was desperate to leave the past behind but was struggling to find an effective and permanent way to do so. The lockdown, or rather the pandemic that necessitated the lockdown, caused an instant shift in perspective. I suddenly had serious things to worry about, plans that needed to be adjusted, loyalties that needed to be shifted, priorities that needed to be re-assesed.
The very first personal consequence of the pandemic for me was very negative: I had to voluntarily cancel my trip to Switzerland, which I was a sore point for me. However, this was quickly followed by a quick positive: the flight restrictions that soon followed meant that Craig was not able to come to South Africa as planned, which frankly I was quite relieved about. He had been here just ten weeks prior and I really needed an extended period of time without him here to find my new normal. The pandemic was a godsend in that regard. Worked its magic!
There were other benefits to the lockdown. I had – for years – been wishing that the world needed to stop turning so I could just catch up. Not just on work, but on life in general. Things were spinning fast, and I didn’t feel in control and I needed to pause and reflect. It turns out that three-week breaks at the end of the year are not nearly enough to do that. But of course life was relentless, and taking enough “time-out” was never a realistic ideal. Often times I felt as if I was just treading water, paddling furiously to just stay afloat.
Of course, the lockdown offered this opportunity. The first three weeks, especially, were quiet. They were still. We were all just breathing, waiting to see what would happen, and how. The later weeks allowed a bit more relaxation for me, although I know they brought a lot more anxiety to others. I remember that we all had such high hopes for those first 21 days: we will fix our sites, learn a language, spend time with kids, read more, purge the house of clutter, cook up a storm. The reality is that I did very little of any of that, and I know my friends didn’t either. We were just catching our breath. When Level 5 was extended by a further 2 weeks, I started to become more active, and started to make good plans. By the time we reached Level 4, I was more focussed and highly optimistic.
The New Dawn
In the past 3 months I have started to re-discover myself. And by that I mean that I have reclaimed my power that I had somehow given away. I feel energised, excited, optimistic and exhilarated by what my future will bring. I have re-chartered my course, and am ready for the journey. I’m not done yet though, and although we are now in Level 3 and life is returning back to normal, I am comfortable to admit that I am not yet ready. I am still in my own personal lockdown, somewhat necessitated by health risks, but also convenienced by them as well: I have the valid excuse to still retreat, to continue to figure things out, to plan and strategise, and to emerge only once I am ready.
For sure, I am making great changes to my life. I am planning a change of location, a re-focus of my career, an exciting side-hustle or two. I am changing the way I work, the way I relax, the way I connect with my kids, the way I educate my kids (a whole separate blog post on that!). I have assessed my self-worth, stopped denying myself the things I should feel free to enjoy. I have reconnected with old friends, found some amazing new ones (yes, during the lockdown). Even just re-designing this blog and committing myself to it is instrumental in my self-expression, but took so much time that I could never have found during the usual hustle and bustle.
There is another extremely unexpected and extremely special gift that the lockdown has brought me. It might even be the most important one by far. I have connected with an incredible, sent-from-the-heavens man. It’s very early days, and these are stressful times for all relationships, never mind the very new ones. But I am hopeful, and so eager to see where this goes. I doubt I will be sharing much of the personal details of our journey here (it’s his story as much as mine), but I am sure that my future posts will shine from his influence in my life. I am so excited!
So, yes. Level 3. I fear we are in for a tough road ahead as a country, and I hope we stay strong and focussed and committed. We have done great things before. I, as usual, will observe the macro but will focus on the micro. And will continue to document the journey as I travel it.
(The incredible photo above is by one of my new lockdown-friends, Sam Cowen.)
Stay safe, everyone. XX.