I am bored. I think the lockdown and social isolation is finally getting to me. My days have become humdrum. There is a sense of doing the same thing, day in and day out and I think it’s starting to wear me out. The novelty of being at home with loads of free time has worn off.
At the beginning, I loved the solitude. Hearing and observing the birds in my garden filled me with a sense of gratitude and made me realise how much we take for granted. I started using my phone camera to take pictures of my feathered friends. Quickly I noticed that it was a different crowd that chirped about in the morning as opposed to the late afternoon. Mostly, I noticed that the birds seem quite happy as they flitted from tree to bush, often taking a sip from the swimming pool. All except a cranky hadeda that plonked around the backyard as if he owned the place.
Walking to the shops was a pleasure. The absence of motorcars meant that almost every street was a pedestrian pathway. At my leisure, I started finding different routes to the shop. Suddenly I was seeing my neighbourhood with fresh eyes. For the first time, I realised as I cross the little park, that I have driven past so many times, that there is a small stream that runs through it. It reminded me of how as a child I would spend hours catching tadpoles in a similar stream. As soon as all of this is over, I must bring my grandson down to this little river and maybe we can catch tadpoles together.
I miss my grandchildren. I miss my friends. I miss going down to the local coffee shop to have a cup while reading the morning papers. I miss the interaction with random people. But mostly I miss going to the gym. For the past few years I have gone regularly, at least two to three times a week, for a proper workout and a swim. I now realise that the gym is not just about the machines and the weights, but also about the people, members and staff alike. Running around in the backyard is not the same thing. Now we are all wearing masks and wandering when we can go back to enjoying some of the small pleasures that made our lives worthwhile.
Right from the beginning I enthusiastically bought into the rationale for the lockdown. I understood why we had to socially isolate ourselves. I am very aware that I fall in that vulnerable age demographic that is most at risk. But now it’s all becoming too much.
When Level 4 was announced I was quite excited. Right from the first morning I got my running kit on, did a few stretches outside my gate and joined what looked like the whole neighbourhood, for a jog. I was pleased that even in the park where people were walking their dogs, everyone was maintaining social distance. It was a pleasure to see the smiles on the faces of young mothers out pushing prams or patiently pacing themselves alongside their toddlers. Passing runners waving at each other as if to say, “this is not so bad”. It was as if spring had come earlier this year.
But now it is all disappearing. This morning I stayed in bed instead of going out for a walk. Lying there wondering what I was going to do today. I seem to have depleted my inner resources. I am feeling very frustrated. A few weeks ago, I would draw up a list of things to do during the day. Have my breakfast, sit in the garden and enjoy the bird parade. I had always wanted to play a musical instrument and quickly discovered that there were no seven easy steps to playing the guitar. I’ve had better luck cooking, learning new recipes than baking, where my best attempts of baking bread resulted in an object best suited as a doorstop. There are a few partly read books lying around. It seems that I just don’t have the energy to finish them. Last night I went to bed slightly amused that even the most famous doctor in the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, is also in self-isolation.
The clamour by all the “kitchen” economists, and their aunties, that the economy must be opened up is very irritating. We all know that we won’t be returning to a pre-February world. The world of work will change fundamentally for most people. If we are to open factories, have we considered how we will reconfigure that workspace? Can we all walk back into the offices we left behind two months ago? Do we want to go back to those office spaces anyway? How do you restart the hospitality and restaurant businesses? Retail stores, how is that going to work? These are the questions I’m seeking answers for from the end-the-lockdown warriors.
I have spoken to my son about the wisdom of sending the kids back to school and was heartily relieved when he told me that they will not be going back until we are all absolutely clear that it is safe for the children to return to school.
I have been in isolation for almost eight weeks now. I am lucky that I have access to technology. I am able to speak to any number of family and friends via phone or more lately Zoom. I have a good private library of books and CDs, a garden to relax in and enjoy the autumn sun. If I am starting to feel cooped up, I can’t imagine what it must be like for the less fortunate. Self-isolation is not a natural human condition. We need to mix with other people. We need to do things because we want to and not because we are being told what is best for us. A few weeks ago, it seemed like the whole country loved the president, and the health minister, who many had never heard off, was the country’s rock star. We felt that we were being led.
I am trying to understand when and why the lockdown started feeling like something heavy that we just have to endure. Even though I don’t agree with the prohibition on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, I accept the government’s explanations. What I don’t understand is why, after the shops and malls were opened, certain items of clothing can’t be bought. Or what the big deal is about fried chicken. I want to believe that the president and his command council have a clear path that they are following, and I wish that they would take us into their confidence and explain what that path looks like. We all understood the reasons for the lockdown because the president spoke to all of us as partners facing a grave danger together. We responded positively because we were all in it together. We need to return to that level of communication.
Because today I am not feeling very inspired and I am afraid that there will be days like this to follow. DM
also published at: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-05-18-the-lockdown-blues/