I love the new year. A fresh start, the new diary, the endless possibilities!
At the beginning of 2020, I hosted a vision board party. This was part of the plan I had set out for this year – I was going to launch a group for women which focused on making things happen – encouraging and supporting one another to create changes which would enable us to live our best lives. I created my own vision board…and then 2020 decided to give me a kick in the butt.
My dad, aged 81, had been bedridden for over a year. He had been wasting away slowly, and barely weighed 45 kg. He hardly ate, refused to take his meds half the time, was too weak to walk, was incontinent and on the nappy, and suffered from dementia. He had a lovely carer for some time, but she left (story for another day!). My mother, aged 82, was incapable of looking after him herself, so I decided to move them into our home. I became the carer, not only for my dad, but for my mom as well. She was taking great strain because of his illness, even developing excruciating shingles as a result, in addition to her own health issues – diabetes and hypertension.
Immediately, all my plans flew out the window. Happy as I was to be able to help out, it was a struggle. I was constantly exhausted! I had to run a home, do my full-time work-from-home job and be on call 24-7. Their routine clashed with our family routine. I was up at 5 a.m. to make tea and a snack for my mom to be able to take her medication, then making lunch for my youngest to take to university and breakfast for my husband, then washing and changing my dad, making and feeding him breakfast, then my mom needed her 10 a.m. snack, then changing and washing bedding and clothes when there were ‘accidents’, then time to prepare their meals which were different to ours because my dad couldn’t eat solid foods, making his supplement drinks, checking on them…The day usually ended for them at around 10 p.m, when I would change my dad’s last diaper. My kids were amazing. It was difficult for me to move my dad when I had to change his bedding, so they helped in rotation, lifting him in their arms like a baby.
After six weeks, my mother decided to ask the carer to come back and they moved back home. This decision left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was relieved. I could get my life back! On the other hand, it felt like a slap in the face. My mother told people it was “too much for me” and that I “couldn’t cope”. True. I was hanging on by a thread. But I have mommy issues and took the criticism personally. Enough said.
And then the pandemic hit South Africa.
Exactly four weeks after leaving my home, almost to the hour, my dad passed away. The president announced that Lockdown Level 5 would be implemented at midnight on Thursday, 26 March. Luckily we had managed to arrange the funeral for that morning. It was a rush to make all the arrangements, but my dad was sent home to rest that Thursday morning in a quiet, dignified, intimate ceremony.
And the next day we were in lockdown. In a way, it was a blessing for the family. We could grieve quietly, without having to deal with a constant stream of well-meaning visitors who would have probably added to my mom’s stress levels. She had taken in two tenants and her carer stayed on for another month until she could travel home, so she was taken care of and not alone.
The restrictions of the lockdown didn’t cause any major lifestyle changes for us. I worked from from home anyway, and it was a holiday for the rest of the family. My boys are online gamers who spend most of their lives in front of their computers. I loved having my husband home. In the past year, he had been travelling for work and was home only a third of the time, all in all. Also, he was more relaxed and we could spend time together.
After counting my blessings and being grateful for the chance to relax and recharge, I started getting bored. I did a few online courses to keep my mind busy. The crisis in education bothered me. I felt for my ex-colleagues who had to embrace the “new normal” – creating extra work packs and having to learn to manage online teaching. I got an opportunity to contribute by substituting at an under-resourced school for six weeks. I created work packs for two grades and taught 2 matric classes in a split time-time table – 75-minute lessons divided between the two halves of the class to ensure social distancing. Then the other teacher contracted Covid-19. I was now teaching all day – five classes. And then I was reminded of why I quit teaching. My arthritic knee ( which had not given me trouble for a year) succumbed to the stress of having to climb up and down stairs between ten classes. I counted the days…
This pandemic has affected all of us in some way. People have lost lives and jobs. If you were lucky enough not to have been affected in that way, you probably still suffer from some sort of anxiety, maybe even depression. Dealing with this pandemic, if only on an emotional level, can be hard. We have had to isolate ourselves from our social connections and our support systems. The world as we know it is no more. Covid-19 has exposed so many injustices and inequalities in the world and in our country. As always, the poor and marginalised are affected the most by this pandemic. I feel there is need to reflect on our place in the world and how we can contribute to making it a better place. The world is changing at an increasingly rapid rate and we have to evolve with it.
So what happened to my vision board? My dreams and plans for the year? My work dried up as the British lockdown came into effect. All the lovely money I was going to make? My trip to Spain at the end of the year? Gyms closed, so I couldn’t exercise and work on my healthy body. I even developed tonsillitis this year, an illness that I haven’t had for years, and I couldn’t speak as my glands were so swollen and painful. A clear indication for me that I had internalised my stress. Clearly, 2020 was not going to be what I envisioned.
And then the shift happened!
I think the shift came with the change in the weather. The days have been beautifully sunny (if cold) in Cape Town. It feels like an early Spring. I INVENTED A NEW YEAR, A NEW BEGINNING! It started with my birthday! The year has just shifted to July 2020 – July 2021! Yay! So I’m taking back all those wonderful feelings of excitement into my (delayed) new year. And created an excuse to buy a cute new planner!
And guess what? I’ve already manifested something on my board -pictures I chose just because I liked the look of them :
I didn’t intentionally plan to do this now. Crazy, right? But ideas to write about are coming thick and fast – and keeping me out of sleep!
I encourage you to dust off the Covid cloud and reflect on what you’ve learned in this time and use the lessons as an opportunity to think about what you really want your life to be like. Right now it’s the pandemic putting a spanner in the works…but there will always be something. And sad to say, Covid-19 and the “new normal” is going to be with us for a long time still. I can’t bear the thought of losing any more time…
Love and light