Tonight I am announcing lock down for our country, do you hear me, my people? These were the words that forced us to remain in our homes. No outdoor exercise, no schooling, only essential services available such as food and health care. We all grabbed what we thought we needed before the lock down day started - toilet paper, food and booze. We hid in our homes hoping for the virus to pass over like the plagues of old. It didn’t, and lock down was graded into 5 stages.
Another announcement “Lock down four”. We could exercise between 6 and 9 am. We woke up early on the first morning and rushed outdoors, so excited to be let out of our homes, like restless caged animals. There was a sigh of relief, we could breathe and see outside. Counting down, lock down three gave more freedom of work with restrictions of masks, physical distance and hand hygiene. It has felt more like being locked up than locked down, with the longings for some sort of ‘normal’ life rising up. This blog is about some of the things I have longed for during this lock down season.
Lock down has been a very serious time, and this virus, lock down and consequences thereof are no joke. I have missed the spontaneous laughter from the many interactions and relationships of my life before lock down. Fortunately I have a dear friend, who laughs from the belly at jokes that aren’t even really funny. His laugh is so infectious that everyone laughs with him and not at the silly joke. I phoned him and expressed my longing for laughter. He asked what I wanted to laugh about and there was really nothing funny, but I said I needed just to laugh. So he counted down, “Five, four three, two, one, laugh!” We laughed and laughed, laughing for the sake of laughing. Nothing was really funny except the joy of finding a friend who knows how to laugh from deep within his soul. I felt so much better after laughing. Apparently happy hormones are released when we laugh, and I am going to believe that.
I have also missed conversations and interactions with others, particularly strangers. One of my previous blogs was sparked by a spontaneous conversation with a petrol attendant called Blessing. (See https://www.thepreciousyears.co.za/blog/my-name-is-blessing.) I was excited to be let out for an outing to a hardware shop. I stood in the queue, on the line markers, mask in place, following the rules of physical distance. At the entrance to the shop, I was met by the gatekeeper security guards and was sprayed with hand sanitizer. Long ago, before lock down, security guards were looking out for criminals, now their focus is on protecting a shop from this small virus. I then had to pass to the next station, where another security guard aimed her temperature gun at my forehead while I stood motionless but feeling vulnerable and exposed to what my temperature might reveal. She told me I was okay, my temperature was 33°C. I looked at her confused as I know that I should not be alive with such a low temperature. Am I still alive, I asked her? She frowned and smiled sweetly, and continued to shoot the temperature of the man behind me, who was laughing and saying that I needed a hospital urgently. I walked down the aisle feeling more alive than ever.
There have been many longings, for a haircut, coffee chat with friends, walking in nature, shared meals, group meetings and the list goes on. There is also a deeper longing, though, that this lock down has uncovered, for a better life for all, equal access to health and education, respect for black lives, and real care for vulnerable women and children. I long for new systems that put kindness towards others as the goal rather than profit, outcomes and income. I long for a system that values care for each other rather than power hierarchies.
What would your longings be? Could our longings that we make into reality become the dreams we have for our children?
Let us find the courage to be aware of our longings.
Let us make choices that live out our deepest longings.
Let us show kindness to others as we listen to their stories.
Let us be part of making this world a better place for all.