Since the start of this isolation, for the 9Lives team it’s been since the 16th of March, I’ve had this idea to diarise the experiences during this time – to write about lessons learnt from lockdown. It’s now been a bit more than a week that lockdown has been implemented and the ‘draconic’ measure, as one guy stated in the Rapport on Sunday, has drastically changed my reality.
But I wasn’t really interested in my experiences alone. I reached out to some of the other 9Lives contributors to see how they were dealing with this new way of life. I’ve now gotten more or less used to only seeing their faces over Zoom, but there is no argument that so much is lost, communication-wise, in this time, that it was refreshing to check in with how everyone was doing.
Lesson #1: Trust and distrust routine
I am a routine-Nazi. I remember starting work at a digital agency, where routine is largely discarded in exchange for creative freedom. It used to freak me out that I was not able to plan my day to the tee. Later, I learnt to settle for scheduling chaos which meant exercise at 5:30 am, grabbing coffee from 8 am to 9 am and letting things go crazy till about 13:30. Thereafter, lunch and wrapping up the day till around 6 pm. From then it is back to a scheduled dinner, a few moments watching series and in bed by 21:30 latest.
Just typing that out gave me so much joy.
Those days are long gone now. I am in lockdown in a small Klein Karoo town with my husband’s family. Out of everyone here, I am the only one lucky enough to be able to work remotely at the moment, which means that everyone is extremely bored at any given time. I am also used to living alone, so forming part of someone else’s household is such a challenge. I’ve been desperately trying to establish a routine, but thus far have only struggled to get out of the bed by 8 am and tried to find time between the end of the workday at around 6 pm and dinner, also at 6 pm, to get in some exercise.
I was lucky to learn that I was not the only one struggling with establishing a new routine. Tessa, locked down in Stellenbosch with her parents, sent me a text last week to make sure she wasn’t the only one doing her daily Slack check-ins from bed. In the same sense, Liezel had to completely change her routine because her nanny is also locked down at home. Instead of fretting about this change in routine, Liezel told me about the beautiful gift this time has awarded her; time with her 14-month-old daughter. “She is now turning into a person who understands, picks up words, pages through books, dabbles in art, builds, learns. This week I’ve been forced to stop and really appreciate the little things. Normally there is always something I need to do, some task that needs completing, friends that need visiting, but now there is nothing to do but sit and see life through my daughter’s eyes.”
Lojandri, on the other hand, goes about her day as normal, keeping her daily rituals in check. While I will definitely attempt to establish more routine in the coming week, I’ve come to understand that a new reality will always come with some chaos and struggling to find your feet, and maybe even never truly finding stability, is fine.
Lesson #2: The once-a-day news rule of thumb
This past weekend has been quite the challenge for me, I time and again broke my own rule of only checking the news once a day. I would wake up at 3 am, check the death toll and spend the rest of the night gripped with fear for my family, which is currently spread out across the country. I’ve long since banned having a television on in the background just blaring CNN horror stories of NYC over and over again – it’s extremely distracting.
Something Nina, who is on lockdown with her parents in the Northern Suburbs, said on this issue kind of stuck with me. She talked about the desensitisation she experienced when hearing about the first few deaths and as the death toll came to almost ten she realised that “the overconsumption of news was only leading [her] further down a path of disempowerment and that it is sometimes necessary to switch off and pretend this was a week like any other.”
She, too, has implemented a rule to only check news once a day and goes even further to say that she now only sticks to official government updates, which is something I am definitely planning to do in the coming week.
Lesson #3: Find comfort in food
So the very first thing that Marie, who is locked down in Welgevonden with her two male flatmates, told me is that she realised how much food we waste because we are able to go to the store every day and don’t like to pack lunches. This is definitely something that I resonate with. We’ve decided that our shopping day is Wednesday and buying for an entire week is actually quite cost-effective and we rarely throw away any food now.
We’ve also been having epic cooking sprints on our side, with Foodies of SA being one of our main inspirations. I made an epic 3-ingredient naan bread, while my sister-in-law made a beyond delicious rustic banana bread (ja, we’re all making banana bread, aren’t we?). I’ve also attempted an aubergine roast from Bertus Basson’s Instagram and plan to make a potato and carrot rosti from Jamie Oliver later in the week. Doing this together as a group has been such a great bonding experience.
Somewhere last week, around Wednesday, I hit a huge speed bump in terms of my state of mind. I was tired, not wanting to do anything and feeling defeated. We braaied that night and it literally revived me – doing something as normal as sitting on the stoep with the fire burning, as we have done so many times before, is so heartwarming.
But, as Tessa so adequately put it, snacking is a real issue. The amount of crap we eat out of boredom is hilarious. Her exact warning is as follows; “Stay away from the kitchen – you will walk away with something edible.”
Lesson #4: Don’t be afraid of the power of nostalgia
So Marie, always the most in-tune with the emotional side of things, told me about the newfound value she places on human connection. She talks about the small things that we used to do daily, such as grabbing a coffee at our local hangout, Häzz, and how she misses those tiny moments.
When I started thinking about it, and this is something that Tessa also brought to my attention, I realised that, currently, the entire world is nostalgic. My dad, re-packing his garage, sent me a video of how he fixed my brother’s old SkyElectric, while Leandra tagged me in a #BabyFace challenge on Instagram. I’ve been religiously going through the various posts of abandoned cities that I’ve been to, remembering the moments I’ve spent there.
Initially, I thought putting the things I miss out of my mind would be a great way of putting my head down and pushing through the situation, but somewhere last week I started craving Gino’s pizza (best local pizzeria in Stellenbosch) and subsequently sent a message on the work Slack group to express this. Caré immediately replied with her own nostalgic throwback to our ‘normal’ lives, followed by input from Angelique and others. We’re all nostalgic and that’s good, that’s our drive, that’s why we stay home now.
So what are we all doing to stay sane you ask?
Lojandri, our bubbly colleague from the North, bakes and cleans, while Marie plays Scrabble online every afternoon. We recently implemented a buddy system at the office, and Marie has been finding some great solace in checking in with her accountability buddies daily. Tessa, on the other hand, believes in the power of exercise to get rid of that ‘trapped’ feeling.
While I’ve also been turning to exercise to fight off the gnawing anxiety, I’ve been finding a great outlet in the 21-day photo challenge that we’re contributing to on the 9Lives Instagram platform. We’ve also recently had an epic online Cards Against Humanity game with the team which was so refreshingly ‘normal’ that it’s actually crazy. We’ve also had some great music-sharing initiatives on our Slack channels, making everyone feel that little bit closer.
I’ve been finding great joy in some good old trash tv; I’ve been indulging in Batchelor SA, Love Island, Tiger King and more. Nina, on the other hand, has found the life-changing joy of TikTok and she described it so brilliantly, “As Gen Z keeps online records of basically every single part of their lives, it’s like a full-blown, immersive experience with a reality program.” The husband and I also check out Schalk Bezuidenhout’s daily lockdown videos. I know it sounds silly, but sharing that daily piece of comic relief is my absolute favourite thing at the moment.
We’d love to hear from you – which lessons have you learned this week and what are you doing to stay sane?