I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about this aspect of my life since it didn’t concern only me, but many other individuals who I still love dearly. In my mind, writing about a break-up means segmenting it in reality, finally allowing the closing credits to appear on someone else’s screen. But after many late night conversations with friends and other 9Lives writers, I realised that if you’re lucky enough to one day have your heart broken, why not share the emotions, feelings and lessons that went along with it.
At the start of lockdown, I consumed everything the internet offered me on life during a pandemic – from at-home skills to develop and DIY’s to try, to the more personal reflections on how people are coping, or not. The most heartbreaking articles were always the ones where the writers had to go through this incredibly trying time completely alone, or recently single. When it was eventually me in that position, all of that seemed so insignificant since no one can completely and eloquently put into words how weird this experience is. A forced lockdown forces you to sit with the emotions, instead of driving them out with copious amounts of alcohol, social gatherings, and other ways to escape.
In a way, I am very grateful for the time in which it transpired. Lockdown is allowing me to reckon with myself and emotions. No one can ever effectively put a time stamp on the healing process and in a way, the indefinite period of lockdown and the heartache complimented each other. I tend to compartmentalise my feelings and assign value based on an issue’s importance. As a coping mechanism, I tend to ask myself: “Will this bother me in two weeks, two months, or two years’ time?”. But what this does in effect is postpone the very necessary experience of dealing with grief. My breakup during this lockdown taught me that enduring the reality, rather than camouflaging it, makes the healing process a beautiful thing.
Where it would be easy to pinpoint his (and my) faults in rationalising our split, I’ve come to the conclusion that growing apart isn’t such a bad thing, if it means we are both still growing. My future plans now include only me and with that comes the refreshing realisation that I’ll be responsible for creating my own memories and experiences, and not relying on the emotional and physical input of someone else. I’ve cultivated an immense respect for the two years that I spent with another beautiful human, rather than regretting the time spent. I’ve learnt that our differences were unique in keeping us together, but that one day he will find someone whose strengths fill the areas he lacked, and my shortcomings and bad temper will be invaluable for someone who can’t imagine a partner who doesn’t curse at the slightest inconvenience or mistake. I don’t regret the way our relationship ended, but I don’t think I would be writing this if it didn’t happen during lockdown.
My daughter recently started babbling her first real words, and each night after bath time she promptly commands “Pappa, Melk!” (Daddy, milk!). It’s Dad’s job to heat up some milk before bed. When my husband and I were settling down to dinner the other night, we spoke about COVID and lockdown. While it’s been a tough time, one big positive from this year was the time we got to spend with our daughter, especially my husband. Before 2020, his work required a lot of travel for long periods. Lockdown meant being grounded, which also meant becoming an integral part of our daughter’s day to day routine. He is the one who brings her milk each night. That’s huge in her reality.
Kids really do grow up incredibly fast. They literally grow in leaps, one day unable to lift their own heads, and the next figuring out how to work the keys in the front door. But you have to be present to notice it all. Working from home these last few months has given me so much more time with my daughter, allowing me to pick up on mannerisms, curiosities, and all her new words. We’re learning to talk to each other! And I realise how much of this would have been inaccessible to me if I wasn’t home so much.
I don’t think that you need to stay at home to be a good mom. I need a career to feel fulfilled. What I do know is that lockdown has given me a precious gift of time with my daughter, and for that I will always be grateful.
Safe to say, I saw this year playing out a lot differently than it has. I was getting married in March, had a mini-moon planned and was ready to kickstart this thing called ‘marriage’. Just to be hit by level 5 lockdown a week before our wedding. Panicked and stressed, we left Stellenbosch in a hurry and started our lockdown honeymoon, and essentially our lives together, in the small village of Barrydale.
What a wake-up call – we went from seeing each other only on weekends, to sharing a small one-bedroom apartment. We transitioned from WhatsApp messages to in-person communication, with me also switching to remote working. It started off real easy, feeling like a vacation, then as the panic around the pandemic grew and the economic situation worsened, it got harder.
But, we were happy to be together. We started playing online games together, cooking and putting together our living space. We realised that I hated cleaning and that I am quite useless at it, while hubby learned the joy of grocery shopping and the woes of washing your clothes in Cape winter weather.
Another lesson we had to learn was that just because you live together, you don’t necessarily spend time together. You have to very specifically plan activities together and that is how we got into cycling. I fell off my bike around 7 times, while hubby takes the new hobby quite seriously and upgrades our bikes regularly.
It wasn’t the honeymoon we planned, but it is the honeymoon we got so we made it work. With the tourism industry being closed for months now without any income, we had to innovate and work together to make it through and that was perhaps the best wedding gift we got.
I met someone a few weeks prior to lockdown. Just my luck, I know right? Even though our story ended around the same time as the alcohol ban, I will always be grateful for having someone during this weird time. As I’m reminiscing about my lockdown lover, the lyrics from If The World Was Ending by JP Saxe and Julia Michaels come to mind;
“All our fears will be irrelevant, the sky will fall while I’ll hold you tight.”
The power that someone has in a confusing time such as lockdown is more important than we would ever admit. The moment lockdown level 5 became a reality I had him to fall back on, when uncertainty and anxiety crept in, he was standing close by. And when loneliness became my only friend, I got to spend time with someone I came to love dearly. For a few months, he was my family.
I got to know him in a setting where the outside world couldn’t come between us. Where drunken nights in the local pub couldn’t define us and we got to create our own little bubble with just the two of us. How I wish we could’ve stayed together in that tiny bubble for a little bit longer.
Why am I grateful for lockdown? I learned the importance of human connections and what I want in human connections. Even though he wasn’t the right connection for me, I have clearer vision of the connection that I want.
I fell in love during lockdown, and within all the uncertainty of Covid-19, I found certainty that I really want to feel that high I experienced during the few months of lockdown.
So thank you COVID-19 for I found love during lockdown. Even if it was just for a little while.