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Tumelo Lorna Bonno – “Living Through COVID 19”

Can an ordinary man survive?

 

One of my lectures at the University of Botswana once said as human beings we should learn to use our receptive faculties in our everyday interaction.  I was paying a visit to a friend when CNN, SKY News and other international channels broke news about the first cases of coronavirus in China. However, I was to a large extent not interested in watching the news reports and insisted that my friend who was always watching news changed the channel to entertainment stations.

Áo Kagiso why are you so fixated on watching such things which probably have nothing to do with us here?’

‘Wait man, people are dying here….’

Yes, so what? H1N1 came, Ebola came and even HIV is here now change the damn channel and stop being a bore!’

I grabbed the TV remote control and watched a movie and later went home, unknowing to me that MY YEAR as I have proclaimed 2020 earlier in January was as good as cancelled.

Together with the rest of the world, I watched with shock and awe as big countries like Italy suffered a great stake at the hands of corona. I never thought that a simple everyday gesture such as a handshake could be so deadly enough to cancel one’s being on Earth.  Finally like a thief in the night, the now feared phenomenon somehow found its way to the soil of my beloved country. It finally hit me that this situation was right in our doorstep and we feared the worst. When the president announced that the country was in a state of emergency and proclaimed a lockdown I asked myself what this meant for me, yes I saw the regulations and rules but besides being a student I have been running successful side hustles like selling sweets to make ends meet. Little did I know that worrying about food on the table was going to be my only concern?

Living through COVID 19 came with a big baggage bag that left some of us feeling completely vulnerable. My mental and emotional state was at stake here! I had just celebrated my birthday on the 2nd of March and was greatly looking forward to completing my degree and embarking on some meaningful stuff here and there. However, everything now seemed bleak as I together with the rest of the world watched in despair as bodies kept piling up and numbers kept rising. I was generally so angry that my plans for prosperity and success in the New Year were now seemingly messed up. A full month of hoping and more staying at home… and trust me my family is not that sociable so I literally felt like my head was going to burst any moment…

The worst thing that happened to me during the lockdown period was when I fell so ill that I even drafted my own obituary. I suddenly felt myself losing my breath and having this pain and stomach cramps. Mind you times were now hard here, a simple headache could mean goodbye to family and friends. I was rushed to the hospital and doctors confirmed a case of food poisoning. It was a relive yes but having to convince law enforcers that you were unwell all the way to and from the hospital felt like fraud itself. Every time they stopped my parents for questioning I literally found myself putting on a sickly face and making gibberish sounds because somehow I felt like a criminal for passing the streets which I used to walk leisurely for some fresh air.

Besides falling sick I had to conjure with the monotonous situation whereby every day was every day. Monday was the same as Tuesday and Tuesday the same as Wednesday. Weekdays and weekends were now all the same. The lack of a schedule and no thrill of looking forward to the next day were as suffocating as being home all day, all week all month. I felt myself starting to fantasize about dying more often somehow I wondered if being depressed felt like that. I felt myself losing my voice and I would thus shout at my siblings for no particular reason.  This period has been as horrible as its silence, I might have lost touch at reality at some point because I will just wake up in the morning and stay in bed until noon or past noon.

For a middle-class family with two working parents expecting to receive food rations from the government was not a given. So yes we luckily always slept with full stomachs and all.

Yes, the silence was too loud. The days somehow long. But in the book of Isaiah 55:8-10 it is written; my plans are not your plans nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. There is also a matter of adaptation in order to survive. My constant bitterness, anger and depression towards a virus that penetrated a whole population and infiltrate life as we know it meant I had to somehow find a way to live through it. Hope is a gift. Ever been in a hopeless situation? Or tried to do something but ended up losing hope?  We both know how that likely ended… in failure! So is negative thinking, it leads to negative outcomes mostly while positive thinking generates positive energy and positive results because it pushes one to bring out the best they can out of a situation.

The sudden intrusion of coronavirus in our lives had us facing a dark cloud and we were responsible for bringing forth the much-needed light. Mostly I now saw a chance for reflections. Reflections on the past, present and the future. I mostly felt at ease when it was raining because in my head I will be telling myself that God was cleansing the environment and washing away the plague that descended amongst us. The environment was breathing free from mostly human activities and there was somehow calmness and quietness residing outside. I also got to think about decisions I had rashly made before corona and I knew I had to make the most of that break. It was timeout after all for daily life activities and I was now looking to make the most of the halftime.

For Christians, the best and easiest route to deal with negative energy is through prayer. I always feel good after having a conversation with God. I am no healer, certainly not a prophet but I take pride in being a believer. Knowing that through the worst and when the road was looking dark and gloomy, somewhere there was an utmost and greater being watching over us loving us unconditionally. That feeling it brought satisfaction and every time I said, AMEN after a prayer I felt that surge of hope and I instantly knew the world was going to somehow thrive and beat COVID 19.  Some countries were winning, others were still struggling but it was not exactly a war, but a matter of survival. The environment itself looked sad at the beginning of all the chaos but with time I could see the positivity outside. The trees had grown leaves, the grass was greener and the chirping and singing of the birds brought a smile on my face. Proof that indeed COVID 19 could not touch Mother Nature. Living through the reports of cases and recoveries came to establish how we were all brave, stronger and smart. The world was facing a common enemy and the rains of corona splashes meant each and every nation was set to look for rainbows. 

As an individual, an ordinary man who was part of a 2 million population it was up to me to cement and protect my existence. I was surely not looking to be a value in the statistics that lost to the virus. It was a sea of doubt and fears but one had to keep swimming because no one really had a definite date of when we would finally be free from coronavirus. After all tough times never last, tough people do. Looking back at my first take regarding the outbreak of COVID 19, when I told my friend that there had been other pandemics and viruses before COVID 19 I was not wrong as it stands… I was only wrong in taking a stern ignorance and wishing away a phenomenon which was obviously out to destroy and cause havoc. Yes, what change could I have brought? I could have perhaps taken the information and knowledge to heart so that when COVID 19 ruthlessly ambushed my community an ordinary individual like me await with knowledge and becomes part of those offering hope and support?

There is no one else in the world that is just like me or you. Each individual possesses a unique or different attribute that could otherwise impose change if acted upon. The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday. That is why all the negative thinking and bitterness had to go. Confucius says, our greatest glory is in never failing, but in rising every time we fall. My livelihood, my future and plans for the New Year were messed or a bit shaken but still I had to take comfort in knowing that it might be stormy now but rain doesn’t last forever. Surrounding myself with hope and seeing the good in the bad was really working out right for me and even taking me to higher spirits. It was just a bad phase, a bad period but it did not have to be a bad life; I knew it would get better. Because in the depth of my depression and suffocation I learned that within me lay a fighter, there was a summer in the middle of that winter after all. Moving forward was such a breath of fresh air. The monotonous schedule which mostly meant spending the whole day on bed and eating whatever was on spotted was soon cleared by a new workout and exercise schedule. Every morning and every evening I would make sure I jog, then indulge myself in a physical exercise routine.

What is your why? Why do you bath every day? Why do you eat? Why do you do all the other stuff in your life? Obviously there is a purpose for every activity. I was getting those results with my physical exercises. I healed myself mentally and emotionally. I felt free of the tension and uncertainty which was looming about in the beginning because now I felt more alive than ever. I was living through COVID 19 and actually felt like a winner already. What if this was a chance for self-introspection and reflections? What if God was giving us space and momentum to stand together as human beings and look at life from a different view and perspective? Most importantly the outbreak of coronavirus was a health matter. It also not only had me appreciating life but good health! Good health equals to good life so it really did feel wonderful waking up every day to exercise my body and mind and sleep later on after releasing all the tension and feeling such lightness all over me. I also felt the need to not only reflect with my mind, but I took up the culture of reading to greater heights by writing some memos myself.

It hurt and frustrates to think about your friends and loved ones with the knowledge that you can’t hug them or give them a kiss on the cheek anymore! Oh crap, the health workers had advised people not to touch their own faces in a bid to stop the transfer of germs so obviously another person’s frame was a no go zone. Such small gestures should be treasured hey. Reading my Bible on a daily basis also became comforting with time, it cured my dead spirit and awakened my will to live and survive.  It also felt good to have a touch of the outside environment world through chatting with friends and getting into discussions about the economy, life, just about anything and everything through social media. I so wish I had the financial means to assist those who were really hit by this pandemic especially the underprivileged but I guess sending messages of hope and checking on friends and replying a random ‘hello ‘message from a stranger who was perhaps so lonely or going through their own problems was better than nothing.

The pandemic has revealed the weakness and strengths of the strong, but as an ordinary individual, your survival to a big extent remained in your hands. Lives will be shaped by choices and decisions ultimately. Slowly I managed to adjust to living in a community monitored and governed by lockdown rules which amongst other things required me to have a permit if I was to run errands. I still miss my freedom and physical contact with the rest of the world but what matters are my health and my life, taking into account that many others in the world died. It is hard not to worry about the future and how life, as I know, will be after all this but all hope is not lost.

I try not to have a blank mind but the environment is too quiet. Governments around the world are out to contain the situation so I know it is unavoidable to be restricted public domain. All my human contact is now online especially with most people out there going through this similar experience. Our social relationships are as important as our physical and mental health, even researches pervasive loneliness to higher mortality rates and other health complications thus our current situation of being cut off from our normal lives is unprecedented.

My new ordinary life goes on.

 

Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

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