Locked down before the lockdown.

Yamkela TYWAKADI  is a published author of 15 books. Her writing includes adult and children’s fiction. She writes in English, IsiXhosa and IsiZulu. Her first book to be published is an IsiXhosa novel that was approved by the Department of Education, to be used by students in South African schools nationwide.

I have been on lockdown a few weeks before our actual lockdown in South Africa. My lockdown was similar to the Covid-19 lockdown – it was not by choice. I was forced into it because of circumstances. I was heavily pregnant – a difficult pregnancy that didn’t afford me much movement. All I could do was drive 2 km to take the kids to school, come back home, have breakfast, read a little, sleep a lot, wake up to fetch kids from school in the afternoon, eat and sleep some more. It was the same after giving birth to my son. I was in bed most of the time, nursing c-section stitches and tending to my newborn. My mother came over and stayed for a week, tending to me as I could not do much for myself. I kept on saying to her, “This is annoying. I have been in the house for two months. I can’t wait to go out there and live life.” I was to learn however that there were more weeks to spend at home, but most importantly, I was to learn that what I thought was living life was actually detrimental to my health, and Covid-19 was coming to teach me and my family what living life was.

You see, I am a dreamer. I do not know how many “great” ideas my mind comes up with daily and I convince myself that I can execute them all. So, like a lot of people in Johannesburg, I live my life in a rush, trying to do amazing things and “building” a future for myself. This future-building however comes with a lot of anxiety and not stopping long enough to smell the flowers and appreciate the beauty that is around me – including myself. Irritable bowel syndrome, sinuses, fatigue and grumpiness were more prevalent in my life than this amazing future I was “building”. Covid-19 made me aware of this – I needed to do some introspection. And I would have a plenty of time to do it – one day at a time.

Day 1 of Lockdown in South Africa

It is exactly a month since I gave birth. I am feeling much better. I can move around and do small chores around the house. My mom has gone back to her house. I wake up and my husband is next to me. Weird. Weird because our normal is that he is out of the house by six in the morning and only back at home at six in the evening. Twelve hours away from his family – “building a future for himself and his family.” My nephew, my brother-in-law and my spiritual daughter are not going to be at school anymore. We are all in our tiny cabin and doing life together for longer hours for the first time in our lives. This is nice, I think to myself - but also not so nice. Nice because I will get to spend longer hours in a day with people that I love. But not so nice because this means more weeks for me being in the house. I have a lot of things in my mind – ideas to execute and get busy. I need to get out there and work. But I can’t. I need to stay at home and just be. But the problem is I didn’t know how to just be. I am used to the Johannesburg rush – what we call ‘slaying’ here. Covid-19 is about to ‘slay’ what I think is life and introduce me to a new life of peace and serenity – being human.  

Day 19 of Lockdown in South Africa

I am learning to be human. Less anxious. Less stressful. Less grumpy. Less fatigued. Less rush. No rush. No IBS. But more breathing. Eating while I am sitting down and not on the go. Looking longer in my kids’ eyes. Spending more time with my husband. Doing gardening longer. Reading longer. Praying longer. Having time to call friends for long conversations. More time to help my nephew with his homework. Just being human! Covid-19 has taken many lives, and caused a lot of misery. But it has also taught many of us about the meaning of life – valuing yourself and those you love, and being present in your life.