• Anele Matshisi


I've always wanted to start a reflective piece like a Robins Crusoe journal.



Thank you #LockdownSouthAfrica.


Today is day 18 of the country's #lockdown due to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of emergency, announcing a national lock-down, as one of the combative measures to reduce the rate of infection subsequently preventing the unimaginable. That was on the 27th of March.

Since then many South Africans have been under self-quarantine or self-isolation (take your pick) in their homes, with the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) and the South African police enforcing the lockdown regulations. I am one of those.

Whilst I was happy to finally test trial working from home - in South Africa. Woop swoop! I am an advocate for this - mainly because I hate morning and afternoon traffic - but I was not ready for the difficulties that come with a working-from-home environment. The first week was a radical mental and emotional adjustment for me and my family; without any personal experience to reference this period, a state of mild-shock and probing uncertainty summarised the mood. Three days into the lock-down, I discovered we were not the only ones who felt this way and more. Second week into the lock-down, I noticed that I struggle with recalling what day it is except for Saturdays. I use devices around the house whenever I have to check. In addition to this, I use the number of night sleeps I've had since the last Saturday as a quick mental reference point during conversations and I write a to-do list the night before and then leave it on the kitchen counter. Weirdly enough, I can remember what date it is without fail. I wonder if there's anyone else who's having a similar experience. Many of us have learned that working from home, during the lock-down, can be an overwhelming reality (especially without a home office or an isolated space), taking into account the preceding radical shift. It means that we can be in three or sometimes four mental spaces almost at the same time; responding to emails, writing reports, following the news for the latest updates, attending to endless WhatsApp messages from friends, family, community & colleagues, responding to your child/children's infinitive why's, trying to make time for some Netflix and chill time with your partner/spouse, engaging in an exhausting argument with your internet provider and most importantly making time for yourself; especially since you have quietly acknowledged that your anxiety is now throwing gang signs in the air. My moment of sanity.

I was in the bathroom with the mirror looking through my bravado reflecting exactly how I felt. It was not handsome sight. Paraphrasing Charlamagne, I was shook. I took a deep breath. I acknowledged all the responsibilities that weighed on me as a man and then proceeded to shed them off, one-by-one, reminding myself that they do not define who I am as a soul. I affirmed myself that efforts in the crisis are enough. This little bathroom moment paved the for my truest form in the crisis. A sane soul untouched.

In his book the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra asserts that, our souls are immune to whatever is happening around us. They are beneath no one. I add, nothing.

"Remember who you are Simba!" - Mufasa, The Lion King

I reminded myself that I am an optimist and that from now on I will find ways to take advantage of this #lockdown and not the other way around. I will execute my goals, protect my family and above all guard myself from falling into a state of anxiety and depression. I will operate in my highest level of mental fortitude. I will hope in better. I will believe that this too has come to pass, I will be wise and rightly informed. Selah.

Subconsciously I have told myself that I am in isolation. Even though I can technically go outside to buy food and other essentials, plus I have no reference for prison. I have however read about prisoners who came out of isolation better and not broken. I decided to be very selective about the types of content I consume from online news, social media, podcasts etc. I decided to demote the news from my list of daily reading priorities. I still read them. I have to, they are part of my job but I only read them when I have to. But now, they come after my mindfulness exercises and devotion. To my surprise I miss nothing critical.

Conflict and other stuff.

Conflict and sharing space with others are two sides of the same coin, this is no different for my family and me. I will get into it with my wife, my daughter and I or just the girls by themselves. My remedy to date is to allow myself and others to feel what they feel and then express it. Then try to resolve it as soon as the tempers cool down. For me, this is better than avoidance. Besides, the #lockdown feels longer, lonelier and frankly speaking stupider when everyone is walking around with frowned eyebrows and sagging cheeks, especially now that it has been extended to the end of April. The plus side is that we get to experience each other like we have never done before. This is the longest we have been together in one space. In fact, this is the first for many households, presenting a great opportunity to make unique memories.

As a Christian, I also try to keep a consistent prayer and meditation routine. I am working on managing my screen time. Having acknowledged all the negatives the COVID-19 has revealed about us as individuals, communities, classes and nations I am confident that South Africans, Africa and the nations of the world will emerge out of this period with new hope, revised priorities and a reset mentality towards life.

The thoughts and experiences expressed in this piece are not medicinal or prescriptive, they are my opinions. If you are experiencing anything related or remote to what you have read, please consult a trained professional.

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