She woke up sweating. She had spent what seems like hours on her bed thinking about all her big plans for the year. All that seems to have hit a brick wall with the new reality: the pandemic. Somewhere in her consciousness, she wished this was a dream and she could wake up from it but oh no! She could feel the sheets of the bed on her skin, yet she refused to open her eyes. That would mean acknowledging daylight, another day! Her tongue became aware of its position right behind the teeth, serving as walls. That was how she felt. Restricted, contained, and constrained. Her stomach rumbled to alert her, she had a heavy dinner. The weight of the dinner could still be felt. The uncertainty continues and the new reality dawns on her.
This was me at day twenty-one of the lockdown or so I thought. The president had just announced another extension for two weeks. What was more troubling was we had no certainty on the end date for this pandemic. When will the lockdown end? When do I stop working from home and dialling into a million zoom calls until my ears ached? My responsibilities seem to have expanded to include homeschooling, cleaning, cooking, extra hours working from home, etc. All the services I could outsource I am now forced to deal with not because I chose to but rather my choices were slim with the self-isolation.
I spend most days of the pandemic in my pajamas, wig thrown to the corner of the room, on the phone working. In between calls, I am checking my kids’ school work helping them log into zoom classes, and checking that their school work is done. Somewhere in there, we sneak into the kitchen to make lunch or dinner. The reason I strictly stick to audio calls on Zoom! My physical presentation now reprioritized on my list. On these days I am a far cry from my perfect profile pictures on social media.
Life is not as usual, I have just launched a book! I thought I had a book promotion all planned out. Now those plans I have literally thrown out of the window, they cannot work in a climate when we are expected to stay indoors and remain isolated. Everyone is going through similar emotions and anxiety. I wake up some mornings telling myself “No one is ready for all the stuff you planned to put out there”. Then it occurred to me, “Resilience” one of the key themes of the book is the message for now! After all, my book was a story of a girl from the slums that dares to dream. How she coped with the mental and emotional crisis along the journey is one I can share with others especially at this time most people need it.
How do we cope when life has so drastically changed in a short time? Anxiety about our lack of control kicks in. We are forced to seek and learn new tools to cope. This can be a very stressful process. Nothing so far compares to the global pandemic but the closest I can recall was lying helpless on the bed ( more like springs) in Ajegunle the slum I grew ups in Lagos, thinking about when this debilitating poverty would be over. I was doing all the right things and there was no output to show for this. I would go to a boarding school and behold the amazing life of my middle-class schoolmates and come home to a leaking roof where I had to strategically position bowls and buckets all over the room before lying down to sleep at night. I would go to university and study Engineering ( they claimed it was a ticket out of poverty) and watch as poverty took out relatives carelessly with minor illnesses. In the midst of what seemed like a hopeless case back then my mother always re-echoed this mantra “This too shall pass”. I am not sure if the power comes from repeating it severally, or fact that the phrase gives us a mental picture of a hopeful future where the current situation disappears opening up a more admirable situation. I have made it my mantra for this current situation. A situation I have no control over when any form of normalcy will return to our lives.
I am learning to name it, acknowledge it and deal with it by choosing to ignore the parts of this pandemic I have no control over ( like when next I will go to the office, to church, drive to a friends place and gist and have a good laugh !). I now choose the little daily items I can control. Like responding to Evie’s email. It seems like a small task but I need to find meaning in this chaos, I need to make my day to day meaningful. I need to let go of trying to be productive and trust that it is okay. I will respond to Evie, a new friend I made at my last training, and let her know I plan to have that podcast session with her. Yes, I will go ahead and discuss my newly published book on Evie’s podcast! Do what little I can. I am enough and whatever I do within the limited resources ( people, tools, etc) I have access to is okay.
How did I manage the domestic challenge? I got my kids involved. My son’s chores now include making all the beds and tidying the rooms in the house, emptying the trash etc while my daughter washes the dishes and waters the plants. Even my husband needed to chip in. Today Sunday my husband is making lunch for the family ( I smile at this part!)
This pandemic too shall pass and hopefully, we could get some good from the experience. We anticipate that some parts of our normalcy will come back but we cannot control when they will come back.