Social distancing 101

I thought now would be a good time to dust off this poor old blog, and share some thoughts during South Africa’s national lockdown, due to COVID-19. I can’t promise to write something every day, since, let’s face it, there’s unlikely to be a whole lot going on, but I thought it might be nice to do an occasional check in.

Lockdown started at midnight last night, and during the preceding days, after President Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday night, I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. After all, I live alone, so I only have to tend to my own needs (and of course, those of my feline overlords – more on them later), and more importantly, I’m pretty comfortable with my own company. To be honest, I often long for an opportunity to stay home, do nothing, and see no one, and in fact, I regularly schedule weekends like this for myself, particularly after a busy social or work period. But I suppose, choosing to spend a weekend with no human contact is quite different to an enforced period of at least 21 days (I say at least, because I suspect that this lockdown will be extended beyond that) in isolation.

My first little twinge of anxiety started on Monday night, when I pondered whether I had enough cat food, because initially, it wasn’t clear whether this would be considered an essential item and therefore available during lockdown. I mean, it’s obvious that it would be, but our minds love to mess with us. Henry and Violet don’t eat supermarket-bought food, so a vet or vet shop would need to be open. Which then lead to my next little surge of anxiety – what if all the vets were closed, and one of them got sick? Cue a bout of sneezing from the ginger menace. These fears were easily allayed – my final outing before lockdown, on Tuesday, was to buy extra cat food, and my local vet has confirmed that they are indeed considered an essential service (duh), so they’ll be available should the Chaos Twins get sick. Phew.

But this was lowkey anxiety at best. More mild concern than anything else, really. Last night, as lockdown drew closer, my initial calm completely dissipated. It was bizarre. My anxiety was off the charts, and for the strangest reasons. First, I started to wonder what would happen if the people in my complex didn’t obey the lockdown rules. I have some pretty seasoned party people living opposite me, who I usually take a very live and let live approach towards. To be honest, I haven’t heard them have a get together since the president’s first announcement, but by bedtime last night, I was conjuring up scenes of mayhem and lawlessness on the quiet pathways of my complex. I also started fretting over the possibility of one of the cats going missing during the lockdown, and not being able to go out looking for them. Now, while Henry has done one very traumatic disappearing act, almost three years ago, that’s a fairly irrational fear because when I am at home, they are generally at home too, only venturing outside for a few moments each day. We also all know that I would take on SANDF and SAPS and whoever else I needed to if they did go missing and I had to launch a one-woman search party!

Eventually, I managed to mostly talk myself off the ledge, and resorted to my trusty Calm app to get me to sleep, and woke up feeling a lot better this morning – Day 1 of Lockdown. The point of all this rambling is not to let you know that I’m a neurotic cat lady who’s a tiny bit intimidated by her neighbours. At least I think it’s not. What I’m really saying is that these are strange times, and we’re all allowed to feel a little discomfited. No matter how independent and self-sufficient we may be. No matter how much we may be trying to continue with business as normal. And no matter how much we always try to find the positive or humour in a situation. As much as we need to extend kindness and empathy to others on this bizarre little journey we find ourselves on, let’s extend that to ourselves as well.

And as the first official day of lockdown in South Africa starts to wind down, I consider how I will spend my evening – hot bath, my book, perhaps a movie a little later. Not so different from many other Friday nights I’ve spent at home. And yet, as much as the activities remain the same, everything we know is completely changed.