1 APRIL 2020
After the calm contemplation and gratitude I savoured on Day 1, things started falling apart. At least in my own mind. The next morning, I took my cuppa to the back yard and sat on the garden chair, listening to the birds chirping away in the trees and waiting for them to start pecking at the crumbs in the bird tray. This has become my new morning ritual. I felt a chill in the morning air, warning that the cold was approaching. The weather was changing as it always does at this time of year, only this time I was more alert to it. Our lives are changing…
That chill I felt was almost a premonition of the trials I would face over the next few days.
There is the usual daily overload of the dreaded realities about the virus, the ‘what to do’, ‘what not to do’ and precautions to take, most of which we should all be familiar with by now. I still keep an eye though in case there are new updates or cures on the bleak horizon of new confirmed cases and rising death tolls. There is also the fair share of hilarity to help us cope in this vexing time. I watch the flood of games, activities, sharing of recipes and proud pictures of the results on social media, as people try to make the confinement in their homes more bearable. Much to my amusement cooking and baking is a popular pastime during lockdown amongst men and women alike, bringing to mind a cheesy phrase – Corona is bringing out the best in MANkind.
Corona is bringing out something completely different in me. Working from home is proving more taxing than I thought. I seem to be working longer hours and encountered my first hitch when I couldn’t connect to a video conference meeting. I have always had a frustrating relationship with IT. My ignorance (despite my best efforts) works against me and I often find myself in a twist with technology. IT professionals (who probably hate me) tend to work harder on my issues, between hardware and software issues, and the stupid mistakes I make that cause bigger problems. I am the ‘standard’ for good laptops. If it can last with me through the warranty period, it’s a good machine! Until I got a MacBook, a few years ago, our IT department contemplated taking out extended warranties for me. Through these ordeals, which happen every now and then, I have what I can only explain as ‘IT meltdowns’. When things go wrong, I feel helpless, angry and tearful. Not my best moments, to say the least. So, it’s not surprising that one of the things that would happen to me while I’m confined to my home, is an IT mishap. I ended up screaming at innocent people and feeling thoroughly ashamed after.
This, however was the least of my meltdowns. Over these past few days. I have been interacting more on social media and encountered a concerning phenomenon. A few people are not taking the isolation seriously. Popping in and out for shopping every day, apparently even allowing a domestic worker to come in, saying that its God’s will so whatever will be will be…
Of course, I retaliated with what I hoped was a dose of common sense, which didn’t seem to shift their thinking an iota. I was really surprised at how angry it made me. I again felt, helpless, frustrated and tearfully angry. I was triggered again! This time by what I thought was careless thinking by some.
Being in social isolation seems to have aroused my demons and pushed them right into my face. In my usual fashion, I started analysing my reactions and tryed to connect it to a pattern that may be occurring in different forms all over the world, except maybe America, where the President thinks that a few deaths are not a big deal in the face of a greater economic loss.
I hear people joking and complaining about going stir-crazy, feeling bored, frustrated and generally out of sorts. When we are in a situation that constrains us, we react. I experience this when I am fasting during Ramadaan. The food deprivation dulls my desires for anything other than food. It also raises my irritability and heightens my reactions to the things that trigger me. A Muslim scholar once explained this phenomenon as the opportunity to become aware of one’s weaknesses and to correct them. Sleep deprivation is known to have even more extreme reactions from human beings. Social isolation deprives us of our freedom of movement and contact with the outside world. It deprives us of the human connection, the value of which this virus is revealing. Similarly, this deprivation challenges our equilibrium and is bound to exacerbate any tensions and misgivings that we ordinarily feel.
I turned inward again and with a great deal of shame, started recounting the internal turmoil and blame I experienced in these last few days.
I picked up a booklet that was lying on my bedside table which I had been meaning to read. It was a synopsis of the life of my hero and role model, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is what it said about his character:
‘Muhammad kept his feelings under firm control. When annoyed, he would turn aside or keep silent. When someone committed an act that violates God’s law, he used to show anger and a firm stand. He never got angry for his own sake. He did not find fault with others nor did he overly praise others.’
Every description of him I have ever read, paints the picture of moderation in thought, behaviour and action, and a paragon of safeguarding the highest interests of everyone.
Instead of chastising myself and wallowing and self-pity, I decided to search for God’s gift of mercy in my situation. Today this virus is teaching me (or reinforcing what I struggle to accept).
I have no control over other people’s thoughts and actions. I can only say what I believe to be true, acknowledging that my truth may change as my understanding evolves. I cannot assume responsibility for the actions or reactions of others, but I can work hard to control my own reactions and strive to act in the best interests of everyone around me. I cannot be an IT boffin, but I can accept when things go wrong and hold patience until they are resolved. Instead of giving in to my anger and frustration and shouting out, I can try harder to control my impulses and get a hold of my nafs (ego).
I received a beautiful message on a WhatApp group from an inspirational lady today:
‘Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working.’ – “Use the time to re-assess, re-evaluate, re-set and respond with a difference”.