As for losses, where do I start? My tendency is to drag along the losses like my own road-kill roped around my neck. So much loss, that affects so many. Loss of jobs and mental health and loss of life. Loss of confidence, loss of rental income, loss of restaurants and loss of freedom; loss of public trains still not running, loss of economic infrastructure resulting in uncertainty about the future. One of my greatest personal losses is of respect (what little I had) for the government. I hope Ace Up His Sleeve is carefully perusing the letter from Last Chance Ramaphosa, and all the other cadres are too, who’ve stolen money from the people and lined their own pockets.
I went into Pick n Pay the other day, a little distracted, checking a message on my phone, and when I looked up, I said to Al, ‘Why are all these people wearing masks?’ I forgot this is the way we live now … Al joked, ‘I’d hate to manage a high-end jewellery store … anytime someone comes in to your shop you have to be asking yourself is this it, is this the moment they pull a gun?’ Life looks different now. A great loss is the distance we keep from each other, our faces hidden behind masks.
So what have I gained? Surely some positive comes from all this?
I gained five kilogrammes. I hate to say this when so many have no basic food or supplies, but the fact is for me food can turn to comfort eating of sweets, chocolates, carbs. Its like, ‘Why the hell NOT polish off the Lindt bought at half price from the local café? Who cares that it fell off the back of a truck? And two blocks is just not enough!’. I’d got used to pinching my midriff, now I have love handles hanging over the pockets of my jeans. I have gained a plumper face too as a by product, and that’s not too bad. My father would always sing this operatic refrain (I have no idea from which musical or opera it’s from…) … ‘When a woman is plump she’s tender… when she’s skin and bone all she does is moan…’ My mother used to say it’s a toss up between a thin body and a pretty face… you loose too much weight, every crease shows.
I gained a whole lot of plonk wine, label-less, I have no idea what it is. Could be Sauvignon or chenin, a blend, all I know is I paid triple for it all during desperate lockdown days, and I’ll drink it. I’m gaining a sense too that one of these days I’ll go off alcohol, as this tendency to need to have it in my cupboard spells (I hope not) addiction…
I gained… more discipline… at least by 9:00 a.m. I’m sitting on my very uncomfortable bedroom chair which kills my back, banging at the keys, even if I’m writing rubbish. I wait for the one true sentence to arise… when I think, yes, the last half hour or three hours has been worth it… I wish it was easier. I have to set aside, every day, that Imposter Syndrome. It’s not the writing that’s a problem, it’s the monkey-mind, that voice that so many of us court, in many areas of life, not only writing, that undermines, blocks and pulls us down.
I picked this up on LinkedIn, from Shail Lavingia @shl:
Don’t think you deserve that job?
Apply for it anyways.
Don’t think your article is good enough?
Publish it anyways.
Don’t think they’ll reply to your email?
Send it anyways.
So I keep at it. Perhaps, because of lockdown, I had no choice in March but to sit and write. Nowhere to go, no one to see, not much to do when the garage was tidy and my clothes sorted … write! I have gained a cool website on which to post my blogs.
I’ve gained – the most important gain – a very, very cool (I think) and close relationship with my son, who features now in my writing. He has told me, Al my Pal has, that if I insist on calling him Sacha (this was an idea to protect his identity), he will expose me as a mad, demented woman, ready to be locked in a tiny room with padded walls, so I’m afraid there goes that idea…
Here was the reasoning: Ivan Vladislavic has a brother in his insightful, poetic, and engaging book, Portrait with Keys, on a changing Johannesburg. His brother Branko walks the streets with him, and converses with him; in writing terms the inclusion of Branko as a story-telling device, as Branko is pure fiction, allows the writer himself to have another voice, perhaps to say the things he might not like to say, or comment on, as author. I thought I could reinvent Al my Pal as ‘Sacha’ and take what started out as a real mother-and-son-relationship in more of an imaginary direction, create an even closer bond between us, as Sacha would too become a fictional entity. However, readers have complained. They like Al, they know Al, they understand Al. So Al my Pal it is. Al is a phenomenon. Al is a phenomenal son.
I’ve got a kick hearing Al in his room as I work in the space opposite his. His rap tunes coming at me, his video game sound tracks and commentary, his cusses; and then he’ll come over to my space and say, ‘Give me a hug, Ma,’ and each time this happens I literally think I am the luckiest Mom of a boy-man in the world.
But… we did have an argument this week… ‘You’re writing mock matric in one month! Get off your lazy arse! Study!’ This is going to be me over the next month. I had a day when I thought, What will become of Al my Pal? A brilliant thinker, so funny, but what kind of job is there for him? Comedian? Meme-writer? Professional video-gamer? I’d take that one. Professional League of Legends players earn millions, if they’re winners. Like concert pianists, they play for hours everyday, honing their technique, keeping their fingers supple. Tune in to any video-game championships held in stadiums that hold hundreds of thousands, see the players pit themselves against each other, lights centred on them… the pot is often more than Tiger Woods gets for a year of golf. Yes, I’ll take this.
My boy. My man. My child, who will have to forge his own way. He’s come a long way since toddler times when we used to read Captain Underpants together. Tralala! With lockdown we’ve had no choice but to become more insular, with the gain of course of getting to know immediate family better, to bond with kids and partners.
I gained Zoom.
I gained vouchers for the Book Lounge, and my computer guy. (Still to be claimed.)
I gained 200 pages of notes about Corona and Covid-19 and getting by, on change, fear, anxiety, on consumerism in the time of Corona, on feeding schemes, on compassion, on civil society pulling together.
I have perhaps gained both a sense of urgency – do it now! Covid-19 can get you! Make the most of your time! – yet, paradoxically, am trying to be kinder to myself and to others. It’s ok to relax, take time off, walk. (Loose those rolls. Hopefully. ) A well-rounded life is not work alone. You have to get out, be part of the bigger world.
I gained a bike ride, sat on a saddle for the first time in forty years. Had a very sore bum afterwards, but it felt good, to power my own transport, to use my lazy legs.
Friends meet outside now.
We appreciate all the stunning spots of nature in the Cape where we can gather and maintain a social distance and still be in awe of where we live…to gain is to rediscover the natural beauty of South Africa. A friend has just booked a trip to the Game Reserve. We still have wildlife. Outdoors, on the mountain, is one of the places I don’t feel compelled to wear a mask…
Perhaps we’ve gained a sense of renewed understanding of what is important – relationships and pets. People we can talk to and cats and dogs we can stroke.
We have discovered that we don’t have to meet and work in offices, or rush to meet the traffic to get to the office …
There can be no gains without loss… More thoughts to come …