By Kay Newton
Out of every hardship comes an element of magic. When the COVID-19 lockdown began, I wondered how to best serve my Facebook group members and realised that creating space in the form of a daily Zoom call would be the perfect solution. Our calls are refreshingly random, members turn up or not, and there are no obligations. We laugh or cry, share or stay silent, and all is good. We are globally yet randomly tied together for 40 minutes, oblivious to ‘normality’.
It is in such moments that magic occurs – a new formed friendship, a piece of advice, a light-bulb moment and, above all, space to just be human. I asked six amazing women what lessons they’ve learnt during the lockdown in their countries. Here are their answers, shared over smiles and cups of coffee.
CHERYL REUM, SOUTH AFRICA
Our country entered the world movement of lockdown with extreme draconian rules and regulations. It would appear that while this curbed the potential viral impact, the financial impact has been extreme and dire. In a country where there is huge informal trading and illegal inhabitants, it is leading to starvation. Private-sector goodwill feeding programmes are blossoming yet the prognosis going forward is concerning.
Despite this, South Africa has always been a country that accommodates resilience and, eventually, nothing is insurmountable.
For me personally, these times have shone a high-density wattage on what it means to be human. To reconnect with family and folk that we had forgotten in the ‘busyness’ of largely meaningless pursuits. I envisage we will turn back to embrace this value even more – an awakened instinct. For example, at 3.15 am on Wednesday morning, I felt drawn to message a friend only to find he was experiencing a very dark hour. When we stop, we can truly hear.
This has been a ‘coming home’ in so many ways. My healed heart is full, happy and content. I have learned to state my truth. My adult daughter and I locked down together have deepened our already excellent relationship with clarity and sometimes brutal honesty.
We have appreciated the nooks and crannies of our environment. We have cleaned, prepared, cleared clutter and my crafts and skills acquired decades ago have been revisited. In the end, nothing matters as much as the health of the mind, body and soul.
JANE MILAUSKAS, USA
There are so many things the universe is teaching me right now. The gift of slowing down – both mind and tasks. I can truly pick and choose. Less to do, more thought and time devoted to each task. I’ve been calling it ‘practising for retirement’ (two more years to go). And the gift of that is I’m no longer worried about how I’ll fill my days… There’s always loads to do!
In the short term, I am concerned about how I will do my job when it’s safe to do so. The constrictions right now make it difficult to see how I will travel and make sales as my business is dependent on restaurants opening – when and if. Right now, I can control my environment (safe zone), but traveling puts my safety in the hands of others.
Closer to home, will there continue to be shortages of certain items? I’ve learned to ‘look’ for certain items, for myself and my aunts whom I shop for, every week when I go out to ‘forage’. I no longer assume. I make do. I use up. I get creative, I need less, much less. I share… the shopping, things I have too much of. I talk more to strangers than I ever have.
I try to understand behaviours that on the surface don’t make sense to me. To see that fear for so many here in the States is how they respond to the uncertainty. This has led me to find a bigger space in my heart for others.
CYNTHIA MEYER, USA
Personally, I made life changes about a year before the pandemic occurred. The same changes that many are now considering – a career change, working from home, valuing health and family over money. It’s been interesting to watch the world go through the stages I had already passed through.
My new normal before COVID-19 was already socially isolated, shopping online or going to the store once a week, working from home, and doing most of my business via the internet. I liked it then; I like it now. More companies and employees have discovered that the arrangement works well, I will not be alone.
The big takeaway from this pandemic and the resultant lockdown is awareness, which spans multiple facets of our daily lives, for example, the lack of basic hygiene and how precarious the food supply chain is. The news, media and even family say that the post-COVID world ‘will never be the same’. Part of me desperately wishes that is true. Going forth, I hope for positive changes.
However, another part – the pessimistic part – thinks it is only a matter of time before memory fades and the bad habits slip back into place.
Humans are creatures of habit. Once we get back to our usual lives (no matter how long that takes), many people will fall right back into the patterns that landed us in these dire straits. Overspending, failure to save, burying the environment in greenhouse gases, tolerating a mediocre (or worse) relationship – what people are most familiar with will once again become their reality.
DEBORAH CLAIRE PROCTER, ARGENTINA
To me, COVID-19 has been a big lesson in humility. Somehow the fragility of human plotting and planning has been laid bare.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” said the Scottish poet Robert Burns. I’m originally from another Celtic land of Wales so I identify with his sentiment. My New Year started with the word “consolidation” and 2020 has made me re-look and re-check my vision like no other year.
We know that the only constant in the universe is change. As we move further into the technological revolution, change will become ever faster. At the moment, we cannot imagine the new innovations that are about to appear, yet appear they will and our lives will be different yet again.
The pandemic has already created change we could not have expected a year ago.
Zoom, for example, has become the centerpiece of many households: an online platform that allows us to connect with work and loved ones around the globe in an instant. Many people have adapted well to this new way of life and embraced the new normal, others have struggled.
Yet we cannot go back to the old ways even if we want to. We have moved on. Our relationships are what we will now relish more than ever as if special magic treasure.
SUSAN GALA, USA
I don’t think things will go back to ‘normal’, because our normal wasn’t working. This virus is teaching us a lesson to be present, to stay in ‘The Now’. As we move forward, I know that I will focus on cherishing the moment, to just be present and know that I am enough by listening to my inner wisdom.
During COVID-19, space and time have had a different meaning. There is no need for a timepiece, days blend into one another and that is perfect. I intend to embrace every moment I now have.
The coronavirus pandemic has also allowed me to embody my community, to have more awareness of our brothers and sisters regardless of race, sex, social or economic health or religious systems. To believe in faith. Mine is belief in the Great Creator, Mother Gaia, Goddess, and that is what moves me.
I now have certainty that I can walk towards what’s more significant than what I am leaving behind. Simplicity is best; everything can be stripped down to a simpler level. Whether that be taking care of myself first, caring for my loved ones or the planet. The true currency of life is kindness, compassion and love.
ESTHER APOUSSIDIS, UK
I believe that COVID-19 has taught us a lesson to respect and cherish our oneness and connectivity more. I trust we will become less mindless about our actions and act more consciously, honouring and protecting our environment and moving more into love for ourselves and each other.
I will certainly be listening to my calling to share a greater unconditional love through energy work, no matter what the naysayers or sceptics say or do (including those within my family). Too long, I have hidden my voice because of seeking the approval of others.
Whilst I’m not ready to shout from the rooftops, I will slowly inch out of my chrysalis. I’m learning that to make an impact in the world, we first have to make an impact on ourselves and transform our own inner world, moving from fear, self-doubt and self-judgement to love, grace and freedom from inhibitions.
I am fascinated to see how female leaders around the world are rallying to this cry. To protect our environment and the sacredness of human life rather than worry about the economy. It will be interesting to see how other nations begin to align their policies towards helping humanity and Mother Earth over the next 10 years.
If you would like to contribute and connect to these amazing women, you will find them all at Facebook.com/groups/MidlifeStrategies