DM168 Reflection

Staying sane – the greatest challenge of our time

By Branko Brkic 17 April 2021

(Illustration: Adobestock)

Even as the vaccines multiply and the vaccination drive might even arrive on our shores, it will still be years before we return to “normal”. It will not be a snap moment; we will not wake up one day to see the Virus is gone, like the Martians in HG Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

As we’re all trying to claw our way back into some kind of normalcy, we’re also learning how to live with the Virus. We’re trying our best not to be afraid, to keep as healthy as we can, and still put food on the table, even as that simple list of goals starts appearing a little more impossible to achieve with every new day.

There’s no hiding it, these are brutal times.

Most of us have known, respected and cared for someone who has died of this horrible disease. We’ve lost loved ones, family members, colleagues, people we admired, people who were pillars of strength in our communities, people who we would look up to when the days were tough and the friends were few.

These are not times we will forget anytime soon.

But these are also times I hope we can one day look back at and feel proud of what we stood for, the resilience we displayed and the moral fibre that protected us from breaking down under the sheer weight of the pandemic-induced gravity.

Still, as in many “biblical” times before in history, we’re seeing a whole new level of human ugliness, too. We’ve seen people stealing from the weakest of the weak, the ones they were entrusted with caring for. They have done it on the grandest of scales, and through spectacular moral failure, as the PPE scandals have amply shown.

We’ve seen people turn mean, selfish and hopelessly self-centred. We’ve suffered the rise of too-many-to-count false prophets seeking their own moments of personal fame and influence, no matter how ill-placed and damaging their spectacles are.

We endured the enlarged swarms of wannabe scientists, pseudo-intellectuals and naked merchants of evil. Right on the clock, xenophobic stormtroopers reared their ugly heads, racists reached their old heights and bad-faith actors made art out of hatred.

In short, we all went through extraordinarily tough times, which I hope we won’t have to bear again for many decades to come. Still, our challenge is not over yet, and our job is not done.

Even as the vaccines multiply and the vaccination drive might even arrive on our shores, it will still be years before we return to “normal”. It will not be a snap moment; we will not wake up one day to see the Virus is gone, like the Martians in HG Wells’s War of the Worlds.

We still have no idea when, or if, we will win the race against the variants that are now blossoming worldwide. Therapeutics will be on their way too, sometime later this year, which should make treatment of the disease easier. But remember, we are a planet of seven billion people. Getting rid of Covid-19 will be a messy, uneven and unjust process.

But all of these big, and real, issues aside, perhaps the most important task in front of us is to keep our sanity. Most of us are living on the edge these days. Most of us could never have expected the pandemic to disrupt our lives so mightily and so mercilessly. Most of us did not know how to cope.

It is no surprise that fear, and anger, and desperation are so commanding of our lives these days. Many have suffered breakdowns, some with permanent damage.

It is not easy to be cool and collected when you feel like a fish out of water, gasping for breath.

Before the pandemic hit, humanity reminded me of a fully maxed credit card, where we all lived at the cutting-off point, with no reserves, flying blind with no parachute.

The Virus has exposed our frailties and our shortcomings, badly and definitively.

And yet, our personal mind space is also something that we have to be extra careful about, every single one of us.

Dealing with the problem is easier when one understands there is one. It is also good to be aware that we’re only humans and that we can personally do only so much. Not all of us are superheroes. And that’s okay.

Next time you look at yourself in the mirror, be soft. Tell your mirror image “it’s gonna be okay”. Life is indeed tough and the future is not certain, but it is gonna be okay. It may take a while more, or longer than that, but eventually it is gonna be okay. And it is also okay to feel anxious and worried and it is not a sign of catastrophic weakness to feel down. These are the times when “down” literally is not sufficient to explain one’s depth of feelings sometimes.

And yet, that’s all okay. It is important to understand: you will not have a future if you break apart today.

So be kind to yourself, your loved ones and your respected ones. And don’t forget. It’s okay. It really is, okay. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.

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