Seven days to go to the celebration of Christmas to be followed a week later by the New year,2021.
The Christmas carols being played on the radio and in the streets have never sounded so distant!
This has never happened to me before even during the most difficult Christmas of 1985 when Kampala was swarmed with army men while the Peace talks –later referred to as “peace jokes” were going on in Nairobi , Kenya. They were between the Ugandan government of the day headed by Tito Okello and the National Resistance Army (NRA), a rebel group led by Yoweri Museveni.
My husband and our two young children made arrangements for celebrating Christmas at home joined by my young sister, Gladys who arrived from London on Christmas eve.
Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, disbelief and confusion have weighed on all of us since 11 th March 2020 when the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 Respiratory disease a global pandemic. This new virus has since proved to be the biggest threat to our lives and has changed all the rules about everything- how we do things, how we move, how we socialize.
It is more scary now that like most countries in the world, Uganda is experiencing the second wave of the spread of the virus in its communities. The disease that sounded so far away in Wuhan , China , in December 2019, is right here in our midst.
In the last two weeks, I have lost some relatives, friends, colleagues and the numbers continue to increase. Many others are fighting it in self- isolation at home . Kampala and its suburbs are the epicenter of the disease. Under such a situation the best thing to do is to stay at home while practicing the standard health guidelines to the letter and taking efforts to boost your body’s immunity.
No wonder the Christmas carols sound that distant!
But then life never stops so we just have to find a way of moving forward with the new virus in our midst. Probably the launching of the mass vaccine campaigns in some countries like Britain, USA, Canada and Russia may give us some sense of renewed hope but then I happen to live in one of the least developed countries of the world and may have to wait patiently for some months to receive the vaccine doses.
From March 21 st to date, our movements have been restricted in our attempt to slow down the spread of the disease in our communities. Failing to do this, our health care workers will be overstretched and our weak health care institutions will be overwhelmed. As the disease progresses in all countries of the world, a healthy crisis has turned into an economic one. No country was prepared for these crises.
Life is essentially about learning and each experience I encounter has a lesson in it which I have to pick and learn from it , grow and become a better human being.
Most psychologists agree on the five basic approaches to handling a crisis in one’s life.
- Live One day at a Time- when you feel uncertain about your future, the best way to remain functional and keep going forward is to take one step focusing on the next one.
- Reduce the stress to make you feel in control- You do this by dealing with what is most important in your life at that moment in time. Our major priority now is to stay safe and healthy.
- Communicate your needs to loved ones and friends- talk, share and be open about your concerns.
- Reach out and Ask for Help- no one has ever handled a crisis successfully alone. Two heads are better than one. You can get help from family and friends but if you feel overwhelmed, do not hesitate to ask for professional help.
- Get Proper sleep- the future looks uncertain, you have suffered losses- loss of loved ones or even lost a job. You need to rest a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep regularly at night to restore your physical, mental and emotional well- being. It is the only way you can make decisions, to take good care of yourself and loved ones and to adapt to new changes- becoming more creative and innovative.
One of my favourite quotes says: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; but the species that survives is the one that that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” – Charles Darwin.
In life, no experience is ever wasted. The COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions on my life has had unintended good consequence on me.
Having too much time to myself has allowed me to reflect on my whole life and forced me to make some adjustments. I have had to develop:
An attitude of Gratitude- I have stopped takings things for granted. I recognise that the most important gift to me is waking up strong and mobile.
Real Connectedness – Despite the changes and losses, I am grateful that I am in constant communication with my children, my sibling and friends and I am having some quality time with my mother. I am grateful that I have been able to maintain and gain new friendships in the pandemic.
I have regularly been sharing what I know including scientifically proven information about COVID-19 disease to help people understand the disease and persuade them to become part of the SOLUTION other than the confusion.
Creating an adventure in my home- The kid inside me has been woken up- to be spontaneously creative and innovative.
Combining the innocence and spontaneity of childhood with the maturity, skill and wisdom of my age, I have been able to write several short stories that have been published Online platforms like: Stories to Connect us on commonwealthwriters.org, Yours 2Read based in London and Kalahari Review Literary Magazine.
In October, I attended the Femrite’s week of Literary activities on Zoom and several medical virtual meetings. I have also participated in Bloggers challenges in Uganda and USA. It has kept me fully alive, useful and relevant in this COVID crisis. I have learned the technique of living and working with style and grace, making me contribute to the greater good in an effective way.
I have also been able to polish up two manuscripts that I wrote some years back.
My passion for gardening and reading has been at its best. Doing what I love and enjoy keeps me fully engaged with life.
Taking good care of myself and others- the majority of adults have to fulfill this responsibility. I have to be strong physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to take care of others in a weaker state.
As 2020 draws to its end, I am grateful that I still have the great desire to stay engaged in life- to stay active and grow mentally and spiritually. I have the opportunity to plan for 2021 and set out a few clear and inspiring goals to light my way. I have to create possibilities for 2021 and beyond.
After a tough 2020, which left the majority of us tired, feeling wrung out, stressed and unsure about what the future might bring, the greatest virtue that I now need is hope in capital letters.
The online Oxford dictionary defines hope as: a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
I need a deep well of hope to expect something good with confidence in 2021 and beyond.
As a devout Christian, I trust God the Father and the Restorer , will in his own way gradually restore all of us.
Why I feel that I badly need hope:
- Without hope, I cannot think of a future beyond where I am.
- Hope is critical if I am to reclaim my enthusiasm for life- armed with hope, I can anticipate the outcome with excitement. It stirs me up to open my mind and heart for new possibilities. Once again I will trust myself and others to learn from them.
- If I keep losing hope in the future, I shall sink in despair and a final state of powerlessness and become dysfunctional.
- With hope I can lift my eyes to the horizon and truly believe that nothing lasts forever. Change always occurs. Some patience, discipline and responsibility to myself will keep me functioning.
- I can easily accept 2020 as an incredibly challenging year and understand that it is only one year in my long life- not to allow it to define me. Once I understand this with absolute clarity, then I can find the wings to fly high in 2021 and beyond.
Alexandre Dumas said: “All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait and hope.”
The most uplifting words that I have heard during this pandemic so far were from the close to 91 years of age Margaret Keenan of UK who was the first person in the world to receive the approved Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on the 8th December 2020.
“It’s the best birthday present I could wish for because it means that I can fully look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.”
Herein lies our hope for the future; protecting the people against the disease, reopening economies and gradually returning to a New Normal.
My best present for this year will be making it to the end of the year and being given the opportunity to display a great generosity of mind and soul in 2021 and beyond.
Among your traditional rituals for the festive season, which one will you be missing most this year? Why?
Thank you all readers and followers for walking with me through this unprecedented year.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and New Year filled with new possibilities.
Please take the personal choice to stay safe and healthy.