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  • Writer's pictureLianne van der Walt

The Little Things

At the beginning of the New Year, people said this would be the year of 2020 vision. We could not possibly know how prophetic these words would become. The blinkers were about to come off – and we would see our lives as never before.

I celebrated my birthday in mid-March and a few days later everything shifted. The media began bombarding us with one report after another and our anxiety levels climbed. Following constant media warnings on looming food shortages and enforced social isolation, we switched over into survival mode and stored food, medical supplies and hand sanitisers. We engaged a post-apocalyptic mindset.

Our daily routine went for a loop as we were suddenly housebound, glued to news reports on the growing global death tolls. Our priorities changed as we hunkered down in our bunkers, hidden from this invisible enemy and waited. The infection rate climbed, and we waited and waited and waited for someone to tell us it had all just been a bad dream and it was ok – we could come on out as it was over.

The mind and body can deal with this kind of ongoing stress, anxiety and fear for only so long before our innate ability to adjust, adapt and evolve kicks in. Humans are mostly creatures of habit who feel safe knowing there is a certain degree of structure in our lives. It was time to make a plan and create our ‘New normal.’

People fostered cats and dogs from rescue centres. Suddenly the waiting list was not for animals waiting for homes but rather for people offering homes. People on their own offered their services as dog walkers and those with a car offered to pick up groceries for those who could not get out. We attached soft toys to our gates and windows and wrote messages of hope in chalk on the sidewalk. Our world was shifting – we needed purpose, a new way to get through each day. As the streets got quieter – I noticed the laughter of children walking past the apartment. One little girl was delighted to find our big Labrador-plush toy we had placed on a box behind our front gate. “Look mummy, a teddy puppy!” The joy I felt at her delight took me by surprise.

‘Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.’ ~ Robert Brault

Each new day came with its own gifts. In spite of what was happening all around us, we found pleasure in the most unexpected places. People took to social media to encourage and care for each other. The arrival of the ‘postie’ (postman) became a daily highlight as we shopped online. The arrival of a van, minibus or uber eats delivery bike had everyone in the street peering out their windows in anticipation.

My day would start with me listening to bird song in the trees outside our bedroom window. As Spring approaches the volume of the songs seem to increase. The fragrance of jasmine on the early morning breeze drifts in through the open window. While the kettle is boiling and the coffee machine heats up, I feed the doves on our small balcony garden. They sit on the railing, the telephone wires and the tree opposite waiting for the sound of the sliding door to open. The neighbour’s beautiful cat sits on the windowsill in the early morning sun. From her vantage point across the road, she monitors the doves with twitching tail and whiskers as they line up for their seed and bath. This is her entertainment for the day.

That first cup of tea or coffee is just the best of the whole day. As the sunlight reflects off my crystal suncatcher, rainbows dance across the lounge walls. The small things have become important again.

‘It is the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.’ ~ Paulo Coelho

Working from home means the lunchtime break is at noon. Cooking takes time so food prep starts at 11am. The doves like the routine, coming in to walk around the seed jar in the lounge. Some roost on the sliding door frame – keeping a bird’s eye view on the activity in the kitchen and for any potential movement towards the food bowl. A month ago, a magpie fledgling with a broken leg appeared on our balcony and has come back every day since for food. We have tried on numerous occasions to catch him/her, but he/she is way too clever. There is a story attached to the latest unsuccessful attempt which resulted in a trip to the Alfred hospital ER, but I will keep that for another time. Jackie (the magpie) has a routine and arrives three times a day for food. We have a pretty ordered setup going.

It is interesting how we are learning to listen to the sounds around us. It is as though our senses are re-calibrating to what is now normal. Because we are not distracted by so much of what we were prior to lockdown, our focus has changed. We hear the sound of a delivery, the footsteps of the postie, the chatter of people out exercising. Even the weekly arrival of the caretaker for the apartment block next door to us has become a noticeable event. I recognise the sound of his little truck as he arrives on a Wednesday lunchtime to take out the dustbins for the Thursday early morning rubbish pickup. I smile unconsciously as I hear him arrive, wheel the bins out and then leave. This gets repeated on Thursday, as he returns to clean and wheel the bins back in. It is all so surprisingly reassuring.

These seemingly insignificant events have come to play an important part in keeping us feeling safe. They create structure, a framework from within which we can operate, contributing to our peace of mind and general well-being.

Regardless of what is happening on the outside, focus on creating your new routine. Choose a new rhythm and find the beauty in the simplicity of the subtle everyday events we have taken for granted for so long. They are our safety net.

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