Six months ago the summer triathlon season was about to start, Christmas was on the horizon and holidays were being planned. We were reading about the Rugby World Cup, local body elections, Hawkes Bays’ on going water concerns, climate change, things to do this weekend, up and coming Elton John and Rod Stewart concerts and the every increasing rise in the price of houses in the regions. We were also confronted with suicide rates higher than the road toll and horrific child abuse cases along with the disbelief around a measle outbreak in New Zealand which became an epidemic in Samoa with almost six thousand cases and more than eighty deaths.
Our lives were busy, juggling work and school duties, always rushing somewhere and trying to squeeze as much into the weekend as possible including exercise and relaxation, catching up with grandchildren and our parents and when possible friends. We were happy but exhaustion and stress reigned. For my hubby and I the most controversial discussion were around the introduction of flexible road barriers being fitted to the middle of our highways. We support safety and the prevention of distracted drivers crossing the centre line but he was concerned about the lack of road edging remaining for pull off in the case of an emergency or if a car needed to pass a slow farm vehicle.
If we were to think about Easter 2020 then, the plans would have been to stay at home, get in lots of cycling, enjoy the break from work, spend time with the grandchildren and watch their delight with the Easter Egg hunt. We would have joined the thousands of others shopping on Saturday probably picking up something for a DIY project we no doubt had planned, visited the dump after trimming back the garden and dropped off some treats from the local bakery to the great grandparents and I would have checked out a couple of stores for my winter wardrobe. Gone for a drive and grabbed a meal out.
Jump forward six months and the news and conversations have been transformed, our lives are less busy as we have been in lockdown now for two weeks. The uncertainty of the viral crisis that was affecting China and then Europe has exploded across the globe and New Zealand is at Level 4 in an attempt to mitigate the devastation that is occurring elsewhere. The reports of thousands dying daily elsewhere are difficult to comprehend whilst we remain mostly well.
We needed strong leadership and decisions to keep us safe, and although many disagree with the timing and structure of the lockdown it does appear to be working.
Our lives are different, schools are shut, jobs are lost, most businesses including cafes and fast food outlets are closed, those non-essential workers that still have jobs now do so from home. We are advised to stay in our bubble and only leave our homes to access essential services or exercise. Exercise should be local and not include recreational activity that poses risks to yourself including water sports and hunting or mountain biking, social distancing of more than two metres is required.
Level 4 means lockdown and most of us are happy to play our role and hide away in our bubble to keep the virus at bay. Some are taking the opportunity to reconnect with our loved ones, explore passions, play games and learn new skills. I applaud those who were inspired to create those sport, dance and singing renditions being shared via social media, as they have provided much needed levity. Thankfully, the daily broadcasts reporting the number of sick and recovered cases is positive helping to reaffirm our contribution.
The essential workers, our saviours and angels, you are many and your tasks and vocations are varied but without you all we would not be given the luxury of this opportunity to try and stamp out the virus. Thank you all for your dedication in particular to our vulnerable communities.
The economic impact of the pandemic will be felt for many many months, with so many local businesses both small and large being affected, some taking advantage of the government twelve week wage supplement to help to retain as many of their staff as possible while others have laid off staff or closed their businesses. When we resume life outside of level 4 so much is unknown, just getting that previous daily fix of a ‘cup of coffee’ will be a challenge. People trying to support their local cafes are buying future vouchers to help them remain viable.
Six months ago, no one would have imagined that airlines would essentially be grounded for passenger travel and will be offering massively reduced flight options once level 4 is lifted or that luxury cruise ships would now be considered one of the scariest holiday options with passengers retelling nightmare onboard experiences, making international holidays non-existent for some time.
One can only assume that any event with more than a hundred people will be regarded with caution affecting most sports and entertainment options. Live sport has been replaced by the introduction of virtual substitutions, the most high profile being the grand prix races around the world being competed for in the homes and garages of both professional and home participants and triathlon, marathons and treks can be achieved virtually.
We are frustrated to hear of the digressions from lockdown whether it be opportunists looking to steal from others, politicians driving across the country or mountain bike riding, wealthy kiwis who wanted to visit their holiday homes at Easter, rugby players who ‘just happen to see each other at a park and work out together’ or paddle boarders, surfers and ocean swimmers just doing what they do every weekend. Some have become less kind and more judgemental making the message ‘Be Kind’ essential to support this process as is the need for increased access to Mental Health and prevention of Family Harm support. We must be especially considerate and kind as isolation can trigger fear, addictions, depression and physical illness, so please look out for one another and check on your neighbours. Hopefully our views of the vulnerable may change for the better as we consider the affects of lockdown for the elderly, homeless, unemployed, unwell and minority populations.
I struggle most around the need for limited or no access to our loved ones in time of sickness and dying, I understand the need for the isolation but my heartfelt condolences go out to all of those that have lost a loved one during this time. When someone we love dies the emotional shock and intense sorrow that descends upon us can be crippling and our first response is to look for solace in the arms of other loved ones to share the grief and join together to prepare how to commemorate their life. Funerals provide the opportunity for friends and family to gather, remember and celebrate the life of the deceased and in particular helps people to cope with the loss. Without both of these the loss must be more extreme. Hopefully many life celebrations will be held after the lockdown has completed to help families heal.
Easter 2020, we stayed at home, got in a couple of cycles (keeping local), enjoyed the break from work, spent time with the grandchildren and watched their delight with the Easter Egg hunt (grandson lives in our bubble and the granddaughters virtually). We didn’t shop but we worked on a DIY project (dictated by the materials we already had), we reframed from gardening as the dump is closed, talked to the great grandparents and baked. The winter wardrobe will do until we are out of Level 4 and even then I can probably make do. No drives and no meals out. Easter was the same but very different, most importantly we still spent time with loved ones and doing things that make us happy.
What will the next six months bring, with so much now unknown?
Please take advantage of this ‘pause’ that we have in lockdown, search your hearts, be kind and reconnect both with your loved ones, friends, community and life itself. May it allow us to grow and strengthen and appreciate others from every culture and country and let our Tomorrow be better than Yesterday and Tomorrow.
If you need help in New Zealand here are some links from the Mental Health Foundation (more on their website)
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Parent Help Child Abuse Prevention Helpline – 0800 568 856
Family Violence Information Line – 0800 456 450