(By Ebrahim Moolla, first published on ChangeExchange.co.za)
The enforced isolation of lockdown isn’t an easy burden to bear, but it also grants us time to reflect, to reorganise, and maybe even finally get down to all those nagging little chores around the home…
Unlike many South Africans, I didn’t sigh with resignation when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the nationwide lockdown.
Don’t get me wrong – I feel for those suffering the socio-economic consequences. But I can’t deny being fascinated by the experience. I feel like the main protagonist in some kind of dystopian series, playing the hero simply by lying on the couch, watching reruns of the Rugby World Cup. And I’ll use any excuse to wear a bandana and hoodie.
I was also relishing the opportunity to spend more time with my partner and dog, trying to restore a fragile work-life balance that’s easily offset when you’re living from weekend to weekend, trying to negotiate the byways of building a career and a home.
Well, this was before the cabin fever set in. Isolating together can be a curse and a blessing, as romance, domestic chores and professional obligations merge into one. It’s difficult to know where work stops and play begins.
Isolating together can be a curse and a blessing, as romance, domestic chores and professional obligations merge into one.
When you’re with someone for every minute of every day, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “get on your side” in-home social distancing.
My salvation has been attempting to reinvent myself into a DIY superhero, tinkering with tools to fix things about the house.
I find any sort of physical labour anathema, and am about as useful with my hands as a three-piece suit during lockdown. Call me the “ideas man” of home improvement. I much prefer to play a supervisory role.
I’m not exaggerating my stupendous lack of ability either. The clumsy author of this piece has paid a handyman R450 to what effectively amounted to changing a globe, and inserting a loose cable into a decoder. The only thing I’ve ever bought at Builder’s Warehouse is the popcorn they serve at the entrance.
Making her smile
By dint of sheer toil, I’ve managed to make some sort of progress with the minor details that needed fixing around the house. It brings a smile to my partner’s face to see me trying to figure out the inner workings of a vacuum cleaner. I don’t know if this is because she’s happy with my work, or just at my cluelessness, but either way it has brought an element of merriment to an otherwise dour time. And she’s always there to finish the job.
I’ve also discovered that simple things, such as packing the dishwasher and not leaving wet towels lying around the house, mean a lot to my partner. She knows how much I despise household chores, so my efforts have not gone unnoticed. This has allowed her to focus on her own work and dealing with the pressures of lockdown.
Small things count
There’s something to be said for the meditative quality of physical exertion, and discovering new pleasures and talents while challenging yourself. A sacrifice can be as small as getting up to make a cup of tea for your partner when you’re feeling bushed, or resisting the urge to make snide remarks while sitting through the latest season of The Bachelor.
These go a long way towards building a happier home. I suppose I have the government to thank for this. I’d ordinarily be whiling away the time in front of the TV, cheering on my beloved Arsenal or the Sharks, but some compromises have to be made in the name of domestic bliss. Sure, it’s been a little easier, given that there’s no live sport on at the moment, but I’m honing the skill nevertheless.