By Dr Beba Papakyriakou (PhD) (Psychology)

I was sitting in my garden the other day. It was blissfully warm in full sun. The Hadedas and Louries were squawking, while other birds were chirping and flying from tree to tree, beseeching me to go inside so they could come down and eat.

The sound of increased traffic was evident but not irritating. Children, somewhere, were screeching, and a dog was barking in the distance. It was good to hear the sounds of life, sounds that have become increasingly significant because of the dreadful virus and all it has generated.

The sound that captured my attention most, however, was that of dry leaves falling from some of my trees

I never remember noticing this sound before. Or maybe I did, but just did not appreciate it. It seems my naked eye also never appreciated the tomato red Geranium I photographed in my garden a few days ago. Thanks to the rays of the sun, it was captured as two-toned and unusual.

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We, humans, are strange creatures. We take things for granted

The little things, the big things, the blessings; the people in our lives – strangers, those who work behind the scenes to make our lives more comfortable or even to save them, our families, our friends; our freedoms, our ability to provide for ourselves and our loved ones; the resources we have, including our ability to see, hear, smell, talk, walk.

We neglect to be patient with others when their resources fail them. We forget to be consciously grateful and to express appreciation.

We’ve exchanged quality of life and quality time for quantity and a frenetic lifestyle. We focus on the future while obliviously stepping over the present

COVID-19 roared into our lives, intent on decimating almost anything in its path

Because of the cacophony, it is hard to focus on something else. But the noise also brought with it the need to pause, think, re-examine, and hit play again.

We’ve seen our human need to be social and vibrant constricted and violated. We’ve had to mentally adjust to accommodate the impact of the virus, lockdown, social distancing, and wearing masks. We’ve had to deal with often-irrational directives from authorities, abuses of power, on-again-off-again lifting of restrictions, are schools opening, what time may we exercise, can we buy wine, what about a roast chicken from Woolies ….?

Countless people have weightier problems than these, I know, and great heartaches

Still, for others, the smallest pleasures we took for granted now become extraordinary experiences. For example, chancing upon friends and negotiating a sip of coffee from a cardboard cup with our masks hanging from the ear or wrapped around the neck, while we stand together and try to bring back a sense of normality and humour.

Have we had any epiphanies, have we made any resolutions, are we going to do things differently now that life is opening up for us again?

For me, our COVID-19 collective experience has shown that things shift too fast to think of anything but this moment, that acts of altruism and giving a little more are now even more critical, and that being centred in gratitude and showing appreciation seems to put all of life into perspective.

This virus has brought much ugly stuff into the world, and other ugliness continues unabated. But it has also generated much good from innumerable people.

Even the worst of things somehow produces a silver lining. Those of us living and breathing might consider counting our lucky stars and re-thinking anything we might need to think, do, say differently.

© Dr Beba (X M) Papakyriakou asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work. The idea and concept of this work are original and the intellectual property rights vest in the author and may not be utilised by anyone without the author’s written consent. This material is for information and entertainment purposes only.

About the author

Dr Beba Papakyriakou is a freelance writer, editor, and researcher in psychology working from home in South Africa. She loves to travel, is an avid reader with a well-stocked personal library, and she has been involved in volunteer work with child abuse organisations in South Africa since the mid-1990s. She obtained her four psychology degrees through part-time study, and she has an extensive writing and editing portfolio dating to the mid-1980s (available on request). She has presented papers related to the topics of her Master’s degree and her PhD at various conferences and congresses. When she is not working, studying, writing, taking care of family, or travelling, she enjoys playing Rummikub with her friends, going to the theatre, and eating out.