SAFFIYAH EDOO

As my fingers linger on my keyboard to start writing this text, there is a slight tremor. My heart skips a little beat and I take a deep breath. Words, my favourite companions, have been running away from me since the start of the second lockdown. At first, I wasn’t even able to escape to my beloved books. The words would blur in front of my eyes and my

SAFFIYAH EDOO

brain would categorically refuse to register them. It felt like my whole bodily system was betraying my soul. The latter was screaming for escape which my body would refuse, and here I was trapped between the two, trying my best to keep face in front of my kids for two reasons. One, they were why I would have to get up everyday and draw those curtains open to let the light in and second this was so because I had no choice and no right to inflict further distress than the situation we were living in, on them.

So, I kept my agony to myself, everyday fervently unburdening my heart to God and trying my best to relieve my body of all that was weighing it down. As words slowly came back to me when I gingerly started to pick up books again, they would refuse to come out of my fingertips. They would jumble around in my head and my heart but would unequivocally deny me the release of them on paper.  Which is why I will try today to put down as many as I can in case they refuse to come out again. You see, I feel that I am losing my voice, and by extension who I am, which I feel is so intricately linked to writing. And sadly, as minor as a casualty this might seem in the face of some heartbreaking tragedies, there are many hidden losses due to the pandemic, apart from the obvious ones, that we are struggling to talk about.

Our lives have irrevocably changed since March 2020. What we have gone through is no less than a trauma, through which we each have our own ways of dealing. We thank God for small mercies and compare ourselves constantly to others who are even more bereft than ourselves. But the truth is that this is not a competition of who has it worse. It is in fact a question of how we cope with what is being thrown at us and how we manage to live with the losses. For some, it is the loss of a lifetime’s career and achievements, where today, they imperatively must reinvent themselves for survival. For others, it is the loss of loved ones due to death and the inability to mourn, having been unable to say goodbye properly, yet finding themselves having to do so because the sun rises everyday, signaling that life goes on. For yet others, it is the loss of time that is going by, and life projects indefinitely put on hold, but they still do their best to adapt because there is simply no other choice. But perhaps, the hardest and the harshest adaptation is to cope with the loss of love.

While life circumstances are changing and everyone is doing their best to adapt, people are transforming. Changes in circumstances inadvertently shift comfort zones, forcing the need to create new ones and find the time and space to adapt to them. These shifts may prove to be monumental for some. The change in life circumstances may reveal a whole different person, one for whom survival takes over the capacity to love. And that is one of the saddest tragedies of this pandemic. Parents can no longer hold their children without worrying about their futures, spouses are forced to drop the act of normalcy when the children have gone to bed and the fear of uncertain tomorrows fills the space between them. Lovers can no longer love, despite the certainty of having found their soulmates in each other, because life has taken over, and there is no bigger reality than life. And individuals can no longer look at themselves in the mirror without asking if they will be able to love themselves again one day, after/if all this is over.

As we weave our way through this global change, we hear so many heartwarming stories as well, enough to make each day more bearable than the previous. And yet, while as humans, we tend to gravitate towards what makes us feel better, we cannot deny that countless hidden losses are taking place around us. They may seem minute, but these losses may be life-changing tragedies for the ones living them. We do our best to adapt, survive and look for that longed-for break in the clouds. As for me, I hold on to these words just penned, as I feel that months-old tightening in my soul being loosened by a few knots, because this is my break in the clouds, for which I have been longing. At the same time, I send a heartfelt prayer that the precious companions that are words are not bidding me adieu but guiding me towards myself, albeit a changed me, changed not because I wanted to but because I was forced to.