It’s been 2 weeks since our lives were turned upside down by, what the government calls, a failed insurrection. 2 weeks since we were traumitised by the sounds of gunshots in our neighbourhoods as we tried to get some semblence of rest at night and were faced with the sights and sounds of people’s livelihoods being looted and then burnt to the ground. If ever you wanted to understand the value of faith and living in the now, trust me when I say that an experience like this can bring it home very quickly. I have spent the past week trying to process everything that has happened and what is actually going on inside of me. Today was the first time that I actually took the time out to just be and to rest. My self-care Saturday. I also spent the time reflecting on what on what I have learned as well and would like to share it with you.
The Power of Faith
The unrest really started affecting us on the Sunday. By then reports were coming through that main roads where being blocked in the city but I wasn’t too concerned as we have been through this countless times before and the police would always stop it before things got out of control. That evening, the president announced a 9pm curfew to help curb the spread of covid. To my surprise, the main road that my bedroom window faced buzzed like it was the middle of the day after 9pm. Little did I know that it was looters on their way to help themselves to good in the warehouses in the industrial area down the road from me. By 11pm I was chatting to my friends aunt in a nearby suburb who was terrified because of all the gunfire she could hear. I thought it was an isolated incident. Then I started hearing it too. Not a lot but any gunfire is not normal so fear started to kick in. Fortunately my son was by his dad so I didn’t have to worry about him immediately. I slept for about an hour at a time that night.
Monday was the scariest day because reality started to kick in and I began to worry about my son. I knew he was safe with this dad but he wasn’t with me and that bugged me more than I realised. As a mum it is important that I always have him within my sight when there is imminent danger. On Monday night, the gunfire got worse and I was acutely aware of the sounds of the looters transporting their goods along the road just a few 100m’s away from my bedroom window. Sleep did not come easy or stay long when it did come. By Tuesday morning I was at breaking point. My son’s father wanted to bring him home as his business was affected and he needed to focus on sorting that out. I needed to get my son home safely. I was a wreck. Thankfully, my friend drove the route for me and assured me it was safe to go so I managed to get him home safely. Once he was home, it was even more important not to fall apart and that is when I realised I needed to make a choice. I could choose to continue consuming information coming at me and live in fear about things that are out if my control or I could choose to leave all that was happening out there at God’s feet and focus on what was in my control, namely, keeping the environment within our 4 walls as normal as possible under the circumstances mainly and helping out neighbours where I could. I slept so peacefully that Tuesday night after making the decision that I did not hear the explosions that apparently rattled our windows at 4am from the warehouse fire in our backyard. I have to admit that when that fire started, I was packed and ready to go in case it spread our way. Thankfully, it never came to that. That emergency bag remains packed though as I this experince has taught me that it just makes sence to always have one on standby.
By Wednesday, I felt very calm on the outside but I could feel the terror still bubbling underneath. I have to admit that it was the weirdest feeling ever. I think by Wednesday though, everyone was tired of living in fear and so we were all drawn to pray to turn the situation around. We had an interfaith online prayer session at work for everyone in the company. Our team at work also had a pray session in the evening. Friends that I spoke to on Thursday also found that they were drawn to pray on the Wednesday. Thursday was a calmer day. It felt like our prayers had been answered. Suddenly people started looking for food as they were not prepared for this and were running out of basics. Some areas had no more stores or the stores they did have were empty. So we continued to pray. By Friday, stories started trickling in of free bread and milk being made available by kind hearted souls and especially by the Muslim community. The government was making an effort to get food to our province. People started cleaning up and the atmosphere changed. It was amazing to witness. Pray with faith changes things. You have to believe to recieve.
While I was definitely shielded from the worst of it, I am surprised by how trautamitised I still feel to an extent. What has also surprised me is how quickly I am still triggered by certain things.
- I learned very quickly that when a lot of the looters were moving about at night in the neighbouring suburb, all the neighbouredhood dogs would go wild. As a result, when a dog starts barking at night, I automatically tense and wait to hear if the rest start up as well.
- I was woken up at 1am on Friday morning by the smell of smoke. I was so freaked out. It was a fire quite far from me but I was only able to fall asleep again at around 4am.
- Yesterday I saw a fire raging in, what appeared to be, one of the surrounding industrial areas that had been targeted. I instantly tensed up and wondered if it was the unrest starting all over again.
- I am virtually jump out of my skin at any loud sound. They other day I was pottering in my garden when I heard a loud noise. My neighbour opened a window that sticks. I thought I was going to have a heart attack!
I know that just about everyone around me is also still feeling very alert. Even though life has largely gone back to normal on the outside, it is still far from normal on the inside. It’s definitely going to take some time to truly learn to relax again.
Dealing with an event like this also brought into sharp focus that there actually is a lot that is out of my control and that the future is promised to no-one. Things happened so quickly and the only things that I could really control were my choices regarding the actions that I could take from moment to moment. It terrified me on the one hand but on the other it was strangely comforting to just let go and live in the moment. I have learned to be prepared but understand and accept that I can only control my choices. The rest is not up to me. I also have to constantly remind myself that I need to lay the fear at God’s feet and trust that He has my back.
It’s not possible to come through this experience without feeling lots of gratitude. Gratitude for the communtity members who put their lives on the line every night to keep us safe in our homes. Gratitude that we are safe and sound, have hot running water and electricity in our homes and have cupborads full of food. There are far too many in our country that can’t say the same. Gratitude for the friends and family that constantly checked on me and my son telephonically. Gratitude for the company that I work for and the leadership team who were so supportive to everyone during the entire ordeal and gave everyone the space they needed to do what needed to be done. Gratitude that as a single mum, I have the means to always overstock because I don’t have someone to send out for stuff if I run out of something, especially at night. Alex and I had enough food to keep us going for at least 2 weeks which probably puts me in teh league of the doomsday preppers 😜😂
This event in our history highlighted all that is so great about South Africans and also hammered home that for too many it’s a frustrating struggle to put food on the table for their families everyday and to keep a roof of sorts over their heads everyday and live a dignified life. That was just one of the many reasons why it happened in the first place. I don’t know what tomorrow holds or how we will solve our problems as a country. What I do know is that I have today and, between covid and this past event, I have learned that today is precious and is to be experienced in every possible way.
Thanks for letting me share my experience with you. Stay safe!