Author: Clients in Action

Back into the light with Patricia O’ Hare

At this moment, I feel profoundly and deeply disturbed and agitated. My mood is dark. I feel hopeless and helpless. Several people who I spoke to this week echo my sentiments – no matter the age cohort to which they belong. My 15-year-old granddaughter is experiencing a crisis because she has been isolated from her peers for too long. My 45-year-old ex-colleague feels untethered and adrift having worked from home for 100 days. My 68-year-old friend feels she has reached the limit of her endurance of being cut off from life, alive but not living. The list goes on. I am hearing only about the negative. I am overwhelmed by the political, economic and social crisis our country is facing.

A couple of events this past week, and my reaction to them, forced me to sit down and reflect what was actually going on. My domestic worker, who had been part of my family for 50 years, unexpectedly came and returned my house keys stating she could no longer risk using a taxi because of Covid. I understood her reasoning because she falls in a high-risk category because of her age. Intellectually I could grasp what was happening, but emotionally I could not cope with this abrupt and unceremonious departure from my life of a key and beloved figure. I cried non-stop for the entire day. This reaction should have been a warning sign to me because I am not someone who cries easily or frequently, but I chose to ignore the warning. A couple of days later I had a bad experience at the dentist, and once again, my reaction was totally over the top. Another warning I failed to register as ominous and out of character. I have always been an exercise freak and could not go to sleep at night if my IWatch had not registered that I had completed 10000 steps. This week I never achieved my target once, but it failed to register in my brain. I usually do at least five yoga classes per week, but last week I only did one. Unusual? Yes. Did I reflect on this phenomenon? No.

Eventually, my mood and lack of energy and enthusiasm forced me to sit down and reflect what was happening. I found that I was behaving uncharacteristically. I was emotionally depleted. I had no energy. My thoughts were pessimistic, negative. Where was that person who usually wakes up in the morning singing one or another song from the 60s? Where was that person who could normally outpace a fellow yoga practitioner? Where was that person who was usually enthusiastic and full of energy? Where was that person who bopped around the house to rock and roll music while doing her chores?

I’ll tell you what happened. I allowed myself to be sucked in by negativity. I allowed myself to believe I was worthless, useless, hopeless. I believed the future was hopeless. Sure, my husband and I had just retired, and sure we were both living under lockdown restrictions. I had to have a long, hard talk to myself – just because I was no longer earning, just because I was no longer at the hub of a socially affirming life, I was still a person of value. While I was no longer an active participant, the wisdom I had accrued over the years still had value and relevance.

To anyone who has had a similar experience, I urge you to take some time to reflect and become conscious of how you got where you are and why. Once you become aware of the mechanisms that dragged you down, you can adapt and change. If you have no consciousness, you will never be able to effect change. Without being aware of the process, I allowed my ever-darkening mood to isolate me from all the things that had given me pleasure in the past- exercise, dancing, listening to music, gardening, reading. Now, with awareness, I can reengage those pursuits which I know have given me pleasure before, and I can mindfully and purposefully begin to get my life back on track. I have also opted to remove myself from the company of doomsayers and pessimists. I have done everything possible to ensure that my retirement years be free of financial worries. I am blessed with good health and a great support system. I didn’t reckon on the effects of Covid-19 but am sure that the resilience I have shown over the years will now stand me in good stead. I have to be watchful that when I start straying off the path, I immediately engage in corrective measures to bring me back on track. For that to happen, I need to continually practise mindfulness – one of the greatest techniques to manage the angst of 21st-century living.

The purpose of sharing my story with you was to emphasise how important it is to keep tabs on your mental health. We have all been preoccupied with avoiding the Corona virus at all costs but we may have neglected our mental health in the process. Living in lockdown, separated from friends and family can cause extreme stress which builds up insidiously. Unless you develop the capacity to constantly monitor your thoughts, emotions and behaviours you may not even be aware of the increasing stress levels until they become totally debilitating. If you have ever been treated for anxiety and depression, you should be especially mindful of your current vulnerability. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you start feeling overwhelmed.

Juenesse Park

I have reconnected with daily, online, yoga practice and find the connection with body, mind and spirit to be a welcome, healing and regenerative blessing and I exercise more than ever. I am fitter than I have been in years, have made fantastic new connections globally who inspire and stimulate thinking and action, have reorganised my living space to accommodate my new lifestyle and more.

Routine really helps in dealing with lockdown and the stresses of facing an even more uncertain future than usual. I have found that focussing on four or five core actions daily helped me get through the months of isolation and all the associated apprehension and anxiety.

Peter and Jilly

We have found Lockdown a breeze! We returned from Hole-in-the-Wall the Sunday before Lockdown, and were initially a little confused about how this was going to affect us! However, we quickly took stock of the situation, and compiled a structured approach to how we were going to cope with it forthwith.

We wrote down a random list of projects we would like to address and complete in the following 3/5/10 weeks (added to as the period of Lockdown was extended, and extended.)
My list consisted of the following:

  • Cooking to freeze; I eventually cooked 40 meals for 2!
  • Knitting for charity and friends’ grandchildren.
  • Getting all filing sorted.
  • Going through and rearranging all cupboards in sequence; starting with the study.

I intended to be ruthless in all cases, evicting items I have balked removing for decades! In doing all this, I wanted to rearrange all cupboards into a logical format and label each shelf! This was particularly applicable to the study.

With winter coming, I recalled a number of long sleeves of jackets and t-shirts, which had long been waiting to be shortened, so that was added to the project list: I eventually gathered 18 items of clothing, i.e. 36 sleeves to hem!

Once I achieved the above tasks I decided it would be lovely to revisit all my cards and letters of sentimental value which I had kept over decades, including numerous precious cards and letters received from pupils from over four decades of teaching.

I always write a detailed diary for every special holiday I have had been privileged to experience: every overseas trip and local holidays to places that were very significant with family and/or close friends.

As a reward between tasks, I added “reading” to the list, I have a Kindle. I also phone and message family and friends on a regular basis.

Peter’s list consisted of:

  • Fixing security lights.
  • Sanding down every cottage window and re-varnishing each.
  • Reorganising his workshop.
  • Sorting his photos on his computer.
  • Painting a gutter down pipe.
  • Paint one of the spare rooms.
  • Make a shelf for our sister-in-law’s patio.
  • Sort all filing.
  • Sort all his cupboards in the study.
  • Keep in touch with family and his close friends who were alone.
  • On-going gardening, resulting in a stunning winter garden!

Next we planned a daily routine. Wake up time became interesting, as we were guided by daylight, so, we started getting up between 6.00 and 6.30! Currently we rise between 7.00 and 7.30.
Then onto bed making, exercising and tea in the upstairs sunroom, which offers us beautiful sunshine, as well as a stunning view over the Ebotse golf course. I have to add that the abundance of sunshine that has basked in all its glory, almost daily, makes a huge difference to one’s morale!
Then came shower time and downstairs for breakfast (around 9.00).

Thereafter we go our own way to embark on the task underway at the moment! Coffee has played a large part in our rituals, so we meet in our garden for a cuppa around 11.30 and catch up on what each of us has achieved! Snack lunch, again outside, is on the agenda around 1.30!
Back to the list until 5.30ish, when we adjourn to the lounge or upstairs, to indulge in some well-deserved liquid refreshment ! Candlelit dinner follows, then off to watch some TV: either a David Attenborough type programme or Hudson and Rex. 9.00pm sees us reading until we drop off to sleep.

We have achieved all items on the above lists! I must say, achieving them was very gratifying. However, the most rewarding for me was re-reading my cards, letters and diaries, as well as the numerous photos! What a journey down memory lane on all accounts, with many a tear shed along the way!!

I have enjoyed composing this record, and will add it to my diary file for me to look back on in years to come. Learning to manage Microsoft Team and Zoom, has of course, been an amazing experience for the two geriatric digital souls that we are.

In conclusion, I would like it noted that during this three and a half month sojourn, we have not once been at one another’s’ throats! We have realised that we don’t have to rush around “renting a crowd” for pleasure. We have missed our family and friends, nevertheless, and will value them greatly when we are permitted to socialise once more.

Dick and Diana

I am not sure what all the fuss is about. I have for the first time in 23 years had the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy my home, and I have revelled in it. We had to do all the cleaning and gardening while we gave the help paid leave. Somehow this has kept us very busy, and there has not been much time to do other things.

As the lock down has eased up we have had a toddler to look after, so that has kept us very busy with not much time to attend to the normal day to day administration, until he has been collected by his parents. It is trying, but I think it is a wonderful opportunity to correct some of the mistakes we may have made in bringing up our own children. I am a lot more patient, even when he switches of my computer when I am trying to send off an email. There is a lot of comfort to be had when everything just stops. How often have we wished we could just stop for a day or so to take stock. Life has become much simpler. How wonderful?

I guess I am a homebody at heart and love it.

Doreen Katzen

Having retired in September 2019 I had ticked off a few of my priorities on my bucket list for the next exciting stage of my life. These were:

  1. Spend more time with our grandchildren. Then along came lockdown. The irony was that this put a stop to the time to spend with our beloved grandchildren and in its place I landed up home schooling the seven year old granddaughter of my housekeeper! The child , and her mother, had been sharing a room on our property with the granny since she was born. As her mother commuted by taxi every day to work she became a health risk. Consequently, we hastily, the day before lockdown, rented out and furnished a room for her. Now that school has begun, as was the plan, the child has gone to live with her mother, having not seen her for over 100 days.
  2. Go back to doing volunteer counselling. I attended a course and have been doing volunteer telephone counselling for the past 10 months. Since lockdown I have been doing the counselling in the comfort of my home instead of in an office. I am glad to have resumed this after a break of 20 years, when I stopped counselling due to the pressures of work.
  3. Attend lectures to broaden my knowledge and interests. Thanks to Zoom I have more than fulfilled my desire to attend lectures, and the bonus is that I listen in the comfort of our home, and am often joined by Ronnie for this. I am also attending a computer course on Zoom.
  4. Spend quality time, as opposed to work time, with my husband Ronnie. Besides attending Zoom lectures together on topics like politics, religion and cooking. Another benefit of the lockdown is that we have date evenings, and sit holding hands on the couch watching Netflix!

We were able to attend the funeral of a friend and to vicariously support his children living overseas who, because of lockdown, could not come to the funeral. We have also been present at a family circumcision (bris) service with the grandparents in S.A. who were unable to fly to Oz.

Bev Goldman

I won’t tell you how frustrated and irritated I have been during this time, and worse the longer it carries on, but I will tell you about some of the wonderful books I have read.

Anthony DoerrAbout GraceAbsolutely wonderful!
Stef PenneyThe Tenderness of WolvesA gem and so beautifully written
Kate AtkinsonLife after LifeAnother gem
Irene NemirovskySuite FrancaiseNot enough words to praise it!
Isabelle AllendeA Long Petal of the SeaBrilliant

I feel so privileged to have been able to find and read these – they take one out of the mundane of life and isolation and open new and fascinating worlds expressed in the most beautiful of language.

I also make soup – lots and lots of soup – which feeds my soul. I now have more than 30 containers of soup in my freezer (fortunately Dennis loves soup – any kind,) but there are no more containers and no more room in the freezer, so either he’s going to have to eat much more and more often, or I’ll have to buy both a new freezer and more containers!

And this last week I have bought, and pot-planted, a number of gorgeous geraniums, and am nurturing them daily. The colours are breath-taking.

I haven’t learned any new languages or skills, I haven’t knitted or crocheted baby beanies or socks or scarves, but I have been very involved in the NGO of which I am a member, and I am so delighted to say that we have impacted positively on the lives of thousands of needy people, new mums with babies needing baby bags filled with all the essentials for newborns, the very lonely and isolated elderly, and the hundreds of children needing stimulating stationery to help them cope in this new an unfamiliar world in which they find themselves, especially those whose parents have had to work and who have been forced to stay home often alone and without care or comfort.

Living through Covid-19 (after losing your spouse)

Living through Covid-19 (after losing your spouse)

Roy Irvine shares his experience of losing his wife prior to lockdown and how ‘life goes on’.


Even before Covid-19 was well known outside of China, my 2020 didn’t start off well, as my darling wife and soulmate, lost her battle with cancer in January. We had talked during our 33 years of marriage about the day when one of us would be left without our ‘better-half’, so I had some sort of blueprint to follow.

Thankfully we were able to have a wonderful memorial service in February, which allowed our friends to remember Marita’s life.

I was now left with two lovely daughters, the eldest of whom was already working and settled down, and a fifteen-year-old, who had just started Grade 9.

Then the lockdown started. It influenced us in a number of ways, including having to start with on-line schooling (a steep learning curve for the teachers, students and parents). As my career in mining involved going to sites, or going to the office, all of that stopped, so I had to find a new way of earning some money. As has happened often in my life, the stars aligned, and I was offered work that I could do from home, with very flexible hours, so that I could still run the house, walk the dogs (thanks to Level 3 lockdown), monitor the on-line teaching and try some new things. My wife was a great cook, so I have a fabulous kitchen, a library of cookbooks and a daughter who will eat anything! To set myself up for the day, I now follow ‘The Art of Living Happiness Course’ which uses Yoga and breathing exercises to get you aligned for the day; a much easier and so far, more productive way to start the day, and greet the sun, than my old pursuit of jogging. The course also taught us that the only thing we can control is ‘Now’, so don’t put things off, if you are able to do them now.

One of the items on our life blueprint was that ‘life must go on’, so my new life is not the same as the old one, but is turning out to be wonderful with the support of my daughters, friends and the wonderful teachers at my daughter’s school.

Meeting the demand for masks

At the beginning of March when the Covid-19 virus started appearing in South Africa, myself and my employees decided to make masks for ourselves because we had people continually in the shop. We also offer social classes in crochet, knit and sewing, and none of our regular ladies wanted to stop attending, so we offered the ladies masks and classes on how to make them. This became a fun exercise for us.

Once our president decided to put South Africa on lockdown, the demand for masks grew. When lockdown started, people working in essential services started approaching us to make for themselves and their staff members. Our first big order was from a Standard Bank branch. We have since supplied masks to numerous companies, doctors, dentists and of course to individuals and families. We make them in 3 sizes: men, women and children, and in many different colours. The masks are made with 2 layers of 100% cotton, and the inner is a 3- ply surgical mask filter. The cost per mask is R50.00, and although we do not make a big profit it is keeping the three of us busy during the lockdown period as well as creating income.

Pat Schneider is the owner of The Cotton Ball, a wool, material and haberdashery store based in Doringkloof, Centurion.

How we are dealing with lockdown by Una Perry

Having children is the best investment you will ever have, the dividends will start coming in when they turn 18…these were the words of my mom when I one day reached out to her for advice on parenting.

Lockdown has suddenly brought families back together in homes and how do we react and guide each other in this unpredictable season? I decided to ensure that our home is a place of safety in this time of uncertainty.

“Comfort food” is one of my safety vehicles in lockdown. Familiar aromas of special treats, favourite meals and new aromas from the kitchen forms a daily part of our house hold now. Everybody pops into the kitchen excited to find out what is on the menu and they stick around to help too!

Mealtimes are sharing moments too – and it is priceless to hear our young adult children recalling moments as young children. They remember moments we didn’t even realised they understood.

It turns out that during lockdown first dividends are coming in from this investment. Definitely worth depositing further into our memory banks for the future.

Marina and Frank Davis’ list of lockdown tips

Here are some of the things we are doing to stay focused and positive under the circumstances:

  1. Marina has found a wildlife site which live-streams game drives in the Kruger Park:
    • Morning drives are from 06h00 t0 09h00.
    • Evening drives are from 15h30 to 18h30.
    • The site is called Wild Earth.
    • The link is https://wildearth.tv/safarilive/
    • Marina starts most of her days watching the early game drive, in bed with a cup of coffee and rusks.
  2. Enjoying watching, and photographing, the birdlife in our garden.
  3. Instead of our usual daily shopping, we only go the shops every 7-10 days, to stay safe.
  4. Enjoying being creative with cooking, enjoying watching our three children, two spread around SA and one in Amsterdam, also getting creative with meal preparation.
  5. Having video calls on WhatsApp, as a family, to stay close together.
  6. To keep informed of the news, but trying to avoid information overload -not so easy.
  7. To keep a sense of humour, this is helped by all the funny stuff received on WhatsApp.
  8. Most of all, to keep a positive outlook, although the health threat around the world and the terrible drop in the stock markets is of real concern.