• Lindy Davis - Writer

Musings from isolation - Week 3

New Zealand has dedicated itself to “going hard and going early against COVID-19.”

And for the most part, the population has understood that. The curve has flattened and the hospitals are thankfully, half empty. If there was to be a sudden outbreak, the frontline medical staff would be in a reasonable position to manage it. The desperately needed PPE gear finally arrived (ironically from China) and will hopefully be distributed to the smaller regional centres that were improvising with low-grade masks or making do with plastic bags and latex gloves.

Isolation can bring out the best or the worst in people. And now we are seeing the rise of the narcs.

People who have nothing better to do than sit and watch other people from their window or speculate on-line about what people should or shouldn’t do in a lockdown.

A street walk is okay, but a beach walk could be deemed non-essential. Cycling through the streets is permissible, but surfing the local break is not. Riding your motorbike or horse along the beach is allowed, but swimming or sailing is not. Blurred lines everywhere you look.

Some of these activities should be discretionary, allowing for common sense to prevail. But the rules were made to cover off every possible human scenario.

Some of our toughest cops are now ushering fishermen from the wharf, pulling the elderly off the road for taking an un-necessary drive and issuing fines to surfers riding waves at their local surf break.

My thoughts are this. We are individuals and therefore we derive pleasure from different activities. One person’s quality time might preferentially be spent gardening or reading, while someone else’s will be running or kayaking. Others may prefer to spend hours watching Netflix or scoping the internet. Shouldn’t we respect what each person needs to feel happy in isolation?

As long as they’re not endangering others or engaging in an activity that might spread COVID-19, they should be allowed to do the activities they want to, in order to feel comfortable in isolation. Example: I’m happy writing or weeding my garden, but my neighbour would far prefer to be out catching a fish.

The good news is this; the government’s legitimate concern to reduce undue strain on medical facilities (while we wait for the curve to flatten), is that they’ve never been quieter. A large number of medical professionals are now on paid leave with little, or nothing to do. The flip side is that many people who had their surgery postponed or procedures the government deemed non-essential, have been long-listed and now waiting out the lockdown in uncomfortable isolation.

Personal happiness is something that should be seriously considered and never more so, than now. People are isolated from their usual forms of social contact. Friendships have been reduced to phone calls or skype sessions. Older people who would normally feel connected through everyday activities like visiting the local grocer or café and attending family gatherings, are now confined to the four walls of their home.

While initially it might be okay, the novelty wears off for the elderly and the need for face-to-face contact is greater than ever. It goes against the social nature of (most) people to be actively avoiding each other.

This is where the opportunity to be outdoors and connected with nature, is more important than ever. Even if it's just out on the front porch or taking a walk in the local park. Find interesting walks within a reasonable distance of your home and do them. There are more birds out and about than ever before and given the late summer weather we’ve had, it’s an ideal time to crank your 200,000 steps or whatever your current goal is.

We are advised that only ‘essential services’ will run during lockdown. I patiently explained to my husband that sex isn’t deemed an essential service, which unsurprisingly fell on deaf ears. (I just added this line to see if anyone actually reads my blog)

If you own a supermarket, this will be your biggest earnings quarter ever.

But if you operate a butchery, grocer, fish shop or hardware store, then its tough luck. Despite the fact that most people understand they need to keep a reasonable 2m distance and that small businesses could still operate on that basis, they remain closed. This is significant, as most smaller businesses will struggle enormously over this time and for many months to come.

The local butcher in the small town where I’m living for the next month has set up an on-line order and delivery service. This is good news for the locals here as the supermarket had struggled to sufficiently provide meat for the sudden influx of people. Similarly, a co-operative representing local growers in the region has established a FB online order and delivery service and neighbours in my street are having fresh vegetables delivered weekly.

Interestingly, the idea of having a weekly Farmers market was a concept I mooted here a few years ago. I was advised by council that the market would be challenging given their formula for restricting the number of car movements in one specified area. We have a weekly town market, but it’s not as authentic as local growers selling produce directly.

Ironically, this situation may in fact rekindle the idea that small regional New Zealand towns should encourage local growers markets. It’s by far a healthier and more economical way to purchase food and if we are intent on reducing our footprint, then it makes perfect sense.

Security guards currently line the entrance to most inner-city supermarkets, where people are directed to stand in queue two metres apart. Check-out operators who normally scan and pack groceries now wear masks and gloves, and protected behind Perspex screens.

New Zealanders have embraced and responded responsibly to the call for isolation The roads are so quiet they’ve become an extension of the footpath. People are walking everywhere. While it’s lovely to see families out on twilight walks, people cycling at sunrise and nature regaining strength, its also easy to spot the sadness and confusion on people’s faces. Kids are the happiest, oblivious to concerns for the elderly, lost jobs, income and impending illness.

Unsurprisingly there appears to be nothing else going on in the world right now…just the virus and the global management or mismanagement of it.

There’s a level of resignation and a feeling of “it is what it is,” an expression that has always felt defeatist to me and yet logic says – it’s probably exactly what anyone would say right now.

The NZ government acknowledged (finally) that we needed stronger border control and more stringent checks are in place for kiwis who arrived during lockdown and elected to self isolate or transfer into government controlled hotel quarantine.

Our case numbers are decreasing and as far as the virus goes, New Zealand is highlighted internationally as a good example of how to lead safely and effectively. Obviously this is a much easier exercise given our small population.

The question is this; what programme is in place for when we take our foot off the brake and gently apply the accelerator, effectively leaving Level 4 (lockdown) for Level 3.

Lockdown itself is relatively simple, but the greatest challenge is how to manage things going forward. Can people move around freely again without the risk of raising the statistics and driving the curve upwards?

My theory is that during this time we could imagine that we ALL have the virus. How would you behave if you caught the worst case of the winter flu? Headaches, aching limbs, raspy throat and a general lack of appetite, signal illness for most of us. We would opt to stay indoors at home, dose up on lemon and honey, drink plenty of water and get sufficient rest.

Essentially by the time we get back to Level 3, we will have at least given our immune system the best possible chance.

The economic fallout from this period of inactivity is obviously very serious and we’ll need good energy to grapple with that.

I’m an advocate of daily exercise, so despite having the ‘virtual flu’ I would still recommend factoring it into all the above.

Too much ruminating on all this is probably wasted energy, but I’d like to finish with a quote from Steve Jobs (Chairman/CEO of Apple Corp) who died aged 56 from pancreatic cancer. I think is very poignant for all of us.

“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In some others’ eyes my life is the epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, my wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.

At this moment, lying on my bed and recalling my life, I realise that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of my death.

You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you, but you cannot have someone bear your sickness for you. Material things lost can be found or replaced. But there is one thing that can never be found when it’s lost – Life.

Whichever stage in life you are in right now, with time, you will face the day when the curtain comes down. Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others.

As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realise that a $13,000 gold Rolex or a $30 watch both tell the same time. You will realise that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. Whether you fly first class or economy, if the plane goes down – you go down with it.

Therefore, I hope you realise when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with…that is true happiness.

Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price.

Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise, you have to eat medicine as your food.

There is a big difference between being a human being and being human. Only a few really understand it. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage.

The six best doctors in the world are sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self confidence and friends. Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life.”

Kia Kaha!

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