Why I’ll treat 5780 as a year of learning

This past year has been like no other.

The year contained all the usual emotions that people feel in any given year in their lifetimes, but everything seemed ramped up, extra. And we were suddenly all tied to a common vulnerability. We were all ‘fellow South Africans’.

While I’m not here to argue about an upside to COVID, (I don’t like looking on the bright side of other people’s trauma) I will say that the lessons I’ve learned have been valuable, and I will be taking them with me into the new year.

We are not islands: Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy schedules and our independence that we forget how much we should need other people. During higher lockdowns we were borrowing from a friend or neighbour when something ran out because going to the shops required too much getting dressed, masking up and wiping things. We were negotiating swaps with family for items they could get on their shopping routes that we couldn’t get on ours. We were making sure to connect on Zoom with people we worried were feeling isolated during lockdown (even though some of them have been feeling that way long before COVID-19 struck).

We are not invulnerable: Things we thought were non-negotiable are not so.

The April 2020 issue of the Chronicle was the 379th issue, and the first one ever to not have a print version. This July, in the month the Chronicle marked 20 years in the offices that we currently occupy, I had to be the editor who handed in notice on this space, to save on our monthly fixed costs.

We don’t spend enough time in our homes: Our homes are generally our biggest investment, or if we rent, our biggest share of our take home salary. Yet, when it comes to spending time relaxing? We go out, socialising? We go out, Shabbat dinners? You get the picture… I have become one with my home over the past six months. I have learned how the light hits my dining room floorboards at 10am on a weekday. This was information I didn’t know before. I’m so grateful that I know it now.

We have to make do: Remember when it seemed like the whole of Cape Town ran out of yeast for baking challah, and we all shared recipes that used baking powder, or homemade yeast starter, or we found packets in the backs of cupboards and shared with friends? Good times. Or remember the dark days of alcohol (and cigarettes, if that’s your thing) being verboten? (all our missing yeast had gone to homemade beer brewing projects) Who thought we would live to experience these things? Going without can be a privilege, for those with privilege.

We often don’t prioritise our priorities: In the time it took to write this piece I was interrupted no less than 15 times. To smell freshly washed hair. To answer questions about bedtime. To remind people to use inside voices. To be asked what I was writing and have it be suggested that I know all the words in the dictionary (I certainly know many synonyms for frustration). To be hugged more that a person would think was strictly necessary in 45 minutes. But these little people should be interrupting me. They should be a priority as much as possible. Sometime in the future, who knows when, I will no longer be the editor of the Chronicle, I will ‘just’ be their Mom. And being asked to smell freshly washed hair will be the sweetest gift of all.

On behalf of the Chairman, Editorial Board, and my incomparable team, Tessa, Desrae and Lisa, I wish you all the joy your heart can hold. Shana Tova uMetuka. Here’s to a year of mazel, good health, and happiness for us all in 5781.


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