Communication in 2021

I hesitate to appear to come across as a professional moaner, but there are certain things which rile me more than others. One of those is the inability of far too many people to communicate effectively, or correctly. Everyone is quick to blame technology and the constant use of mobile phones and i-pads as being the cause, but I tend to disagree. I believe that part of the problem is the current obsession with oneself, one’s rights and one’s feelings of self-importance, with little regard for other people. A saying which has left a lingering impression on me is, “You will be remembered not so much for what you did, but how you made people feel.” Very profound words if you take the time to consider just what they mean.

Many of us across all age groups are faced with too much to do in the course of the day, and not enough hours to get it all done. Therefore, making the effort to get in touch with friends, family or even acquaintances, just to find out how they are coping in these troubling times, should be seen as a privilege by the recipient of the contact. In many cases this is not so. Nothing is more uplifting than someone sounding genuinely pleased at hearing your voice on the other end of the line, or having enjoyed reading your written message, either via WhatsApp or e-mail.

It is very deflating to find that, no matter how you try, certain people just seem to be either too involved in their day-to-day activities, or just not interested in hearing from you to respond. It takes a very thick skin not to feel disappointed and often dejected. Surely, it’s only common courtesy to acknowledge that someone has bothered to think of you and to try to get in touch? In days gone by, when it was very much more challenging to be able to keep in touch with one another, people did   recognize the importance of having good manners. That does not seem to be the case in the world in which we now find ourselves. Hence, it can be a pleasant surprise when you get a truly happy response from the other person. It is enough to give you a certain amount of motivation to carry on making contact with people even if your response rate is not as high as you would have liked.

Another gripe (excuse the moan) is when, through your communication channel, you have enquired about certain aspects of the other person’s life or situation, or even something connected to a shared past incident or occasion, and their response totally omits any reference to the subject you mentioned. It seems that they did not even take the time to actually read what you had written. This kind of communication can be very frustrating and leave you feeling irritated and dissatisfied with the outcome of your endeavours. Nothing makes life more meaningful and pleasant for many of us than being able to communicate with other people, and it is sad that it seems to be the older generation who still bother to make the effort. Not all older people are sitting around waiting to die and having hours of time on their hands. These days many find that they are busier than ever before, and retirement is not on their agenda. However, they are often still the ones who make the effort for meaningful communication.

Another adage which can refer to the above is, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person”. Where computer games, mobile phone usage and hobbies take up a large portion of a person’s day, apart from studies or work, then it is probably somewhat unrealistic to expect any time to be given up for reading your correspondence, or to call you back after you left a voice message. Strange as it may seem, it is very often the busiest members of your so-called “circle of influence” who give you the satisfaction and pleasure of the kind of response for which you were hoping.

My wish is that, despite the world moving at a breakneck pace where technology is concerned, we begin to see more people keeping in touch meaningfully with one another. Should this not happen, then feelings of abandonment, loneliness and worthlessness are likely to manifest themselves in more and more cases of depression and even self-harm, which could be avoided or minimised just by communicating how much you care for the other person’s well-being.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion
that it has taken place.” –
George Bernard Shaw

Motivation and Covid 19

I am beginning to wonder whether the last 5 months of lockdown, are responsible for my struggle with motivation. Is it all the diabolical rules and prohibitions which have been imposed by our wonderful government, who are not famous for their intellectual abilities, or the wearing of cloth masks? Every time I have to put on that mask, I know that my mental faculties are going to be strained to their absolute capacity.

Right at the beginning of lockdown, it was very frustrating having to stay at home and not being able to go about one’s life in the usual way apart from shopping for essential items. However, biscuit baking, sorting out problems around the home, contacting friends and family members as well as sending and receiving copious quantities of jokes via mobile phones were activities which resulted in a pleasant break from the hectic lives to which many of us were accustomed. That was fine for the first few weeks, but things have changed. Fewer biscuits are being baked, jokes have dwindled and have been replaced by political rantings, and motivation seems to have become somewhat of a challenge in many cases.

Self-motivation is not easy to achieve when one is surrounded by negativity, and due to this virus, we are constantly being bombarded from all sides with negative information. The numbers of confirmed Covid cases, the amount of deaths, the possibility of second outbreaks in various parts of the world are all factors which negatively affect us in our battle to feel positive and happy.  I, personally, have heard of way too many stories of people who have committed suicide over the past few weeks which, in my opinion, must be as a direct result of the pandemic and all its rules and restrictions, as well as for many, a feeling of total isolation and loss at not having visits from family members.

As I conclude this ramble, we are now in stage 2 of lockdown here in South Africa, but things are as crazy as ever. The government is now allowing the sale of alcohol only from Monday to Thursday from 9am – 5pm as well as permitting restaurants and shebeens (alcohol outlets found in townships as well as informal settlements) to serve it as long as no-one is out on the roads after 10pm every evening. This in the misguided belief that it will eradicate drunken driving, gender-based violence and hooliganism! Emphasis should rather be put on policing vulnerable areas, having regular roadblocks to find as many unlicensed drivers as possible and to arrest them all and impound their often unroadworthy vehicles. Maybe then there would be an improvement in behaviour as well as a reduction in the number of road accidents and the victims of violence.

Threatening to ban alcohol outright is a pathetic political attempt to turn what is supposed to be a democracy into a police state, whereas the police are failing left right and centre when it comes to controlling the horrendously high crime rates and many are themselves guilty of corruption and criminal activities.

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 The original reasons given by the government for the banning of the sale of alcohol, as well as tobacco products, was supposed to be to reduce health risks which may have caused more Covid 19 deaths. There has been absolutely no proof that this has been the case. What has happened through this stupid banning is that billions of rand in tax revenue has been lost along with the jobs of thousands if not millions of workers. Wine farms have gone bankrupt whilst illegal sales of both alcohol and cigarettes has created very lucrative blackmarket businesses. There is even speculation that certain politicians have themselves benefitted from such activities. A very clever move indeed, but that’s what we have come to expect these days! The virus has certainly been an eye opener if ever there was one!

I know that when I first started to blog, I stated that I did not intend to write anything political, but sometimes one has to vent a little bit of one’s wrath, and today is the day!

One thing is for sure, if one dwells too much on all the negative issues with which we are surrounded then it is almost impossible to be motivated. Therefore, it is time to listen to some meditation music, find a quiet, uninterrupted spot and focus on making sure that September turns into the most positive 2020 month so far!

“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start
by lifting stones today. – African Proverb.

The Effects of Lockdown on Mental Health

For a large number of human beings who have grown up in societies where freedom has been taken for granted, lockdown with all its restrictions appears to have had a massive effect on mental health. I have read recently, as well as having heard reports on the radio, that many mental health professionals and organizations such as Lifeline, have been inundated with calls from people feeling so down that they are contemplating suicide.

How do we explain these feelings of desperation? People by nature need contact with others unless they have chosen a life of solitude, such as becoming a hermit monk. I don’t think that the percentage of people who have gone in that direction can be very high, to be honest. Being isolated from family members and close friends has been very tough on most people but especially on those who live alone. Different countries have treated lockdown in their own way and with their own level of trying to control the spread of the virus. However, where it has resulted in the banning of friends and family members being able to come to one’s home, this has proved to be a very hard pill to swallow and has caused many people to feel extremely isolated and depressed.

“There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery
the time when we were happy.” – Dante

Even if one has been able to carry on making a living whilst working from home, just having to think twice before going anywhere can, in itself, be a very distressing way of living. Is it really necessary to go outside one’s home? What is the risk of coming in contact with the virus? Are you in that age group which is seen as the vulnerable bracket or do you have an underlying health issue which could affect you very negatively, if you should you actually get Covid 19? Are you comfortable having to wear a cotton mask whilst you are outside the home? If you wear glasses, can you even see with the mask having the effect of steaming up your lenses? Oh boy, so much to take into consideration and you are more than likely happier to stay at home after all, and make do with the groceries you already have in your store cupboard or do the obvious and order on line.

Many elderly people living in retirement homes have been in total lockdown for months now in order to protect them and the rest of the residents from the possibility of being infected by visitors who may be carrying the virus. These individuals are not in total isolation as there are others living close by as well as nurses and caregivers in most cases. They would have been in a much more difficult situation if they had still been living in their previous homes, very often after having lost their partner.

Much has been said recently about the effect this lockdown, and the fear of the virus, is having on children and young adults. Although children are believed to be fairly resilient and able to bounce back in many situations, this Covid 19 pandemic is completely alien to us all. No-one has so far devised a fool-proof method of teaching them new coping strategies. Only time will tell just how severely this lockdown, with all its restrictions, has affected the mental health of many young people all over the world. One can only hope that it won’t be too long before we can all relax a little and start to put our rather fractured lives back together again, even though we are warned that a “normal” way of life will, in fact, be a “new normal”.

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In the meantime, whilst we are playing the wait and see game, children are slowly returning, or have already returned, to the classroom. Having to have their temperature taken each morning before going into the school building, wearing a mask all day long, and being sanitized at the school door, are all practices which have to be followed. Some parents have reported having to cope with children returning from school complaining of headaches and being extremely tired. This could be as a result of the new regulations in place forcing them to breathe behind a cotton mask whilst trying to concentrate on the work being presented to them by the teacher. It is critical for parents and teachers to take cognisance of these side effects which appear to be the result of going back to school.

Having been home schooled for so long, it stands to reason that it will take some time before students, especially the younger ones, adjust once again to being away from the comfort and relative safety of their home environment. The school year had hardly begun in the southern hemisphere when Covid 19 reared its very ugly head. Little people had just become happy to say goodbye to their parents in the mornings and the crying and clinging had stopped. Now, there is a big chance that this will start all over again as the smaller ones face going back to pre-schools and nursery schools.

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The excitement of seeing friends again and interacting with other children is obviously a big factor when it comes to going back to school. Online lessons, with the advantage of Zoom, is a good substitute but nothing can compare with the fun that often comes from interacting with one’s peer group. This mixing with their own age group is particularly important for teenagers, who often feel that only their friends understand them. Months of keeping friendships going via social media and mobile phone calls does not have the same meaning as actually seeing and interacting with one another.

Teenagers have been affected badly by the lockdown and isolation and they have always been a very vulnerable group where suicide is concerned. Without school classes as well as sporting activities it stands to reason that many young people would have experienced feelings of anger and frustration Those looking towards writing their final exams at the end of the year must have become very anxious, especially if it was impossible for them to study on line. Others may have suddenly had to give up the intense physical training they were doing regularly in their various sports. With so much having been halted in one foul swoop, it is no wonder that the result is often depression and a severe feeling of loss.

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Many parents too must have thought the end of the world had come when, having to work from home, surrounded by young children needing care and on-line lessons, they are totally exhausted every single day. Realising just how demanding trying to teach children can be has definitely raised the respect level given to the teaching profession. However, the feelings experienced by parents of not doing everything as well as they should, may also have caused much anxiety and despondency as this is not a normal situation, by any manner of means.

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One wonders whether the effects of this pandemic will be long lasting or will we all forget just how stressful life in 2020 has been. So far, we have actually lost a huge portion of the year which has included Easter, Mothers’ Day and soon, Fathers’ Day and one hopes that by the time Christmas arrives, things will be looking a little brighter. It seems that it is only countries like New Zealand and Australia who have been affected very little by Covid 19, whilst the rest of us are soldiering on and hoping for brighter days ahead. Well, hope doesn’t cost anything, but if you are suffering from severe depression then hope can be a pipe dream.

My wish at this time is that all those people who are at the end of their tether reach out to the organizations who are available when life seems worthless and that they find a listener who has empathy and the ability to assist them and prevent a disaster. After all, tomorrow is another day, and sometimes there really is light at the end of a very dark tunnel – as long as hope survives.

“I am so angry with myself because I cannot do what
I should like to do, and at such a moment one feels as if one
were lying bound hand and foot at the bottom
of a deep
dark well, utterly helpless.” – Vincent Van Gogh