I was forced indoors. The threat of Covid-19 instilled enough fear.
I did not want to be there, but our government ordered it. No running races, no running in small groups, no running outside – well almost. I am allowed to run on my own property, but there is not much space. When I pick up speed, I have to slow down again.
What an excellent time to slowdown and Transform!
I am at home, I cannot tavel much, I cannot visit friends, I cannot go to church or to the shopping centre or to the park or the beach. I am forced to slow down. Suddenly I have more time, also time to question and reflect. How could I transform my life? What things could I do differently? Where should I focus my time and attention now and in the future? How do I decide on priorities? Why have I been doing what I have always done in the past? Does it serve me and my calling in life?
Transformation on a spiritual level
My spirituality is deeply linked to following Jesus. This is different than to going to church. It is also different than to be called a christian to distinguish myself from another person that may be Muslim, Hindu, Atheist or one of the many other categories that may be defined.
For me spirituality is to be quiet and to hear the message of Jesus in general, but then also for my life in particular. Then it is about a two way conversation – I talk to him and he talks to me. He clarifies and I listen and ask. Often I have to ask several times as I find too many voices and sounds around me, even when it is quiet.
Spirituality is also to see the awesome power of God at work where he could heal or transform a person instantly or over time.
I want to grow deeper and closer here.
Transformation on a emotional level.
During the initial stages of the lockdown I was “deep” into everything that was floating around on the internet. It was almost like the aspects around the virus acted like a black hole that wanted to suck all around it in. It seemed like it sucked all of the joy of life out of many including myself. People at the shops look angry and agitated, but maybe this is just frustration and an underlying fear.
I would await the latest statistics of our country eagerly every night and do some new calculations – is the rate of infection going up? Is it coming down? What effect would this have on our country and our economy? This last question, of course, was not based on the facts, but on the interpretation of everything that was going on.
For the lockdown to work properly the two emotions of fear (or anxiety) and guilt (or shame) played an important role. Be careful or you may get the virus, was the one mantra. The other was: “don’t be selfish, you may infect another person!” The implication of this was that the other person could die from the virus. That would make you the cause of that person’s death – you could even picture yourself as a murderer.
The army on the streets.
The government decided to enforce these rules by calling in the army to the streets and by prescribing huge fines for people not adhering to the rules. Of course the threat of the fine would only work if you have the means to pay the fine. So this worked for a percentage of the citizens, but not for everybody. Seeing th army on the streets could create more fear and in ceratin instances anxiety as well.
I went through the different emotions until I realised that I am “scared”. I was scared of dying. All of my actions and interaction with the news reports and some of the wild theories was to calm that fear. As a follower of Jesus I know that when I die that I will be with him. That brought a different sense of calm to me. Of course I will not willingly go to invite trouble, but I know that death is only the bridge between this life and a better, far different life.
I needed (and now want to) slow down to get in touch with more emotions than just the fear. Like other “reasonable” people, I work out many things with my head, so I find it difficult to feel. I calcuate and then wonder why other people feel what they feel.
For me the transformation in the area of feeling and emotion is a wonderful challenge for now and for afterwards.
Transformation on a physical level
I like to run outside – no this is a lie, I LOVE to run outside, to experience the other runners out there – the friendly greetings or even just the occasional shy nod if they don’t know me. I often see the quickies as well (those that can run like the wind), but who would then grace us with their company. What an inspiration they are. I have run with them for two or three km towards the end of my running routine for the night and then gulped for breath when they were no more in sight. They slowed down to my speed (so they thought) and I increased my speed to not look too slow so we ran together for a while – such a run was always good for me speed, but it was always tough afterwards, but tough in a good sense.
Our lockdown rules just changed this abruptly – no outside runs anymore. FULL STOP. That brought an abrupt halt to some of my most loved ways to just escape from the pressures of the current day. Of course running or exercising is good for me and for you. One of my dreams many years ago was to run the Comrades Marathon of almost 90 km. I have achieved that, but my goal now is to finish ten of those – I have done eight so there is another two to go. I entered for this one in June which now will not take place and I was training for that – now I cannot run outside.
Kettle bell swings is a routine that I have done in the past, mainly to strengthen my legs for running uphill. Earlier this year I neglected those exercises as I was uncomfortable with an injury in the gluts area (buttocks). I paid dearly when i ran a hilly marathon the end of February – my finish time was at least 45 minutes slower than I thought it would be. That was the lack of kettle bell swings during that period and of course the fact that we started out too fast on that run.
Two weeks after that I ran another marathon, but an easier route and I was able to run 20 minutes better, but still not the result I was looking for. The day after the marathon we heard rumours of the lockdown and that we would be prevented to run a marathon for quite a long time this year. It did not seem real to me – why would they do that?
It happened, though! The first morning of the lockdown a cyclist was caught and runners soon after that. I do challenge rules, but I was not willing to pay a hefty fine to run outside. Then there also is my responsibility to do the “right thing” (although I believe that the right thing is the wrong way to go).
I tried to do a run inside, well not inside our home, but almost. Our backyard is exceptionally small and I was running between two walls. The distance was just too short. I could not get to full speed yet when I had to break again to make sure that I would not injure myself by running straight into a wall. That was tough. There was a report of a police officer that wanted to arrest runner that was running in front of his house – according to the zealous officer the wall in front of his house was not thick enough to keep the virus away from other people or to keep the virus in the street away from him. The runner explained to the officer that he needed to go and read his rules. He was not arrested for this “transgression”.
My modified running route
I modified my running route for the next run – I removed my car from the garage and left the garage door open. I parked my car to simulate the area where my property wall was ten years ago – so my car was a wall for the length of the car. There, however, was no wall there! This way I could run a few meters longer and then swerve to avoid running into my car and to add a few meters more before I had to turn to avoid jumping over a low wall of my neighbour. That would be a transgression of the regulation to my mind.
I started running this new route. It felt a bit better and my watch followed me a bit better as the four or five satellites required to fix my position could at least see me or almost see me now. I was running which felt great, but something was wrong with the distances or my speed.
On Saturday monings I normally run a parkrun of 5km and my average speed for that is around 27 minutes. My fastest parkrun is around 23 min 30 seconds. For 27 minutes that works out to just under 5min 30 seconds per km. My first effort was almost 38 minutes for a measly 2,4 km. That was for the first run. Here of course the sattelites did not see me frequently enough – that explains the long time for the short distance. On the adjusted route I managed to get a better pace, but I had a new challenge!
Almost arrested (or so I thought!)
What would I do if that over zealous police officer would come running to me to arrest me for running in front of my house where there was no wall. This means that all the viruses could come and go freely. I may be punished for that. I had a very good plan. In my pocket I had two different remotes. The one was to close the garage door quickly in case I needed that. My thinking was that the policeman had to be quick to get in there behind me and hopefully he or she would be too fat or too slow to catch me in time.
The second remote was to press an alarm button that would summon the armed response from our security company. I visualised how a fast police officer would follow me in spite of the closing garage door and run up to me to arrest me. I would then press the button and the armed response from the security firm would come to assist me. Then I was wondering what would happen between these two forces… I thought that it would be better not to chance it. I continued with my running, but I was “sleeping with one eye open”.
Alert, I was indeed! “That policeman would not see me in time, but I would see him first and disappear or have an excuse ready,” wsa my inner voice saying. Unfortunately I forgot that the police station is just 500 meters away from our house. I also forgot that one of the short routes to the police station ran in a street about 30 meters from our house. Luckily on the other side the vision is a bit obscured so a person would not be able to see me before I would see him to stop my activity.
I did have a good plan, however. Our water main stop tap is in front of the house. If a person would challenge me I would just say that I was there to close that tap and that I had to make some emergency repairs. That was not quite a lie, but also not the truth, but that is a story for another day – my midnight escapades!
Then it happened – there was a police car. I froze… I quickly jumped around the corner and was waiting for the car to pull up and stop. It did not happen. The car took a short left on its way somewhere else. I was thinking about my son asking me recently about running outside (which of course I would love to do) and my reply to him that I would not.
Then there was another police vehicle. This time I was dead certain that the man saw me. A few minutes later the car slowly passed the house. Peeking around the one wall I followed the car with my eyes and I was sure that this officer was watching me in his mirror. He might have been watching to see if I would venture out in the street. I would not do that! It slowly dawned on me that I could run in front of my house as well. Nobody will arrest me. As long as the temptation of the open and quiet road would not corrupt my feeling of obedience and observance to the “no outside running rule”.
Enter Kettle Bells
Eish, I was talking about kettle bell swings …. I have done kettle bell swings for quite a time now to strengthen my hill running. In the past I would normally do them first thing in the morning. Now it is slightly later as I have changed this into a whole workout routine. My maximum number of kettle bell swings without taking a short break was 143 before the lockdown started. I asked myself what would be possible if I would work on this a bit more. You do not need running space to the swings.
I started working on ny swings with other exercises in between to get a break in routine. The swings (record) jumped to 143, 208, 253, 330 and 506. This was not on consecutive days. After a demanding tough day a lighter day would follow. I managed to do 1001 swings the other day in almost 31 minutes. Here the swings were broken down in sets of 88 for the first 10 sets and then a bit more. The challenge now is to see how soon I will get close to or over 1000 swings in one single session without rest.
This possibility would have never happened if the forced lockdown did not make me look at other alternatives. I still do pushups and planks as well, but there is much scope for development there.
My kettle bell theory is that if I can do 30 minutes of kettle bell swings (without a break) I will be able to run any hill in Cape Town without the need to stop. I still have to test this theory! The learning here was that I am able to transform on a physical level as well.
Intellectual transformation possibilities
On an intellectual level, the lockdown also jump started my thinking. I am considering to start with Mandarin – although that seems like a task daunting enough and I do not even have a good grasp of Xhosa (one of our local languages) yet.
Sure, I can learn that. Mandarin, may have a wider application if I want to “trade” with China. Well, maybe not trading, but doing business there. I could then import and sell or import and export. There are so many opportunities and a bit of the knowledge of the language and the culture will open more opportunities.
Then I also want to do that other degree that I have been thinking about the past four years. The degree is really for the other people – a degree on it’s own does not have much value. It is what it helps you to do and what it helps you to achieve.
It also seems that there are suddenly a “million” possibilities open on the iternet to increase my knowledge and skills in a certain area.
Hunger and frustration! That is what the lockdown brought home forcefully to me the past ten days. If you work and you get paid weekly or even daily you often will not have saved enough money. The first indication I received about this is when somebody that I worked with in this one area sent me a message saying his dying of hunger. Now I do not think that he was really dying, but I do think that it must have felt like that. I was able to assist him. He is not a South African.
Then I heard from two other friends giving me information about a need for food amongst them. Another pastor friend (after we asked them if everything was fine with their people) norified us of the need in their immediate community – some people just did not have food. I am not going into the food distribution as organised by the government now, but want to make the point that there are people without food.
Nobody should go to bed without food that day (unless they are fasting which is a different reason for not eating).
Should we not fast to feel what it is like to not have any food for three days or so?
Slow down and transform!
The lockdown made me aware of the wide divide that still exists in South Africa – that is 25 years after the dawn of a new democracy. We have achieved much, but the road ahead is still very, very long. What can be done to shorten it?
If we transform who we are and how we think, we may be able to transform the country and the continent. It starts with me – the lockdown has forced me again to look at what I am doing and who I am. Let’s transform, starting with me!
27 April 2020 – Freedom Day in South Africa