By Winnie Kyomuhendo

I can bet my Ray Ban sunglasses that each person on earth has a personal list of struggles: things that they fight to overcome each day. 2020, which for many of us was supposed to be a year of greatness and prosperity, has added to each of our lists a common struggle – the corona pandemic lockdown.

We are accustomed to being out and about in any and all places, but our homes. Even when we are at home, we are there only because it is that time of day when people are ordinarily in their homes resting after a long day and getting ready for the next day. We have always had the option of leaving our homes at whatever time we choose and returning when we please. When we are out of our homes, we often long to get back home to get some much needed rest and tune out the rest of the world, but only for a few hours. For some, “home” means the place where they live and all surrounding areas where they go to relax and meet their friends. One might also say that home means any place that is not the workplace. A workmate may leave the office at exactly 5pm claiming that he is going “home” only to later be spotted at a popular bar at 5.30pm. That may be where he feels at home in addition to the place where he lives. We were all busy going about our ordinary out-of-home routines when the COVID-19 pandemic happened and life changed. The government then directed us to keep in our homes, that is, the places where we live and not the bar or the spa.

First the schools were closed, some public gatherings were banned and flights were restricted, but many of us still went about our business as usual. When public transportation was banned public anxiety heightened, but many of us still continued living our lives. Then private transportation was banned, non-essential establishments were ordered to be closed and a curfew was imposed. We thought we could survive the initial fourteen days of lockdown, but the Ugandan government had other plans. Twenty-one extra lockdown days! Crisis and rapid confused blinking! Mayhem, but only within our souls because we cannot go out onto the streets to protest being locked down in our homes with our loved ones and where our beds are! The same beds we normally long for when we are seated at our office desks trying to appear productive on a hot afternoon after lunch.

From all corners of social media, people are complaining about the thicket of lockdown boredom and nothingness that they have been thrust into by “the corona” and the government. What on earth shall we do with all this free time? What will I spend all day doing at home with my wife/husband? How will I keep the kids entertained? How will I keep my hair and nails looking good? How will I live without my barber? It is true that the pandemic and the lockdown present dire consequences for us all. Daily news is flooded with opinions and stories about how governments, businesses and individuals should prepare to deal with the socio-economic deterioration that has already started. However, it is also true that the lockdown will expose our individual vanities, purposelessness and pretense. Unless we get smart, we will emerge from the lockdown unimproved.

The lockdown seems to have restored a number of us to our factory settings. Many women are looking unlike themselves with undone hair and aging nail polish. Some have even learnt how to make their beds instead of leaving that job to their maids every morning. To my amusement, a friend recently told me that she now had the time to work out at home because her office has been closed.

Sis, you always leave the office at 3pm to go home and drink wine but you are only now just noticing that you have time to work out?!

The men have also not been spared. A trip to the barber shop can really make a difference in one’s appearance. The once handsome and well-groomed man now looks like George of the Jungle. Those who we had led ourselves to believe are naturally bald and hair-free have started sprouting some hair…in all places. Men who did not know what the word “kitchen” means are suddenly sharing pictures of the food they cooked with their own bare hands.

Brother, you mean to tell me that you had always known how to cook!?

Wonders shall never cease!

I also have had to stare my own flaws in the face and acknowledge them. After all, they are now mostly what keep me company. There are several things I have always taken for granted and even felt burdened by such as waiting in line at the salon for someone to help me tame my hair. Yes, Georgina of the Jungle is my lockdown name! I have taken for granted the fact that leaving home every day to go about my business compels me to be structured and deliberate about the things I do. I now have to compel myself to get out of bed at a reasonable hour even when I know I am going to stay at home all day. I used to wish I had more time to do things like reading books, writing and perhaps learning a new language. Now that I have the time, I find myself wasting my days watching cat and dog fights on YouTube.

On a positive note, the lockdown has resurrected friendships that had gathered dust. Catching up with old friends has made the long days more bearable. When you ask a friend how they are during this lockdown, you are interested in hearing how they really are. You want to hear all the details from the last five years. You want to know how many of their goats have produced offspring since your last conversation and how that stray cat that used to terrorize the poultry has since gone to meet its creator. What were that cat’s last words before it was put on a chariot to heaven? These are all now interesting facts of life!

If we are deliberate, we can put these few days to good use so that we emerge with improved attitudes about ourselves, our families, our friends, our work and life in general. As boring as it may sometimes sound, planning does help to give direction for how time should be spent. If you wake up every day with no plan, your life will definitely end up as aimless as a ship without a rudder. If you have ever wondered why other people seem to be prospering while you lag behind, ask yourself whether you had a deliberate plan for your time. This could be the time to nurture meaningful relationships with those people we say we value. It could also be the time to make career choices. Even our abandoned gardens at our homes could benefit from the extra time on our hands. Whatever the case, something has to improve.

As we continue to survive the lockdown, let us work to let go of those things that add no real value to us and improve ourselves. The salons and nail parlours will soon open again and we will soon leave the jungle looks to the real jungle inhabitants. Until then, let us plan now for the future we really want after the corona has passed.