The year of living in isolation – how are we taking it?

WE are just passing the six-month mark since March 18, 2020, when the world as we knew it changed forever. We have three full months to go before the current Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) is scheduled to end on Dec 31.

But will it end?

It is a generally held opinion that a vaccine for Covid-19 will not be widely available till around the middle of next year at the very earliest. Trial tests are being conducted right now around the world – from China to Europe and the United States. But nothing is yet certain, nor do we have any positive news to report as of today.

Family members and friends who usually either reside in Sarawak or visit frequently are not making any immediate plans for travel into the country, and the most optimistic among them are cautiously mentioning March and June 2021 as the earliest that they could even think of making travel plans. Personally, I think the RMCO may well be extended till the end of March next year unless the Green Zone status sustains throughout the month of December 2020.

Be that as it may, our lives have changed and will continue to evolve from now till then.

My father, who’s 94 this year, has felt it the most. He has always been an active person, outgoing, and carrying on

with his daily routine – be it watching the news on his cable network, attending his regular church cell group meetings and gatherings, socialising with family and old friends like

going out for meals and shopping, pottering around the garden minding his fruit trees, plantings, fishes in the ponds and tending to his general maintenance works (some years back I even caught him climbing up on the roof clearing the gutters!), and going about his usual chores.

Since the MCO started on March 18 this year, most of these activities have been curtailed, except for TV watching and a bit of gardening. His house groups meetings are now conducted on Zoom and his friends could only socialise with him on the phone. As a result of this lack of human interaction (besides which he’s not getting any younger), his spirits have gone down. His usual enthusiasm of going out for the occasional social meets have faded and overall, it has taken a toll on his health – emotionally and physically.

He has lost weight, his hearing has deteriorated, and his eyesight – which hasn’t been good for many years – has worsened. It’s a blessing that his great faith in the good Lord has kept his spirits up during these times.

I blame all this on the lack of human social interaction as well as the general state of affairs of which self-isolation can be a bellwether of the start of a growing state of general depression and ennui.

I am sure that there are many who have been caught in the same way. The only solution is to ensure that the family is always around him and if they are living apart, to ensure that they visit often (of course practising the SOPs of distancing, face-masking, hand-washing etc). Solitude is usually self-imposed, but isolation tends to lead to loneliness and a sense of hopelessness and the lack of a will to carry on or have something to look forward to. This can sometimes prove to be fatalistic for some.

My dad went to church every Sunday like clockwork and enjoyed his Sundays out, especially the social part of it after church as well. Although his church, St Faith’s at Kenyalang, has resumed Sunday services to very limited numbers, due to his age and other pre-existing health factors, he was advised not to attend. This was another blow to him. In the meantime, it hasn’t helped that during the past six months, a number of people he knew, both family and friends, had suddenly taken ill and passed on. Not being able to attend wakes and funeral services have been rather devastating.

At his age, he doesn’t have many of his peers left.

In my own case, the last six months have played havoc on my family and social life. For one thing, I had to stop my regular weekend visits to my six-year-old grandson Shane and going on outings with him as well as relishing the joy of watching him grow – both in the physical sense and his playful self, as well as his newly-acquired skills in playing music, reading, and writing, and all the normal stuff that grandparents do with their grandchildren all the time. That’s all now relegated to just video-calls on WhatsApp and the very irregular and erratic visits for major family events and once in a blue moon outing for a meal together.

I don’t get to see family members as regularly as I used to prior to MCO and that’s being sorely missed. In a sense, I’m lucky as both my dad and younger brother, and my godma live in close proximity to me so we can still socialise to a certain extent.

I really pity those whose family members reside far apart, more so if they’re overseas and would routinely fly back for the yearly or periodic visits to ageing parents. That’s totally impossible to fulfil right now and it has affected many tightknit family units.

It will be a while before all this can be back to normal again.

Outside the family, what else do I miss most?

There’s the frequent and usually impromptu social meet-

ups and gatherings among close friends and former work colleagues. We would arrange to have drinks and meals at our usual favourite haunt of an eatery, usually at The Venue at RH Plaza, sometimes at the Sarawak Club, or just a nearby kopitiam like Ah Liong Café BDC, where we’d shoot the breeze, have a few beers, G&Ts, and single malts, and partake of simple meals or just cheese and crackers. We haven’t had a single one of those in six months! Hopefully we’d be able to get back together again come the new year.

Of course, various outings and travel plans have all been put on hold. It’s only in recent weeks that domestic travel destinations have started reopening so we can now hopefully go and visit the interior of Sarawak or other interesting spots that we’ve always wanted to but didn’t have the time or the wherewithal. I do urge you to support your local inbound travel agents – see Sarawak now – just pick a spot and go.

I pray that all this would be behind us in six months’ time and that we’d be able to start experiencing some sense of normalcy by March 2021 – even then of course the world, our world, would have changed beyond recognition. We too with it. For better or for worse, we now have to adapt ourselves to that horrible new catch-phrase – the new norm.

Keep well, stay safe, stay home, and continue to keep your distance. May the good Lord be with us all. Amen.

Sumber: Borneo Post Online

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