Surf the third wave without destroying

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South Africa entered its third wave of COVID-19 with another round of strict measures introduced on Sunday evening. Cabin fever, coupled with strained personal relationships, can take its toll. In his latest #SliceofGasant, Gasant Abarder describes his journey to survive in rough waters.

Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a grenade, is one of the most influential media voices in the country. Watch his weekly column here, exclusive to Cape {town} Etc.


At 20, I had the ambition to surf. I bought a very expensive jumpsuit because I wanted to impress my then girlfriend, who is now my wife. I started with bodyboarding to learn the rhythm of the waves and how to catch one. But this first time, I had a distinct lack of balance. I wiped myself off and the path from the seabed to the beach left a bit of skin on my face, as if a large grain of sandpaper had been wiped off it.

I needed balance. I grew confident with the growing skin on my face. One morning, I found myself behind the junkyard and in the washing machine of an ugly stream. It was foggy. All the ingredients for a panic attack and complete collapse.

Instead, my less fearful youngster decided to stay seated until I got the space to return to dry land. But it’s not about surfing because what I know is dangerous. This is a different kind of wave. The third wave.

So, here’s my journey to finding balance during lockdown, working from home (or even the office), and keeping your sanity intact without wiping out yourself.

I am a bit of an authority. My wife and I have been working from home since March of last year, which has been 16 months. My very practical and smarter other half immediately set up a home office in our bedroom. I chose a nomadic existence: first the sofa, then the guest room then the central island of our newly renovated kitchen where I had sockets with USB ports installed.

The first few weeks went well as we got to know the demands of the house, the children’s schooling and our workloads. My wife’s bosses were watchmakers while the nature of my work was more fluid. We were both fortunate enough not to have had a pay cut as many around us tested positive for COVID-19, lost their livelihoods and lost their lives.

But a few months later, that old brown, “absence makes the heart more affectionate”, became a reality. We were face to face all the time and admitted that while we loved each other, we didn’t love each other very much. Part of it was a clash of work cultures. I am an extrovert and I bounce off others. Ms. Abarder is reserved and diligent at work. The pressure of endless Zoom sessions that people call, I guess, to somehow claim they’re productive.

Marital happiness has turned into troubled waters. Now, however, we are back on our boards and we love each other again. There is also a lot of laughter. How did we get here?

The first lesson is the sharing of household chores.

We both have full-time jobs and even before the lockdown there were no defined roles of hunter-gatherer versus housewife in the Abarder household. I can fend for myself in the kitchen and assess myself as an accomplished dishwasher, laundry expert, and versatile tutor (maybe with the exception of Grade 6 math). Not bad for a mom boy.

We realized that we needed each other’s space and that meant being in our own spaces. For Ms. Abarder, it was crossfit on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

To me it’s soccer, a short run, skiing, boxing, biking and cardio – and heck, even ballet and yoga – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The partner who is on the list is free from cooking and cleaning duties.

We got a generous discount on the black tax and have weekly date nights leaving the kids with my parents, who live on our property in their own little cottage.

If Mrs Abarder needs a time out with her daughters, she can stay outside as long as she wants and I don’t bother her at all. She gives me the same space when I’m hanging out with the guys. And dads, for heaven’s sake: taking care of your children so that Madame can let go is not babysitting. They’re your goddamn kids too, aren’t they?

The result: a happy spouse who is on board as your ultimate partner. Staying on the board means staying in the moment.

If your mind drifts, you are going to destroy yourself. Spin this hamster around in your head to calm yourself down. Put the phone away when the work day is done and enjoy quality time with your kids and spouse. As we have seen with this pandemic, life is short and precious.

Be kind to others and to yourself. It’s not your wave alone. If you are emerging from the biggest threat of the 21st century and are still an asshole, you have some serious soul-searching to do, my friend. When you wipe yourself off, come back to the set!

Laylaa Abarder and I are celebrating 14 years of marriage on Wednesday. Here are many more!

#SliceofGasant


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