Yesterday on my way to work, facing the Monday struggle of regaining focus and gathering motivation from the depths of my soul for the week ahead, the announcement came over the radio, loadshedding will be rearing its ugly head once again, after five weeks of uninterrupted light, so to speak. The moment I heard it I could almost hear the choir of South Africans sigh and groan simultaneously. I could almost see the pile of applications to the Australian embassy quadruple, I could hear the drone of the conversations I would surely encounter around the dinner table of how this country is going to the dogs, how much trouble we’re all in and don’t forget, we’re the only country in the world experiencing an energy crisis.
I know this argument is, and will be, a long running one, I know that so many people have statistics loaded as ammunition just ready to discharge at any given moment to shut the optimists right up, for some reason these people are constantly placed in my path. What I’ve noticed though, with all the stats and facts in the universe, there’s nothing that derails this conversation more rapidly than a polite smile and a gentle reminder of how lovely biltong tastes. How proud I am of the 1995 rugby world cup win. It’s almost comical. One can almost hear the air deflating from this puffed up ball of anger standing in front of me. But my reply is based solely on this premise, if you feel that you have the right to invade my pleasant space, which I have been working extremely hard to sanitize from negativity and pessimism, I feel I most certainly have the right to guide your remarks to the exit with a random remark of appreciation, let’s play fair shall we?
So loadshedding is back, for how long? I’m not sure, but this one is out of my hands. Those who know me well enough know that it really is a rarity that I take this standpoint, my favourite tune to sing is “of course there’s something you can do, we all have the right and ability to change a situation that we don’t like,” cue the rolling eyes of those that spend enough time around me. But it’s the truth. If you don’t like something, stand up, write an article, take a day off work and march for it, make a call, create a petition, and on that day, please, with your efforts in hand come forth and complain sir, to your heart’s absolute content. But loadshedding, it doesn’t move me, and do you know why? Because over the winter when we met with darkness our old friend so often, a number of things happened to me, and that is why yesterday, I quietly smiled at the announcement and almost looked forward to our looming reunion. Humour me, the four lessons I learnt from loadshedding;
- The lights cut one night just as dinner had finished being cooked (Luckily enough. I will agree the half cooked chicken wasn’t always a delight), my mother ran quickly to put on her now strategically placed candles and solar lights, my grandmother sat quietly at the table, I joined her, and then my mother, we joined hands, said our prayer (semi-begrudgingly I might add as the irony was evident in thanking the Lord for all that we had), I then raised my head, with a fresh pair of eyes, now adjusted to the darkness, and around me was the most lovely setup. Before me was my dinner, surrounding me was candlelight and outside the window, the most exquisite moon was lending her light to me. The evening wooed me with a candlelit dinner. How romantic life can be.
- The electricity cut on a Friday evening once, more than once, but on this specific evening the electricity left us at the common part of my Friday evenings I like to call the “Hi-and-Bye”. The time slot where you have made plans, you’re just in from work, rush past whomever is in your home, pets included, you “Hi” them, shower, change, rush out and shout “Bye” over your shoulder as you excitedly jump into the car to get to the night’s adventures. This particular evening my phone’s battery had drained, there was now no light, no hot water, my extremely important social endeavours came to a screeching halt, the tragedy of it all. My mother, in her imaginative nature, cut up some gherkins, some ham, some cheese and biscuits put them on the table and called for myself and my grandmother to at least tide ourselves over with some snacks. I sat down beside them once again and the strangest thing happened. We conversed. Without interruption, glaring light, blaring noises, we spoke, in the soft candle light the three generations connected in a way that I really can’t tell you when last they did. We reminisced, we debated, we laughed. With no phone to constantly check, no television to stare idly at and grunt responses around, we truly connected. In such a digitally connected age, how disconnected our souls have become. I will treasure this evening for the rest of my life.
- A few days later, during the week, the electricity cut just after dinner, luckily we had anticipated the cut, eaten early enough and then it cut. Once again, no battery power, no laptop power and the serenity was unimaginable. I jumped into bed at the unheard of hour of 8.15 pm, my mind shut down, my aching bones relaxed and the strangest part, my insomnia did not come knocking that evening. How cluttered we’ve made our lives. The silence was almost too loud for the first few moments. I could hear and regulate my breathing, the beating of my heart was rhythmic and consistent, what a miraculous system. That evening I truly rested, that evening I allowed for the wonder of my existence to amaze me once again, that evening I learnt to appreciate silence, since we have so little of it.
- One of the last evenings I remember that electricity got cut, my house was prepared, all cell phones were fully charged, all laptops were up and running and we sat in the candlelight politely ignoring each other, tending to our ever so important digital responsibilities that of course couldn’t wait another minute. The beginnings of a human development concept that is so close to my heart had challenged me to watch at least one TED video a day, this would almost train me to open my mind to the ideas of the world on a daily basis. I realised however, that my people at home didn’t even know about TED videos, they couldn’t, by nature, comprehend the plethora of learning that is now in the palms of our hands in this age. So I used my last percentage of battery, picked what I rated as the most profound video in the TED library and played it aloud. By the end, everyone’s attention had shifted to the video, that evening I filled the silence and the darkness with positivity and change, my little home was radiant that evening with the glow of choosing to open our minds. That evening we chose to drink abundantly from that half-filled glass.
I realise that there are economic repercussions, I realise that it makes running a business a little tougher and productivity declines, I realise that when you have a scheduled activity that is interrupted it is frustrating, I’m human, I know. A dear friend of mine, with a drive to create a human development platform once based his idea pitch on the premise of successful people placing “roadblocks” in their own paths, taking an action every day that causes a paradigm shift in thought and a drive for a different outcome. Sometimes these roadblocks are out of our control, I made the decision to allow the loadshedding roadblock to enhance my person, I decided that the loadshedding roadblock was good for something, I didn’t rack my brain to make money from it, I didn’t innovate and provide the rest of us with a solution, I became the solution, to a much larger problem in my life, through loadshedding. I used my electrical disconnection, to focus on my emotional connection. So the next time you hear the click and the darkness consumes you, lay a blanket out on the carpet, grab some cheese, a glass of wine and actually connect.
We don’t have to always be alone.