The terrible two (years)

The last two years have been an actual nightmare for most of us. I’ve heard so many stories of people who lost everything and other who weren’t affected at all. Francois and I worked predominantly in tourism, so we were buggered. I’m talking ‘living off smart shopper points and e-bucks” buggered. Couldn’t pay our rent. Sold almost all our assets. Depleted all our savings. It was a nightmare.

I remember one afternoon, we were driving home from Stanford and Francois suddenly pulled over the car. He thought he was having a heart attack. I cannot and refuse to drive that road between Hermanus & Cape Town; it’s too terrifying for me and I’ve never done it. I was forced to drive it for the first time, amongst massive trucks and a windy pass while checking in on Francois that he was breathing and alive. He was nauseated and passing out and had chest pains and wasn’t making sense. We rushed to a doctor and put him on an ECG monitor as we thought he’d had a heart attack. My friends, it was a PANIC attack and it was so severe that I literally thought he was dying. The stress on him trying to keep his staff & their families employed was so overwhelming for him. The thought of losing a business that he had spent 10 years building on his own.

Push to that, Francois had a recurring knee injury which eventually led to a knee replacement with a very hectic and painful recovery process and time. I’m talking bedding wet with blood and him being completely debilitated. The limped walk eventually caused a serious back injury and spasms which he had to have two more procedures for. My husband was holding on to his company and holding on to his health and sanity. Add to that that the kids were at home, being homeschooled and I was trying to work full time, take care of the kids and nursing my husband who was disappearing by the day. If he wasn’t anxious, he was sad. When he wasn’t sad, he was angry or frustrated and all the while he was physically in a lot of pain. I’ve never seen anyone in that much pain before. And I was scared.

Watching someone you love go through that is heart wrenching. He had fairly recently lost his mom and when your world comes down, that’s the first person you need and miss the most, isn’t it? And she is gone. Honestly when I think about Francois I just think about how strong he is. And how kind he is. How he coped with so much for so long. And then they banned alcohol like honestly, give us a break!

I can only talk about it all now as I feel like we’re slowly pulling out of it. How we managed to keep food on the table without an income for over a year is ASTONISHING. I feel like I completely shut down and just went into survival mode. We had flights booked from pre-covid for holidays that we couldn’t take. It seems naive & selfish: wanting to go on a holiday amidst a pandemic and your life falling apart, but I so badly wanted to get out of the house. Away from the home schooling and watching my husband suffer and everyone being a bit sad and getting sick and being stressed. I wanted to run away.

There was other extended family things going on that was putting even more pressure and panic on my kids who were already going through so many changes. I felt like a goalie that was just trying to block the opposition for 2 years; trying to protect our family and the slither of stability we had left.

I had been working with my husband’s company and teaching for years, and for the first time since I was 15 years old; I was officially unemployed. I have NEVER not had a job or income. Asking my husband for his bank card was SOUL destroying for me. I couldn’t buy my own face cream, a take away coffee, groceries – nothing.

I remember when the kids first went back to school. In our first teacher-parent Google Meet, the teacher pointed out that a few children didn’t have packed lunches at school. This brought me to actual tears. I asked if we could donate and soon there was a box set up in their class. I would send fruit and healthy snacks that kids could take from in private. Benjamin told me that sometimes he’d go check and the box was empty and we’d send more. Eventually the school asked parents to donate sandwiches that the tuck shop could distribute and we signed up straight away. We sent 2 extra sandwiches and fruit to school every day. I could’t stand the thought of a little child being without food from 7:30am – 2:30pm? None of us could. I couldn’t stand the thought of Ben’s classmates watching my child eat his lunch with hungry tummies.

The break in work gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life. I feel like I just kind-of went with the flow of where my career and projects was taking me, but I hadn’t sat down and really mapped out what I wanted. Not since I was in school and thinking about what to study (which was Journalism). I went into healthcare and nursing and floated on to photography and landed in PR and Social Media, but I realised that…

I actually want to be a writer, because

I actually am a writer.

So I started looking at positions in publishing and landed exactly where I want to be right now.

I’m trying to think of all the good things that came out of Covid.

I got my career back on the right track. Francois spent a year perfecting the art of making biltong and he is so good at it. We cut down on expenses. We spent more time together as a family. We learned who our most loyal friends, clients & employees are. We got closer. I made friends with squirrels. Francois’ knee is finally fixed, so it can heal now. We re-structured a few business things that needed to be done. We found out that when pushed to our absolute limits: we don’t break. My family unit is so much stronger than I realised.

I’d love to hear what you overcame in the past two years. You’re welcome to email, DM – whatever.

We’re friends now.

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