Written by Master Yoda
Everyday, I count my blessings. Alhamdulillah. I have a roof over my head, more than enough food on the table, a relatively sane mind, and the privilege of calmness shattered occasionally by my children invoking inner “mama” strength, patience, and sense of humour. I am blessed.
A great day does not happen without some struggle, a little chaos. There is even space now, for doing absolutely nothing. Like staying at home for everyone’s sake.
If there is one thing I have learned, as a result of the movement control order, the working-from-home arrangement, is that I can rediscover my human beingness instead of abiding by the age-old plague of mothers (and fathers) worldwide, of pure human doing – taking on the impossible as daughter, mother, wife, teacher, chef, cleaner, boss, and co-worker all at once.
Initial Fear to Certainty
The initial weeks of the pandemic were faced with trepidation.
My team and I had ambitious plans coming into 2020;
new social businesses, increased regional presence, international impact investment partnerships, hosting a regional Social Business Forum among others.
We had began zealously working on building our foundations when the worse happened. Covid19 was pandemic. Offices, businesses, and schools were ordered to close, travel no longer allowed.
We had to stay at home and figure things out. We had lost control of life as we knew it and were forcibly made to think and reflect, almost as if, we were on the time-outs I used to impose on my children when they were younger. What did we do wrong this time?
It was difficult to sleep at night. I was worried about myHarapan, about the children and their future, about the people who did not have shelter or food or had lost their jobs. What about our hardworking entrepreneurs and our youths and their beneficiaries?
I was stuck and felt helpless, convinced that there was little I could do or that I was never going to do enough.
I had been busy doing, as a means to adjust to my many new roles, almost robot-like, without much thought or emotions. And then, as robots do, they switch off or risk malfunctioning, maybe breaking down altogether.
So, after a few days, I just sat there still on the floor, staring into the garden. I let my mind wander, to wherever it wanted to take me.
The sky was clear blue and dotted with cotton candy. I noticed that my ‘Ciku’ tree had bore more fruits even as bats and tree shrews took more than their fair share.
My ‘Bunga Kantans’ was performing beautifully. How good it’ll taste in my Assam Pedas, I thought.
Our resident “Burung Tiongs” were making their rounds on the grass, taking their pick from the bug buffet. There was little human activity we could see beyond our gates. No cars drove by.
The children were occupied with play or schoolwork. The relative silence was calming and as I continued to soak in what was in front of me, it was apparent that miracles were happening, whether I was doing or not.
As a Muslim, my faith that Allah SWT has exceptionally everything covered was reinforced. That was certain to me, and that was something I could hold on to. It was going to be alright.
I forgave myself for the “idleness”. In fact, I highly recommend it to everyone. (In moderate amounts. I am not suggesting being lazy.:)
Taking care of myself
The gaps in society and how we have lived that have emerged as a result of the pandemic are so overwhelming – that it only seemed sensible to start with the one thing I had control over. Me. My health, emotions, and overall wellbeing was up to me. And obviously, what I am and what I did, will impact the people around me.
How was I to contribute to others, if I could not take care of myself?
So to keep me going,
I made three lists.
I write them down and record them in my heart during prayers.
The first list was on all things I was grateful about.
I am quite sure we all now know the benefits of being grateful and expressing it, to our psyche and how biologically, our hypothalamus floods our brains with dopamine to give us a natural high.
There is evidence to suggest that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and have better sleep. They are more likely to be motivated to do good and are more resilient. Just the stuff anybody needs especially during challenging times like these. Life is hard, but there was a lot that was worth fighting for.
I relish on the simpler things in life.
I enjoy for example our congregational prayers at home which we hardly did before the pandemic reserving it to special occasions.
My family is forgiving of my cooking, so much so, that I am a better cook because of it. I cooked more!
I don’t fuss over the cleanliness of the house as much (although my husband might disagree).
This Ramadhan has been the best one I’ve in my life despite the restrictions. There is more meaning, gratitude, and consciousness of and in what we do.
The second list was on all the things I could do, the little talents I had, my strengths and skills, and the quirky bits that made me unique.
I indulged in painting, drawing, and poetry once again and danced around randomly. I have mad skills for putting back the silly in serious business. I acknowledged me.
Lastly, I also thought about all the things I wished I could have learned but never had the time to study.
I took up courses online, which were more affordable now, and took my time, learning as I applied – filming, storytelling- passions neglected for many years, as life happened.
I made short movies with the children, who also learned scriptwriting and scene-setting. They were the actors and production crew, also learning with me as I attempted to direct and handle the camera.
Education for them was not limited to their zoom calls or prerecorded learning videos, but they were able to experience working as a team (although it gets more daunting when you are related by blood.:), developing stories and project managing. I was a partner and a facilitator of their life learning experience –not just the nagging mum- and it was wonderful!
So, develop passion projects with the children! Take turns leading. So what, if they miss their classes! Nevermind their homework!
At work, we looked at what we could do too.
We couldn’t save the world, but we could definitely help the people we knew, who would be the most affected by the immediate loss of income –our start-up social business community and small impact businesses.
We had to help them stay afloat and motivated them to stay the course. We would talk to existing partners who shared our values. Give funds or in-kind services, we’d ask, or help to digitise their operations or teach them a skill or two.
We’d pivot plans, and like everybody else, moved our content and services online or cancelled selected ongoing projects to cut losses.
The team while anxious knew they could keep contributing. We were learning too. We have been blown away, inspired by all our social entrepreneurs who continue to create impact with all existing resources.
At the beginning, I was slightly frustrated by the speed at which we were operating. It felt as if we were moving much too slow compared to what needed to happen.
I’ve come to realise that, everyone is still struggling to adapt to this new norm, our clients and beneficiaries included, and not one person will be at the same level or pace as the next person. Everyone has to be given the chance to reflect and observe, in order to find a place they are most comfortable with. We will sync eventually. Speed was non-essential at this point.
The pandemic has given us the opportunity to rethink the way we do business, how we consume, and who we purchase from, so that we hope, are more considerate to people and planet.
It has always been a myHarapan mantra, and more often than not, our struggle was mainly one of mindset change. Strangely enough, the pandemic has accelerated this need for reform which I pray, will not be forgotten over time. So for that, we are also grateful.
Perhaps what we have been sharing and doing all the years, will no longer be so alien. People are taking notice of what social entrepreneurship can offer.
I still don’t have all the answers to all my problems. I doubt that I ever will.
There is in fact, certainty in uncertainty. And that’s fine with me.
I will still struggle to find out what work-life balance is, if it does exist, and will still have kids running around in the background during conference calls or make me memorise their school schedules.
I am confident, that so long as I practice mindfulness and gratefulness of the gift of another day by giving it my very best, with love and empathy, I will live a very happy and fulfilling life.
Allah knows best.