Saffiya Ismail covid-19 lessons
Saffiya Ismail stepped out of the matrix that we once knew as life and 5 months later she reveals valuable lessons she learnt for a COVID-19 future

COVID-19 Be Present, Do What Matters Most

Saffiya Ismail stepped out of the matrix that we once knew as life and 5 months later she reveals valuable lessons she learnt for a COVID-19 future.

Saffiya Ismail covid-19
“Never let a good crisis go to waste. It’s the universe challenging you to learn something new and rise to the next level of your potential.” — Kristen Ulmer

At midnight on the 26th of March 2020, the outer world simply shut down. COVID-19 had infiltrated South Africa. We had entered unchartered territory, like a dystopian story, locked in Gilead, with the army patrolling our streets. Our safety net vanished in front of our eyes, we were in Lockdown 5. Sounds clichéd, I knew at that point my life was not going to be the same. There lay my old life no energy left in it, it had died an untimely death. 

There is a saying in Islam: “Tie your camel first, and put your faith in God.” It means exhaust yourself by doing everything you can within your human powers, after that, leave it to God. Instead of panic or hysteria, I decided to use this lockdown as a deep dive into me. A colleague mentioned, “when Shakespeare was quarantined during the plague, he wrote King Lear.”  No! This is not my King Lear moment. It’s 5 months now, this journey has changed me forever.

While I might not have chosen this from a menu of life experiences, however deeply hidden; Corona had come as a gift and eye-opener. Sometimes we want to change, we hope to change, sometimes change get thrust upon us from outside. Einstein’s first law of motion says that a moving object remains so, consistent in direction and speed unless acted upon by an outside force.  We didn’t see this happening in our lifetimes, and yet here we are, knocked off-kilter. This sudden and radical shift in every aspect of my life allowed me to regroup, take stock and recalibrate.

What truly matters – is revealed – when we were stripped of our social strata’s, our comfort, wealth and plans?


I have learned valuable lessons, more thankful for the blessings I took for granted in life. When that came into perspective, it outweighed the dark clouds. There are people struggling to make ends meet; living in toxic homes, there are people intubated, there are loved one’s unable to say their final farewells. This is the dichotomy of this virus as opposed to anything else we have experienced. The uncertainty surrounds us all, there is no blueprint, nor is this experience linear. The thing we treasure most and can’t wait to get back to; has become our Achilles Heel. COVID-19 lockdown now in retrospect, feels more like a teacher that has come to teach us all some lessons that were overdue.

When I go shopping and they didn’t have a specific item, it’s fine, as opposed to previously, I would complain, now I have reminded myself that I am blessed enough to be able to buy groceries. I am privileged to work from home, some lost their livelihoods, and others’ risk their lives going to work. 

It’s highlighted what I need and what I don’t, in my home, my relationships, and my life. In our normal lives, we’re faced with a barrage of distractions. This pandemic exposed so many hidden fault lines. The clarity this has brought is more illuminating than anything I could have uncovered in my normally busy life. This virus is teaching me patience, perseverance, appreciation, gratefulness.  Social distancing, even though difficult, teaches us a lot about ourselves. All you have is your body and your mind. If a disease can teach wisdom beyond our understanding of how precarious and precious life is, the coronavirus definitely came as a test and eye-opener indeed.

For me it has been a full 360 of my life, the opportunity to release whatever isn’t working for me. Life is different now, the lack of commuting, socializing, shuttling around, has helped me to see the distinction between the actual rush of my life, work, the hurry, worry, and the quality of this new life. It’s highlighted who I need in my closest circle; as opposed to how many connections I have just for the sake of it. In a globalized world; our lives are so intertwined, bound together in this web on our planet yet suddenly we became islands. 

The rich are just as vulnerable as the poor. There is no discrimination – religion, skin colour, age or fame. This pandemic made us stop! Not money, status, rank ….  Nothing is more important right now than one’s immune. We will write quotes and the history books will embody how we feel right now, the masks we wore, how hand sanitizer became our new best friend, and most importantly how we were forced to take impeccable care of ourselves. It has changed social interactions, I may never dig my fingers into a bowl of nuts and raisins during our social time at work again, I don’t like shaking hands with anyone normally, so now I won’t feel compelled anymore. Hugs are now elbow bumps.

This pandemic is a game-changer. 

For me; it has allowed me to step out of the matrix for a longer time. I’ve always been a realist, and despite all that’s happening around me with losses and recoveries, my head is not stuck in the Fairy Dust Sand, I know the journey ahead will not be easy when we do return to “life” it will not be as we knew it. All I am doing is striving every day to leave the best of myself because I don’t know when it will be my final day. 

I read this quote a few months ago and it resonated with me: “Pray that you are a blessing in people’s lives and not a trial.”

By Saffiya Ismail more articles here

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About Saffiya Ismail

Born in Pietermaritzburg, she now resides in Johannesburg and says her most important role in life is being a mother. Saffiya is a freelance writer. A contributing author in “Riding the Samoosa Express” (Anthology launched 21st March 2015). With a second chapter submitted for the next book, Saffiya says her passion is writing.