Waiting for normal: how to deal with uncertainty

Enjoying the ride?

We’re halfway into the first year of this new decade and it has been a roller-coaster ride. Worse, one of those awful rides that catapult you in a giant slingshot that straddles on rickety stilts. Only you’re still flying through the air, waiting to touch solid ground.

Everyone has been feeling their way in the darkness, only able to see three inches in front of their noses. Including governments and world leaders. That’s because everything has been upended, suspended high in the stratosphere. Our plans and us are in one giant vertical indoor skydiving machine, suspending us in mid-air.

All because of a tiny microorganism.

All those plans you had to travel to Lesotho in the winter months and see the fairy-tale wonder of thick snow everywhere – up in the air. Oh, you planned on doubling your turnover this year with your multi-pronged marketing strategy – in the air. Heck, you don’t even know if you’re going to meet overheads at this lockdown rate.

And if you’re a student, you might be worried if you’ll graduate this year, or if you will have to repeat again next year. (This is a looming reality in some countries. In South Africa, people are worried they will lose a generation due to the immense learning losses in no-fee schools. Most learners do not have access to online learning widening the inequality gap. It is unfortunate that the poor are the most affected. In Botswana, where I live, the government provided learning support on radio, which is widely accessible. However, not all children can adapt to this learning style and there will inevitably be learning losses.) When schools reopen will your child be safe or should you keep her at home? And if you do, you worry over how you’ll continue her education and ensure she doesn’t miss an entire year.

Getting to the root of the problem (Spoiler: It’s us)

For the purposes of this post, I am limiting my discussion to the average person’s general mental health and not professionally diagnosed mental illnesses and disorders on which I am not qualified to write about.

Anxiety is widespread. Like a co-morbid disease to the pandemic.

At the root of all of this though, is not the virus. Although it would certainly help if it disappears as quickly as it appeared.

All of this anxiety and disturbed mental health stems from uncertainty. Even the extreme measures being taken to control the outbreak is due to the fact that not much is known about how the virus works.

In times of uncertainty it is difficult to plan. Planning offers us predictability and gives us a feeling of control over our situations. Uncertainty hits us right where it hurts: in the lower end of the pyramid.

I’m talking about the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. Uncertainty takes away a feeling of security which is an important need. The pyramid indicates that needs will be satisfied from the bottom upwards. Without security, we cannot move on to other human needs such as a sense of belonging, freedom and personal growth. I’m no expert but, evolved human beings as we are, planning usually satisfies this need to a satisfactory level. When we are unable to plan, we don’t feel secure or safe, and this triggers the primal brain to take over.

This is when fear and anxiety kicks in to keep us ‘safe’. It works wonders for short periods of time. Think about any potentially dangerous situation you escaped and that was your fear and anxiety keeping you out of harm’s way.

The new uncomfortable normal

Extended periods of perceived danger from which we are unable to escape, creates a heightened sense of fear and anxiety that becomes the new uncomfortable equilibrium. And your mental health begins to be affected.

Economic fears over income losses or sudden poverty, restricted travel and fears for health and our lives are all real. I mean, it’s happening all around us.

This isn’t one of those problems that the good doctors tells us exists only in our heads. It isn’t a perceived fear that doesn’t exist in reality, like the fear of public speaking. Your bones might tremble in their sockets the same way they would if a lion was standing in front of you, but there is no real threat to your life speaking in front of a crowd. This time the life-and-death fear in our bones is based on a real danger.

So how do we deal with it?

Yet, it doesn’t have to induce all out panic, anxiety, stress and worry.

Uncertainty doesn’t have a pretty face. She smells of rotten brussel sprouts and cheese breath that we’d do anything to steer clear of her. Even make doubtful choices that keep us stuck in situations we hate.

Let me turn you 180 degrees and show you a different picture, that might put things in perspective.

This virus, that has shaken things up, is one of many millions of different microorganisms that could potentially kill us at any time. Some are literally on you body, your floor, kitchen counter, pet’s mouth, or in the air you breathe right now. But we choose to think about this specific one.

Outside your home, on the highways, there are thousands of vehicles traveling at high speeds in all directions that could knock you over or crash into your car killing you on impact, at any given time. There are people who may randomly choose you as their next victim. I haven’t even gotten to the flora and fauna dangers yet. Still, we choose to focus on this one virus.

In outer space, there are limitless combinations of meteorites, radiation and possible alien threats that loom over us like a dark shadowy monster. Again our focus is zoomed in on covid-19.

When you think about the trillions of moving particles on micro and macro-biological levels, both on earth and in the greater universe, it’s a miracle we’re not all struck by lightning, or even infected with a strange new disease everyday.

In a way, we have decided that this virus, over all the other very real threats, will have our undivided attention. Anxiety thrives on attention.

Zoom out. Not in.

Allow your attention to expand outwards onto the millions of other threats that exist and are also very real, and something really cool might happen. You may find that the virus and this pandemic shrinks back into the viscous mass of other potential threats. When that happens, you see it more clearly for what it is.

The reality is, you could be stressing about this pandemic and something else will come out of the blue to hit you sideways. It’s just how this world works. It’s how we work. We’re not able to process all the data around us all of the time.

When you allow it to be one of the millions of known and unknown dangers your vulnerable existence faces every second, trying to control it and its effects becomes pointless. When you cease to control something, you effectively give up control and let go.

Letting go is the trick to dealing with uncertainty. Like all good solutions, it is counter-intuitive. Uncertainty demands that we seek control, in some form. Even if it’s buying enough toilet paper to last you twenty years till the next global disaster. Allow yourself to go with the flow of what’s happening right now. Allow yourself to be suspended in the air.

You don’t know when it will end, or how you will make it through, but it’s okay. You know that no matter what, you will do what it takes. Because that’s how you came this far in your life. One thing you won’t do though, is worry unnecessarily over things you can’t control. For one thing, prolonged stress affects your immunity and right now that is one thing you need to increase.

Wash your hands. Become a pirate

I’m not saying don’t take any preventative measures. I’m saying take those measures and keep going. Follow the guidelines on preventing infection and then forget about it. It’s easier if you establish a routine and develop habits around sanitising your surroundings and your person.

Around the world, lockdowns are ending, easing into a watered-down version of normal. It’s a unique time. Changes are afoot. Once you’re out of the pandemic’s mental clutches, allow yourself to be an opportunist. A swash-buckling pirate of an opportunist. It will help you look to the brighter side of things when you look for the opportunities that change inevitably brings with it.

And go beyond just the economic opportunities. Look for new ways of doing old activities. This might just be a chance to improve, reconnect or start afresh.

There were times of panic -inducing uncertainty in my life and this quote always propped me right back up on my wooden leg:

Killing me softly


“Tom! I thought I told you to do your homework? Give me those. Now!”

Tom moaned, handing Theresa his headphones together with his smartphone. Ignoring him, she returned to the kitchen. She was rushing to prepare dinner with minced meat that wasn’t fully defrosted yet.

She must have touched the screen by mistake because it started to play a song. The familiar lilts and mournful notes made her breath catch in her throat. Yet it was all wrong. The artist didn’t know how to capture the emotion in the song.

She would know. She wrote it. Ten years ago.

99 words


As soon as I saw the image I heard the song in my head. I sang Killing me softly at my school concert too – the Roberta Flack version. Embarassingly, I’d been singing it since before the Fugees version thanks to my mom’s karoake videos, which I hoarded. So of course, I had to write this story.

UPDATE 23 May 2020: When I wrote the story I had no idea of the true origins of the song. A youtube recommendation today revealed to me that Lori Lieberman wrote a poem about the way she felt at a Don McLean concert. The poem became lyrics to the song Killing Me Softly made popular by Roberta Flack. Lieberman was cheated out of the royalties. In my story, Theresa is taken aback hearing a song she wrote years ago being sung by someone else. In my imagination, she too was cheated out of the rights of the song that was close to her heart. Knowing Lieberman’s true story (and it being goosebumping-ly close to my flash fiction) I really wanted to credit her as the original artist and lyricist of the enduring song.

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Click the frog to submit your flash fiction and read others’ stories too.

Book review: Jane Eyre – not who you think you she is

Jane Eyre’s character is the reason why a 19-Century romance novel is still relevant reading material for the 21st Century.


Welcome to my first book review

No sooner was I taught to read was any publication safe from my hungry eyes: medication inserts detailing side-effects and contraindications, to ingredients and warnings on food packaging, and of course the well-loved book. Novels and non-fiction alike, I devoured with gusto.

I want to share this passion and connect with like-minded souls in a love for all things literary by writing book reviews. I want to share something of myself with the greater world that doesn’t demand me to be something I’m not. YouTube and Instagram-influencer are on the wrong side of the camera for me.

I rely heavily on recommendations and reviews to sort through the universal toilet bowl of the Information Age. And save myself from the disappointment of reading a tiresome book, selected only for its well-designed cover, right to the end. Enduring through predictable plots and bad writing with the dim hope that it would turn out to be part of a more ingenious storytelling style – and being completely wrong. I hope to contribute my tiny voice to the thousands of reviews out there on your next BookBub recommendation.

What better way to start than with a classic: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte.

Admittedly, I do not read classics much. Let alone romance novels. Mystery and crime, general fiction, world war novels, anything but romance. I’m not a fan of romance because it is mostly based on unrealistic ideals that draw no parallels to real hard-knock life. Maybe also because I devoured romance as a teenager and have had my fill of it. Jane Eyre is not your traditional romance story. I’m glad I read this book at a more mature age where I know what obstacles and frustrations pave the path of life. I don’t think I would have understood it at thirteen.


A 21st-Century heroine in Victorian Quaker dress

Charlotte Brönte published under the pseudonym, Currer Bell. She was one of three sisters known as the Brönte sisters, who published under male pseudonyms out of a desire to be judged objectively in a time when the works of female writers were not taken seriously or criticised simply because of the author’s gender. After the success of Jane Eyre, Brönte revealed her true identity and gender. Brewed in a mind such as this, you can safely bet that Jane Eyre was not going to be your damsel in distress.

Published in 1847, the novel pleasantly surprised me by echoing sentiments and beliefs I held firm and resolute. Feminist views. Brönte expressed difficulties and thoughts that many women still struggle against today. It was advanced for its time in its ideas of feminism and social constructs making it relevant reading material for the 21st century. That is, if you can get past the older English language and writing style. At first, I laboured through it as I would reading a foreign language but eventually, I got the hang of it.

Whenever I read historical novels written by 21st-century authors, I presumed the author took some liberty in creating a female character so advanced for her time in beliefs and behaviour. I didn’t believe the character to be realistic of the times. I imagined the author created a modern character and transported her back in time.

Whilst reading Brönte’s novel I kept reminding myself that this notion couldn’t apply. This was a 19th-century novelist writing about 19th-century life, expressing views such as this that I encountered many times in contemporary fiction:

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.


Despite whatever liberties the feminist revolution bestowed on women, modern society in general still half-expects women to retain a certain role or adhere to specific ideas of what constitutes femininity. Subjecting women everywhere to codes designed for them by others. The above quote acknowledged no difference between genders and put them on an absolutely equal footing in mind and body; something society still struggles to reconcile with its perceived ideas of masculinity and femininity.


This seemingly out-of-place quote captured my feminist attention and I became instantly attached to Jane, wanting to know what would happen to her and what kind of life would she have?


What is the story about?

Jane Eyre was an orphan who grew up with an aunt and cousins who abused her. Both her parents died when she was an infant and her paternal uncle took it upon himself to raise her. Misfortune struck again when he passed away and although he made his wife promise to take care of his niece, it was a responsibility accepted with resentment. Jane had no other family as her mother was disowned for marrying someone below their class. Since her father came from a poor family nobody cared to know, there was no information about them. After suffering a final abuse, the attending doctor took pity on her and facilitated on her behalf to allow her to go to school.

The main character recounts her tale from the age of ten onward leading us through an ever-winding path of her younger years. Together with Jane, we meet new friends and acquaintances. People she learned a lot from and who helped to shape her character. Helen, an older girl whom she met in a boarding school for orphans, introduces to her and the readers the theme of God and religion. And stoicism in the face of adversity.

However, most of the story occurs when Jane is eighteen. Inexperienced, she emerges from her sheltered life into the great world beyond all she has known into the role of governess for the rough-handling and moody, Mr. Rochester. Predictably Victorian, through getting to know him she secretly falls in love with him setting the emotional wilderness she is forced to wander.


A literary first

Although the sexual tension is mild it keeps us turning the page right to the end. This isn’t a revolutionary classic for no reason, mind you. It was one of the first books to show in-depth character growth. Jane struggles with her own nature; her passions against reason and morality. She is a passionate, intelligent, and courageous woman. Imaginative, impulsive, and adventurous she is an independently-minded woman. This is apparent in her partiality for solitary long walks sometimes at night – an activity that ladies didn’t do often. And in the way she speaks her mind almost without any filter in an ardent desire to communicate honestly and directly.


Perhaps it was the neglect she experienced in childhood that allowed her to be so free-spirited at heart, turning convention on its well-bonnetted head. The lack of parental approval and influence, those invisible chains clasped together by a child’s own love for her parents, allowed her to become more associated with who she truly was. Her mind could roam freely unrestricted from any parental influence which is usually all the more powerful because of the emotional bond. She had no family expectations thrust upon her. No future plans laid out for her other than those she formed for herself.


By no means was she a neglectful and careless person. She was respectful enough of social conventions to earn a respected place in that society for her class of servitude in which she rose to the highest rank as a governess. Brönte ensured her character had her flaws. We are constantly reminded of how plain she is. Having no beauty to set her apart from the others. Yet we see how she attracts potential suitors with her character and mind and abilities. We are constantly reminded of her position in society, lacking money and family. Yet she manages to maneuver in society and find her place.




The author makes us question, what is true beauty and what is true wealth in the eyes of the spirit? Beauty fades, wealth can be lost. True spiritual beauty and wealth can never be taken away.


An improper book – even by today’s standards

As we follow Jane’s story, we follow her inner conflict and turmoil in trying to do the right thing and make the right choice.  Undoubtedly, there is an overarching theme of love but romantic love is only part of the story. There is love for fellow men and women despite social standings and appearances. There is familial love; a great foundation of spiritual wealth. There is divine love; love for the Master whom we may call God and whom we traditionally serve through religion and duty, and then there is divine love in the form of true companionship or true love. Today, we may call such people and partners soul family. Soul mates from our soul tribe. A love placed in the heart that looks beyond physical appearance and material possessions.

Above all, there is self-love. Cloaked by the constant overcoming of self to do the right thing. I was struck by the main character’s self worth. I never expected to encounter a woman born and bred two centuries before my time to harbour such a strong sense of self. Honestly, I think I learned a thing or two reading this book. She once asserts that whilst she has no relatives who may care what she does or where she ends up, she cares about herself even if that doesn’t mean much to anybody else.

She says and does things like this all the time, during a period where women didn’t have any of the legal rights we enjoy today, much less the ability to stand up to men and deny them their authority over her being. In fact, in 19th-century England this book was deemed inappropriate reading material for young women due to the character’s independent mind.


She lays claim to her mind, heart and soul and takes responsibility for it too. She chooses to do right by herself rather than submit to the passions and desires of other people as difficult as this may be for her. For better or for worse, she remains true to who she is. Even if it thrusts her into loneliness, destitution, or heartbreak.


People she loved dearly often exerted their forceful opinions on her. Opinions of who they want her to be and the choices she should make. Many others in her position would have bent to their will to please the other and bask in the shine of their approval at the cost of their true desires.


Why it may not be popular with modern readers

Patriarchy and feminism

Modern readers, and staunch feminists in particular, may find the men in the book very outdated and inflaming. Mr. Rochester by today’s standards would prove a controlling manipulative man more suited to a bad romance many women would have the common sense to walk away from.

But compared to the other male characters we see that overbearing authoritativeness over female submissiveness, was the norm for males of that time. Ie the 1800s England was a patriarchal society. His shining quality was his generosity shown by his choice to adopt a destitute foreign child for whom he employs Jane as governess. His own story contributes to the themes of God-centred morality and overcoming of self.

But such is the author’s mind that even if patriarchy was the norm, I feel that Brönte found it unacceptable.  To have such vision beyond the society she lived in was exceptional.

One pet frustration continuously irked me throughout the novel. Jane often referred to Mr. Rochester as her master. Needless to say, I was not impressed. I thought perhaps it was because he was her master as in ’employer’ while she was a governess. But she continues to refer to him as master even in her innermost affectionate thoughts. I couldn’t help but wonder if the expected female-submissiveness of the time leaked through in the author’s words.

Interpreting this together with the theme of love, it’s worth nothing that Brönte later contrasts romantic love with love for God, where God is the Master. In light of this, Jane’s use of the word may mean that he is master of her heart in that she cannot help but love him.

Though, whether she becomes slave to this love or not is the silent question implanted in the reader’s mind throughout the story.

Rigid religious codes

The many religious references uncommon in today’s literature may turn off modern readers. Brönte isn’t about preaching a rigid moral viewpoint. While religion contributes to the moral attitudes in the story, it isn’t a hidden agenda of the author to impose religious views on the reader. Religion serves as a background, another moral code outside of Jane’s own moral code forced upon her. Another layer of confusion thrust upon her while she feels her way through life’s turning points marked by choices good or bad.

Unconventional plot

The plot is of an unfamiliar type. It doesn’t follow the Hollywood movie plot we are used to. Rules are broken, and at first, feels like a cheat on the author’s part. But it serves a purpose.  I don’t want to elaborate on this in case it inadvertently reveals a spoiler. The flowery elaborate description proved very tedious and tiring for my squirrel-mind. Yet her words were not pointless. They served to portray emotion, lure the reader into the character’s innermost thoughts and gratifyingly captured an expression, a rolling field or a stately mansion.


Timeless classic

Through whichever socially-encoded lens you view it, feminism, religion, romantic ideals, 19th Century ideas, or 21st-century liberties, it gets to the heart of things that social constructs ignore: the human heart. And the fact that much of the richness of life is experienced through the spiritual lens of the heart. The inner struggles and conflict that Jane faces are the same struggles we face today. The push-and-pull of human emotion amidst shifting social attitudes and conventions persists no matter what age you live in.

Jane Eyre was harshly judged by 19th-century conservatives for being too liberal in heart and mind, and by 21st-century minds for basking in the glow of what seems at first to be an outdated patriarchal-type love.

If anything, Jane Eyre proves that women are subjected to harsh judgement no matter what they do and no matter what ideology they follow.





****Available for free at Amazon or visit that dying human relic – your nearest library – under the Classics section.

**** Still frame of the movie Jane Eyre, sourced from Rollingstone.com

June 14, 1941


All those summer nights

closing spun-out days of waiting tables

blistered feet, merry hearts and

cheery faces in creamy cafes and yellow-lit clubs.

Hope was never a fragile thing.

Together, we would make it through.

Starlight in the skies

turned to fires burning high

over our heads, we were lost in flames.

The sirens screamed long into the night.

Our stricken hearts would never give up this fight.

When the daylight came to clear the smoke away,

the words on our lips met the tears on our cheeks:

Paris has fallen. Paris has fallen.

94 words


(Update: As Neil pointed out, try reading it backwards. It kinda almost works 😉 )

This is a story of how life never goes as planned. Take 2020 for example.

That’s how the poem began and it developed into the Nazi-German siege of Paris on June 14, 1940. I took some creative liberty in my poem.

After four years of Nazi occupation, Paris was liberated on August 25, 1944.

Armed fighters take part in the liberation of Paris. Who might these young people have been before the war changed everything? (Keystone/Getty Images) Sourced from Washington Post

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less, click the frog to submit your flash fiction and read what others have written. Enjoy!


The flying diner

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll


“It’s quaint.” purred Chyna, surveying the retro-styled diner.

“It’s overrated. Who cares how ancients lived 800 years ago on Earth?” said Tronick.

Elvis wrinkled his nose, intending an academic assault. “Who cares?! The 1950s is only the preliminary decade of scientific advances that bridged us into the space age. And, may I add, the reason why you and I can live on Mars today.”

“They’re the reason? You’re seriously going to overlook the black quartz technology of the 2300s?”

“Shut up you two blockheads!” Chyna scolded. “Here comes our chocolate milkshakes. Wonder how it tastes?”

94 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Click the frog to submit your flash fiction and read others’.



Who would have thought we’d be living through a pandemic? Never in a million years did I ever imagine I’d experience it. Fast forward to 2020 and here we are. I hope you are all staying safe and if you are in quarantine or self-isolation, make the most of it if you can.

The vegetable seller on First Avenue

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Every day people came to his stall, picked out their vegetables and went on their way. From their purchases, he could surmise dozens of dinner table spreads. Beef stew, tomato bredie, potato bake. Why else would one person buy a bag of potatoes two days in a row?

Local culinary tastes weren’t the only thing he noted. Gossip proved juicier than any of his wares. His trained ear weeded out keywords. Names were particularly valuable. He never tired of figuring out daily habits, work routes or any decipherable pattern that might prove insightful later on in the investigation.

98 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less. Click the blue frog to submit your flash fiction and read others’.


When two become one

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Everything was blurry. Bushra blinked the tears away. Placing her right hand over her chest she felt the beating inside her breast. Slow and steady. Just like he was.

A year ago she was given a new lease on life. Never did she imagine it would be without him.

A weak heart, the doctors’ had explained to her mother when she was born. She wasn’t supposed to live past her teen years.

The road was wet, explained the policeman. Lost control of his motorbike.

Now, he would never know that he saved her life. Thank you my love, she whispered.

100 words



(I really hope this story makes sense. And that it isn’t too vague.)

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Click the frog to submit your flash fiction and read others’.


Happy Valentines Day!

I hope you love with all of your heart, without conditions.

Stairway to heaven


Oh shoot! The escalator to heaven is broken again. Assistant angel, Nuri, had been accompanying the new recruits to their destination in heaven. He looked at the motley crew of fresh souls, pity squeezing his heart. Bless these poor buggers. At least they died instantly.

Suddenly, the escalator started up again. This time in reverse heading straight down towards Hades chambers! He didn’t fancy dropping in on Hades and Lucifer right this minute. Not with all the war down on earth. They wouldn’t appreciate being interrupted whilst busy deceiving souls.

Desperately, he pressed the red button for the Archangel.

99 words


Had a little fun with the divine realm and the supernatural here. The image immediately conjured up images of angels, saints, and stairways to heaven.

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. A weekly flash fiction prompt where the challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less.

Click the frog to submit your flash fiction and read what others have written too.


Snow globe

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Nolly, the gnome, reclined on the bench. Life was good. For one thing you get all the dazzling, fluffy beauty of snow. Without the cold. Nolly shivered at a memory of frostbite on his large nose. He allowed his eyes to wander along the treetops to the clay-tiled rooftops where the perimeters began.

Perimeters of dome proportions that he couldn’t ever cross. Still, better than a November garden.

Beyond the perimeter, approached a dark shadow. Nolly gripped the bench tightly knowing the quaking would end soon enough. And all the tiny snowflakes would tumble gently over him in glorious splendour.

100 words

My first post for the decade! Nolly is a miniature garden gnome, of fairy-sized proportions, who has been up-cycled as a decorative feature in a snow globe.

Perhaps you will spare a thought for the inhabitants of your entrancing ornament the next time you shake it. 😉

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, where the challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less. Click the frog to submit your own flash fiction and read what other’s have written.