How do you react to stillness? What lessons will you take from the stillness forced by the pandemic?
The stillness may (or may not) be starting to come to an end. With coronavirus vaccination programmes at varying stages of roll-out, the world might soon start moving a little more freely again.
For me, the stillness began roughly a year ago this coming week. Wednesday 11 March 2020 was the last time I set foot in an office (and was therefore also the last time I commuted). That was a frightening day for me, as I had to go home sick. I had started feeling pretty dreadful almost as soon as I got to work. After an hour or so I had to head home, terrified both that I might have coronavirus and that I might have put others at risk by commuting that day. Whatever the illness was, it lasted only a day or two in the end. Goodness only knows if it might have been a very mild case of coronavirus, or just some seasonal winter illness. I don’t know if I will ever know what it was. I pray that if it was coronavirus, I did not transmit it to anyone else.
The true scale of the threat from coronavirus started to become clear as March 2020 continued. Everyday life slowed down to a stillness for so many people here in the UK when the first lockdown started later that month.
Stillness in any form can sometimes be tough to deal with. The mind and body thrive on movement and variety. But stillness can also teach you valuable and unexpected lessons.
So, if we take it as roughly 12 months since the stillness descended on so many of us, what has the stillness of this past year meant for you? What lessons will you take from this stillness? How will they change your life going ahead?
The snow moon
At the end of last month, the February full moon (also known, rather beautifully, as the snow moon) showed in the sky. The moon seemed larger than at any time I have previously seen it. Chris Dale captured the 2021 snow moon perfectly in the stunning photographs you can see at the top of this section of this post and the next.*
To us down here on Earth, the moon is a picture of perfect stillness. Yet it can do odd things to us when it shows itself fully. Last Saturday (27 February 2021) at around 8.15am UK time, the snow moon peaked. The days leading up to the snow moon had felt unusually tense, fraught and stressful for me. But just as the snow moon passed its peak, my spirits seemed to lift. A weight seemed to fall from my shoulders. Whether or not this was related to being at the start of my birthday week off or was to do with lunar phases, we will never know for sure. But whatever the reason, I had a joyous feeling that life was changing once again, as it started to move into a new phase.
The staying still has been an eye opener
Exactly as the snow moon peaked, I was watching the then-latest episode of Robb Flynn’s No F’n Regrets podcast. This episode was a treat for me. Perhaps this helped lift my spirits so. As a lifelong music obsessive, longform deep-dive chats with musicians and music-adjacent folks are precisely my cup of espresso. Flynn’s conversation with guests Jesse Leach and Matt Stocks took a number of unexpected and fascinating turns.
If I might risk using the “P” word for the first (and more than likely last) time on this blog, all three gents have to a greater or lesser extent pivoted to podcasting in response to the pandemic.
For Leach, the abrupt halt to touring for his band Killswitch Engage has caused him to reappraise his life:
“The staying still for me has been an eye opener. So that’s a blessing in disguise, too. Enjoying staying still. I’ve been torn. I do miss touring, I do. But I’ve been enjoying home like I never have before. And at first when this whole thing hit I wasn’t that way. I was definitely struggling. But finding my footing and figuring out who I am without touring has been interesting in itself. I feel like I’ve got a new purpose now. I’m excited about it all.”
He talks about how this new sense of purpose is manifesting itself in a new podcast series that he is launching with Stocks**. This would not have happened without the stillness brought by the pandemic.
Of lemons and lemonade
Having heard Flynn and Leach talk before, the real discovery of this podcast for me is Matt Stocks. He is a natural. He has an innate gift for talking, for interviewing and for podcasting, which is evident from the moment he opens his mouth in this episode.
Stocks talks about the impact of the pandemic on his own life and livelihood. I found what he had to say unexpectedly moving – and also rather inspiring. If I might risk using the “M” word for the first (and more than likely last) time on this blog, Mr Stocks found himself in a position that will be familiar to many so-called millennials who have had to reassess their life plans over the past year. He says:
“Most of my income was from DJing, although I’ve always done the podcast, written and freelance presented and all these other things. With the removal of all that, I’ve got no income. So initially it was heartbreaking. I had to move home with my folks in August, which is where I am now. I’m in the house where I grew up as a kid, and I’m 35. It’s been crippling in that sense.”
Stocks refused to let the stillness of the past year break him. Rather than withdrawing in self pity, he is actively seeking out the unexpected opportunities and lessons in the hand he has been dealt. Stocks mentions in this podcast that he is a fellow Piscean type, with his his birthday falling this coming week. His life took an unexpected turn on his last birthday (11 March 2020 – the same day that I last set foot in an office), when he received out of the blue an offer to pen a book:*** He says of the past 12 months:
“What this year has allowed me to do is a) write a book, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise, that’s been amazing. But on a personal level, it’s allowed me to stop – which we’re saying is the keyword – take stock (no pun intended) and figure out who I am and who I want to be and what I want from life and where I want to go when things do reopen. There’s lessons that I’ve learnt that I’m going to carry into that and that will serve me going forward.”
Stocks sums up what he has chosen to take from all this:
“It’s been an invaluable experience. It’s been very difficult, but I think it’s been ultimately rewarding. And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? It’s a cliché for a reason, because it’s true as fuck!”
Stillness can be tough to deal with. But stillness can also prove an invaluable experience.
Life changes in the most unexpected ways all the time. Life is changing once again right now, as it starts to move towards and into a new phase. Life never stays still for long. What lessons will you take from the stillness?
* I am thankful to Chris Dale for his kind permission to share his remarkable pictures capturing the 2021 snow moon exactly as it appeared, which appear within the body text of this post. Mr Dale is a remarkable photographer. For further examples of his work, please follow Chris on Twitter and Instagram.
** The new podcast from Leach and Stokes is entitled Stoke The Fire, with the first episode having been put out this past week. Please consider giving it a listen.
** Matt Stocks book is entitled Life in the Stocks: Veracious Conversations with Musicians & Creatives (Volume One). I am looking forward to reading it.