By Amy Nelmes Bissett*
Opinion - In the early 1900s, as the industrial revolution ground into gear, renowned German artist Jean Arp remarked: "Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation".
Arp was hardly wrong. For the last century, our world has become faster, louder, busier. The demands from work, family, friends and even play greater. And rather remarkably, that exhausting pull of modern life has managed to hide in plain sight. We have been blind to it.
That was until the words Covid-19; coronavirus; pandemic; death toll became a well-oiled addition to our daily - or perhaps more aptly, hourly - vocabulary. And in turn, since mid-March the nation has hit pause. Lockdown at alert level 4 has ensured we've had nowhere to go, nowhere to be.
The situation has invited many emotions. For the 500,000 single-person households across New Zealand, loneliness is likely to have ruled. Tiresome for those juggling working from home commitments and home schooling. And for others, fearful, with police noting there's been a 22 percent increase in domestic abuse complaints since lockdown commenced.
But for some of us, unquestionably the lucky ones, it has been peaceful.
Looking in, many might not think peace when it comes to my bubble. The house is busy. An ocean of energy flows from my two toddlers. There's also a cat, kitten, two chickens and husband mulling around. There's been as many tears as laughs, embraces as fights.
But while it feels almost treacherous to say it out loud, with the worldwide death toll now at 274,000 and unemployment ravaging many of those who have survived, home life has been sweet. There's a calmness that comes from only having to focus on the chaos of life in isolation.
Typically, pre-pandemic, I've found the mental and physical load of thriving in modern life exhausting. I, like many parents, spend my days rushing. Rushing for daycare drop-offs, rushing to squeeze full-time work into part-time hours, rushing to eat, rushing to pay bills I've forgotten or milk that needs to be picked up or family members I need to call or that email that I keep forgetting to reply to.
And I'm hardly alone.
It's why silence and stillness has become such a commodity. We have all been searching for it. We have downloaded meditation apps or booked into wellness retreats. We have bought into the multi-million dollar concept that self-care is an antidote to the busyness of life. We have travelled to all corners of the world on the promise that it will rest our weary rat-race infested souls.
But perhaps throwing money at our quest for tranquillity has been nothing more than a band-aid approach to modern fatigue? Lockdown, despite all the horror out there beyond our shores, has been a time to breathe. A mental space to unload, to take stock and just be. To reconnect with our children, our partners and the beauty of our country.
In my house, there have been long lazy mornings with too much toast and too much television. Hours reading books, painting pictures, watching birds, picking flowers, collecting leaves, watching the rain and play fighting. So much play fighting.
And let's be real, it's not always a picnic. I've never been a stay-at-home mum before so have to pull on a patience I often do not have. My work as a freelance writer has diminished to a few breadcrumbs of assignments. And the guilt of being British-born but in a country that has a handle on the situation as my family and friends face a struggle I can't ever truly understand is often a weighty burden.
But as we edge closer to level 2 and then level 1, which will happen, I can't help but mourn this time as it inevitably comes to an end. A time that is sweet and simple, silent and tranquil, and one which we will likely never have again in our lifetime.
* Amy Nelmes Bissett is a freelance writer based in Warkworth.
Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:
- See all RNZ Covid-19 news
- Covid-19 symptoms: What they are and how they make you feel
- Touching your Face: Why do we do it and how to stop
- Scientific hand-washing advice to avoid infection
- Your Covid-19 questions answered - from health and employment to managing anxiety
- A timeline: How the coronavirus started, spread and stalled life in New Zealand
- Coronavirus: A glossary of terms
- The Coronavirus Podcast