I have a friend. Well, an acquaintance, really. An acquaintance of the heart. You know that feeling when you meet someone and it just clicks, even though you know practically nothing of each other’s history? That’s how I feel about Allie. She is younger than I. And oh, so wise. Allie is planning a sabbatical from work for a month. She not going on vacation- that would still be returning to life, with a different location for a while. She’s not going on stay-cation, traveling to parts of her city yet-unknown. She is simply staying. She’s stepping off the merry-go-round, shutting down, standing still and waiting to see which voices whisper…waiting to see what happens next.
Our culture sees life in binary: yes / no. on/off. stop/go. black / white. We are trained from an early age- remember the games of childhood? The adrenaline rush of forward? The heart pounding freeze of stop? We read books like Go, Dog, Go.
What about Pause, Dog, Pause? What are the possibilities of the middle ground? The space of suspension, floating in the air. An expanse between the firmament and the skies in which you are able to hover, just above the frantic pace of life. Observe. Rest. Regenerate.
We preach to our children’s choir the mandatory necessity of finishing every commitment we sign up for, for completing every sports season, for remaining through the last recital.
But what if we didn’t? What if we said: try it. Try it and let me know what you think. Go as long as you can and when you hit burn out, when the joy is outweighed by the drudgery, pause.
I know, I know, alarm bells! What lesson will they learn? To become slackers? To give up each time they are faced with challenge? That they never have to give it their all?
No. I don’t think so. Because here’s the thing. They have wise parents. Parents who will guide them and help them see when to buckle down, when to push through, when to delay gratification. And parents who will teach them to attend to their inner voice. Parents who will model listening for the signs of exhaustion. Parents who show them how to find breathing space.
Think back to the halcyon days of our youth. The summer evenings playing in the neighborhood, the days roaming the woods, the afternoons hanging out on our beds, staring at the ceilings. These are the pause memories.
Allie’s decision is a clarion bell ringing gently in our ears. The song of a church bell catches our attention for the quiet in between the notes. It is a droning noise when no breaks occur, and we tune it out. Yet we listen intently when there is sound punctuated by silence.
Pausing renews our energy, brings us back to joy.
So what interludes do you need? What respites are calling to you from their silence? What obligation that you have been carrying can you tenderly put down for a day, a week, a month or more? And what will it feel like when you pick it back up?
Remember childhood’s red light, green light? Let’s try Yellloooowww lliiiggght. I double dog dare you. Hit pause. What happens? Keep me posted.
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