“Stop the w318/366 - Mach mal Pause / Take A Breakorld, I want to get off!”

You may have heard that. You may have said it. I know I have – many times. My introverted soul is held captive by an extroverted shell and is often left begging for relief from the excitement, adventure, and spontaneous trials of a life lived out loud. I crave peace. I long for quiet. It is not uncommon in our house for my son to hear my cries for ‘3 minutes’ peace’ on my way to my bedroom. He’s old enough to understand now that I mean it, that he doesn’t need to worry about me, and that after that three minutes life will be exceedingly improved for both of us.

When my anxiety grabs ‘hold of me, my first instinct is always flight. I want to leave. I want to abscond to somewhere unfamiliar where I can resuscitate myself. Perhaps into someone I like better. But, when my anxiety is in control, flight is the last thing that is possible. I am fixed, rooted in the angst. I struggle to make decisions. It is a battle to leave my house. I can see nothing, save my fears.

I worked for many years, therefore, learning how to interrupt my anxiety. I can’t run away – I have obligations where I am and I will not walk away from those. I can’t literally stop the world because…well…(1) I don’t have the ability and (2) um…no spinning = no gravity = death….to everyone…not a good plan. I needed to forge a way to take time for myself (flight) without renouncing the world. Enter: the pause.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s not giving up. It’s not shutting down. It’s a little break – a way to delay the parts of life for which we’re not quite ready. I like to think of it like my old cassette player. If it was just getting to a segment of the song I really wanted to listen to and suddenly my mother was shouting for me to do chores, I could pause the cassette. It would stop right there at the part I liked. I wouldn’t have to find my place again – it was saved for me. The excitement of the music was waiting until I was ready to be carried off again. Sometimes I need to pause and do my chores before I’m ready for life to carry me off again.

For the last 2 -3 years I’ve been absorbing an assortment of meditation, discovery, and self-care materials. I’ve been learning about the impact of over scheduled lives on our heart, our mind, our spirit, and our families & friends. I’ve been drawn to articles and computer programs to aid in organization and planning, in sorting and tidying up, and in letting go. I have committed myself to doing better, to being better – for myself and for my son. I have taken vacation days as actual vacation days. I have ceased working from home on nights and weekends (mostly). I pulled back from old commitments where I could and resisted saying yes to new ones when I was able. And yet, I still felt this overwhelming urge to flee. Why wasn’t the pause working??

I’ve discovered a few reasons why the pause wasn’t working for me.

Much of the time, I didn’t press that pause button down all the way. I was stuck skipping along in a life not truly paused but not quite at full speed. I was left limping into an intervening state where amplitude was altered arbitrarily and the tone was scrawled.  The ambient audio was only scratches and whispers which couldn’t be deciphered but never fell silent. My life would randomly fade in and out, never fully immersed in nor retreating from the stridency. There is no peace in a half-pause. There is no fulfillment in being half engaged.

Sometimes I would release myself from the pause too soon. How long is long enough to pause? When is it too long? These answers are troublesome to divine because they are tremendously diacritic. We can not learn from each other, for they are vastly different for each of us. The pause that works for you may be far too long or much too fleeting for someone else. Our personal tolerances are capricious. The pause that brings me peace today may leave me disillusioned tomorrow. So each internal, desperate plea for a pause must be appraised for its own demands and instance. This practice is taxing in itself. I fumble and wrestle with my feelings, trying to assess where I am, where I need to be. In the ignorant blindness of anxiety, I set a course for my pause. And I hope.

There are times I have burrowed into a pause and found myself stuck there. Closing off from the complex demands of life can feel like a respite. In the calm I find fresh air to swell my lungs. In the quiet I hear peace to grow my mind. I am at home here. It is comfortable. The longer I stay, the harder it becomes to release that pause and reenter the bustle of everyday life. But, pausing is not living. I can’t stay here – hibernating. We are meant to live in community. We are meant to share our lives, our gifts, our love with each other. I must let the music play again so that we can dance – together – in unison and in opposition. For this is what brings excitement to life. 


I will continue to pause when I need to. I will continue to do it poorly and work to get better at it. I will do what I need to to be better, to do better – for myself and for my son. I don’t have the magic elixir to make this work. But I do have a thirst for its bounty. I know this is what will work for me. Only through repetitive trials will I find the best way to reap its blessings. Take a moment, often, to listen to your mind, to your heart, to your soul.  Be open to the longing within you and let it guide you to new understanding.



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