In January I chose pause as my word of the year. I found the meaning mindful – the act of stopping for a few seconds, a minute or even a day to add a slow tempo to my words or actions. Pausing creates a purposeful way of thinking or acting – the assumption is to linger in a moment, letting it be, without rushing to the next second. It encourages sinking into the present, without turning to the past or hurrying toward the future. The momentary act of stopping enhances the happier moments, but also exaggerates the melancholy of despair. It’s unforgiving, consistent and unrelenting in its intention.
I’ve attempted to keep this word as my mantra as I moved through 2016. This past weekend – pausing led me to this sky on Saturday night. As we were driving to dinner, I urged my husband to stop the car so I could stand at the edge of the road to memorialize the glory. For the last few years, my gaze isn’t focused on the internal, but the universal. A single look at my surrounding serves as a reminder of the collective. Despite my flaws and missteps, the world will move forward. It’s a revelation or epiphany, much like the way the characters in Flannery O’Connor’s short stories depict. Standing at the edge, perched between the sphere of the individual and the universal, I took a breath. This pause felt like a welcome, laced with what is true, undeniable and lasting.
On Sunday, I gazed at my daughter with intent, knowing the days of snuggling next to her, kisses on the cheeks and a welcome shoulder for her tears are fleeting. I watched as she giggled and rolled around the floor, embracing happiness as kids only know how and one thought occurred to me – she won’t be ten forever. In a few months, the tween years will officially begin. She didn’t see me, but I walked to the back of the room, removing evidence of the tears on my face.
The same thought crossed my mind on a morning jog. I spotted a blue hummingbird, one minute on a green bush, the next second flying away to a nearby branch. I stopped to admire its flight, knowing I wouldn’t repeat this moment in the future. This truth gripped me in a way I was afraid to acknowledge. But yet, pausing pushed me to places I don’t always want to willingly embark.
Sometimes reflecting for a momentary second summons the words or actions you want to forget. I’ve experienced some not-so-stellar moments this past year and if I had pondered my words, I may have prevented unnecessary emotions and hurt. There are times when listening is the only plausible and mindful response. Pausing has taught me this lesson the hard way. But in other ways, it has convinced me to walk away from relationships that aren’t a good fit or in other cases, I’ve recognized I am the enabler of my own sabotage. I’ve come to a quiet acceptance if I am expecting a different result, it’s up to me to change the outcome. Doing the same thing, the same way only leads to the same results. For that, I only can blame myself.
What I am learning is to relish the goodness – the feel of the my feet running on the pavement, the unforgettable snapshot of the sky, the family dinners, the innocent questions from my ten-year-old daughter, the calm that comes from reading a good book and the affirmation that arrives when I find a kindred spirit who not only knows me, but understands who I am. Those are places that are worth pausing because time will urge me to conjure these moments when the pendulum swings in an uncertain direction.
I intersected with this quote that captures the sentiment about my year of pause, “This benefit of seeing… can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image… the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate.” – Dorothea Lange