I was sitting on my patio this morning watching some rare summer rain rumble in from the east, the winds pushing through the neighbor’s trees as the sparrows flitted around my feeders, when I coined a new term for myself and my current reality: The Big Pause.
I’m in this weird place in my life right now where I’m sort of “in between.” In between then and now. In between health and sickness. In between joy and sorrow. And in between who I was and who I may become. As a result of all of this instability, I’m spending a lot of my time during this pandemic (and during this break in my work life) just sort of existing.
So this means I get up in the morning and I make some sort of breakfast, whether it’s oatmeal or eggs or gluten-free pancakes, and I follow it up religiously with a little cup of homemade vegan chai. I sip it from my pale green, polka-dotted teacup with a rim of gold that I bought myself after buying one as a gift for a dear friend of mine. I loved it so much – and she loved it so much – that I ordered one for myself, too. It not only made me happy, but it made me feel closer to her in a way. We are separated by hundreds of miles and many states the last few years, and I miss her dearly as a physical presence in my life.
When I’m finished downing the many pills and supplements I have to swallow in the first hours of my day, I use the mental notes I’ve taken on my body and my health since I woke up to decide what I’m going to do next. I have just a few choices these days and most of them don’t involve much.
Option 1: If it’s cool enough, I go tend to my plants in the garden or look for my squirrel (yep I feed a squirrel; I have named him Marley).
Option 2: If I have enough energy, I do a fifteen- to twenty-minute yoga practice by myself in the spare room.
Option 3: If I’m feeling creative, I sit down to write or maybe head to the kitchen to bake something.
Option 4: If I’m feeling sick, as is quite often the case in the last six months, I don’t do much of anything. I lay on the sofa and let myself reside in the “in between.” Or, as I was doing this morning, I sit outside with the rain brushing against the side of my skin nearest the wind, and I watch it form puddles on the ground.
I breathe. I wait. And I don’t rush whatever is to come next.
I’ve coined this time of my life “The Big Pause” because that’s really what it is for me – the biggest pause of my entire life. But also, I got to thinking about how most of humanity could really use a Big Pause sometimes. We go and go, and traverse a number of obstacles and heartaches, until we get to a point where we’re just worn out and have nothing left to give to ourselves or to anyone else. We’re tired from our hearts all the way to our bones and our skin, and we badly need to take a rest (although most of us rarely do).
Many of us have finally been given that bit of rest because of the pandemic (not a stress-free rest, mind you), and I’ve observed so many people talking about “making the most” of the time if you happen to find yourself in a pause because you’re jobless, or because you’re scared to leave your home, or because the world is crumbling around you and you aren’t sure how to handle it all just yet. And I don’t think becoming more busy is necessarily what we should be doing.
Well, not all of us anyway.
I think 2020 will unfold very differently for each person depending on their individual circumstances and their personality. And we should make room for every version of this unfolding in what is considered “okay” and a “successful use of time.” Some people might put immediate action and goals into place – and this is great – but some people can’t do anything but just sit and wait for a while.
I’m sort of in the latter category: I’m sitting and waiting. I know things are changing dramatically and that I’m getting closer to some truth about myself that’s been brewing for decades, but this process is not one I can push along. It’s not one I can write my way into or out of, or will my way into or out of, or otherwise tangibly manipulate until the time is right for it to manifest in my life. And on some days, when I feel particularly lost or worried about finances, it’s an exceptionally painful time to traverse.
I’ve seen many people building masterpieces in their Big Pause, which is great if that’s how life is unfolding for you - and I kind of wish it was that way for me. I honestly felt distraught in the beginning because I wasn’t able to do something of the same with my own free time. However when I examined the unique circumstances of my life rather than looking at the lives of others, I realized I was already at the end of my masterpiece (my first book). I’d been working on it for several years and was wrapping it up when the pandemic hit, so I wasn’t in a place to light new fires and create new contributions.
I’m still not.
And I keep wondering when I will be. Maybe in 2021?
I think most people mean well when they say you should take advantage of every moment you have right now (or in life in general), but I think we also need to examine what we define as “advantage.” For me, taking full advantage of this moment means I’m not doing much of anything that would be considered productive – not unless I feel like it, like I do right now. I’m in a period of desperately needed rest that I've pined for since late adolescence, and I'm not going to squander it.
I know there will come a day when The Big Pause will be over. I know there will come a day when I’ll be ready to do something else or move in a different direction. But I’m not going to force it to come before it’s ready, and I’m not going to busy myself into creating something that others deem more valuable – like churning out another book when my heart couldn’t possibly be in one right now. I’m going to do what feels right for me. And I encourage you to do the same.
Times are tough for everyone and we are all processing things differently. Don’t fall victim to the idea that you have to be anyone other than who you are in this moment, even if that means you feel like an outcast or that perhaps you should order some bonbons with your next grocery pickup.
Remember that gardens need a fallow period in order to grow green riches that spill over the sides, with tendrils grasping at soil and air, climbing out to become the greatest expression of what they were meant to be. Don’t skip that part. Don’t be ashamed to not "produce" for a while. Don’t be afraid to take your Big Pause - especially right now. I think more people than ever need to stop and breathe for a bit so that maybe humanity can be different going forward.
My first book, Halfway There: Lessons at Midlife, is now available for purchase! Click the button to find out more about the book and order your copy today.
The Big Pause