What’s in a pause? A recognition. A refrain. A reset. An opportunity.
The amygdala hijack happens at least daily. Since arriving in Barbados, perhaps multiple times a day. Having lost my father last May, I almost couldn’t handle the news that my mother had a stroke just over five months later. It was a relatively minor stroke, but enough to sideline her from her usual relentless pace of work.
Pause… to face the overwhelm of fear and panic that set in with the initial thought of losing my second parent in the same year; to feel the upswell of grief from my father’s death and every one of the six deaths in the previous seven years; to confront the irrational twinge of anger and shame that I wasn’t there; to bask in the relief and gratitude that it was not more debilitating, that she was still with us, still herself.
It happened a week before I was already scheduled to be on the island for my monadic winter escape. And it meant that the nature of my trip would change dramatically. I would be adding caretaker and sherpa to a schedule that, up to that point, included a few hours of online work daily but mostly trips to the beach, time with friends, getting reacquainted with a home and an island with which I was mostly estranged.
Pause… to acknowledge the anger arising from the realization that much of my time would not be my own; the self-judgment and guilt arising from such a thought; the resentment I hold for the family businesses that consume her time and energy, that would now consume mine; the frustration and despair I feel because she won’t slow down and work less.
As I interact with my mother and help with her recovery journey, all I can say is, “Thank the Universe for therapy!” I’ve had to call upon every trick in the book when it comes to setting and holding boundaries, managing my self-care, deftly cutting the wires from every button that’s being pushed so my childhood wounds don’t explode all over the place.
In reality, a wound is always touched or threatened, and the amygdala does what it does best: bypass the slow, reasoning and reasonable forebrain to prepare me to fight or flee or freeze or appease my attacker. Except I’m not really being attacked, and to respond as if I am will only do everyone greater injury including myself.
So I learn to Pause. To just stop. To do nothing. To reject the habitual amygdala responses. To give the forebrain time to reboot and remember… remember to be patient; to be vulnerable; to open my heart; to ask for what I need; to discover my need; to empathize; to reestablish a boundary; to say no; to say yes; to forgive; to listen; to love.
I Pause for a moment, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year… however long it takes to dive deep into myself; to travel back in time to the first causes of suffering; to extend compassion and love to the parts of me still caught in the wound; to examine and deconstruct the internalized beliefs that diminish my inherent worth; to ease the constricted parts of body that hold the pain like a sacred totem to fear.
The Pause is the first step in the journey of being who I aspire to be in every unforeseen life moment. The Pause gives me the opportunity to choose better; to be better; to stay heart-centered; to stay connected to, and engaged with, the other; to realize there is no other, only us now in this moment.
The Pause is Power. The Pause is Peace. The Pause is Freedom.