Reframing pauses

During the week as I was writing about ripples and rhythms, I was struck by the thought that how we respond to pauses actually frames the rest of our lives.

If we, and those around us, wear the badge of busyness, then a pause is an embarrassment. A failure.

“Don’t just stand there – do something“

The thing about this badge is that we don’t see it. It’s in the culture we imbibe and the metrics we use to reward ourselves and others.

‘Efficiency’ is the subtle marker of this. Of course, we don’t want to be wasteful or sloppy, but assuming that efficiency is the highest goal is potty. We can get very good and fast at doing the wrong thing!

This measure only really works as a prime indicator in a closed industrial environment. And yet we’re still using it to drive our working lives in a much more complex and ambiguous world.

“Don’t just do something – stand there”

This was the upside down version offered by a wise cardiac surgeon I once heard talking about emergency surgery. The wrong move is fatal, even though everything in you screams to act NOW.

Surprising isn’t it…

Reframing pauses

So do we begrudge or celebrate pauses?

It’s easy to do the latter when we feel in control. We’ve planned this…

When I was working as an NHS chief exec, it would always take more time than I expected to fully relax into a holiday. At least a week.

Some of my tests included: when was I ready to start taking photographs, not snaps… Or draw… Or even read something that wasn’t just getting information to solve a problem.

But how about when these pauses are given to us, unexpectedly? Are we too busy – not only in our diaries but also in our heads – to appreciate them?

A couple of weeks ago I sprained my ankle. I still can’t walk on uneven ground and have to rest my swollen limb – when I’ve got things to do! Including helping Steve with shearing the alpacas.

But no. Not this year.

Begrudging pauses shines a light on our underlying fears and anxieties. We can fight them or we can face them. And how we react to the pauses we didn’t choose, helps us understand more of what’s going on. In reality.

This doesn’t just apply to us in our individual lives. It scales.

If we don’t stop and ask the question: ‘what’s really going on there, and why is this such a big deal?’ we may not see the real drivers. And ultimately that’s what we should be working on.

I wonder how this is resonating with you right now…

Finding equilibrium

What I love about this whole exploration is that there isn’t a simple answer.

If I could offer a formula to resolve all of this it would somehow demean the very humanness of who we are. Balance doesn’t mean equal portions of time or anything else, it’s something altogether more dynamic.

So I am sorry… We have work to do.

But we need a compass and I wonder if equilibrium, rather than a simple notion of balance, is a better guide.

At present my equilibrium includes not walking over rough ground, wearing heels or attempting steep slopes without enough grip on my footwear. And sitting with my ankle up at times. But it won’t always be like this.

My equilibrium also means keeping my in-out valve working well. Not just giving out, but having time to replenish, including reading. So that I have something more to offer.

Your equilibrium will have its own shape. So don’t just copy others – their rhythm won’t be a good fit.

John O’Donohue wrote a beautiful blessing For Equilibrium. Gift yourself a pause and let it speak to your soul:

For equilibrium

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the depths the laughter of God.

Thanks for reading


PS Just as I’m quickly finishing this reflection to meet the MailChimp deadline… I have to pause to deal with unexpected guests – a herd of cows and their calves who appeared on the terrace outside the house (see my Twitter feed @SueWaterside)… But it actually gives me more time before the next posting window to refine the wording. Enjoy!

This week

Has had a sense of emergence in a number of ways…