Taking a Pause

By Jake Wiskerchen

“When things begin accelerating wildly out of control, sometimes patience is the only answer. Press pause.” - Douglas Rushkoff

Sometimes we just need to take a pause.

Sometimes life’s events are like waves in the ocean and you sit comfortably above your body board, legs straddled on either side, a couple hundred feet from shore, gliding gently over those waves one by one as the sun caresses your face. It might just be the most peaceful moment of your life.

Sometimes a bigger-than-expected wave comes along and you slip off the board into a depth of sea where we cannot touch bottom without drowning. The waves wash over you in these moments – unexpectedly and violently - and threaten your very life. The literal breath you breathe is suddenly no longer that thing you never gave a thought to, but instead is the only thing between you and death itself. Gasping and choking, you wonder if this is the end.

And then you pause and remember that you are tethered to the very board that kept you afloat in the sunshine just minutes earlier.

Reason sets in, the limbic system quiets, sensibilities return. You take a deep breath, reach down, grab the cuff on your ankle, and gradually bring the board back within reach. Climbing aboard, you realize that if you had allowed the emotional panic to overtake you, you would be dead. Instead you chose to pause, take inventory, and realize what you had available instead of simply lamenting what was lost and succumbing to the would-be tragedy.

The interesting thing about this scenario is that no metaphorical "storm" was required to knock you off; in fact, the day was quite pleasant until you almost drowned. Usually these types of articles talk about “life’s storms” and how to endure them. But major storms, either in metaphor or in real, actual weather, are quite infrequent. 

Please do not misunderstand: life’s storms are no joke. However, it seems far more reasonable to address the everyday hiccups that apparently threaten to take us under because too often the normal yet unpredictable interruption is what throws us off. A car accident, a wounded pet, an illness, or a child's inconsolable heartache can toss us suddenly from the stability of the body board and send us into the seemingly certain doom of Davy Jones’ Locker.

But if we pause – just take a moment to remember what we have and where we are – we can recover. It takes effort but usually the effort provides perspective. When we gain perspective and realize that we are securely attached to things that will keep us afloat; spouses, family, friends, teachers, colleagues, and mentors. Then we find that we can survive the big waves no matter what.

Waves can be relaxing or terrifying. Your interpretation depends entirely upon how you perceive them. The good news is, we can always modify our perceptions. Everything worth having requires some risk so just ask yourself this: will you go back onto the ocean for the best moment of your life? Or will the memory of being thrown off interfere with your ability to enjoy all the happiness that life offers?

Pause, and then make your choice.