Do you ever wish that you could go back and respond to something differently? If only you had been a bit more assertive. Or calmer. Or more passionate. Maybe added a larger dash of clever sarcasm. I have. Something that I have put into practice is: the pause. There’s this beautiful space that exists between a thing and your response. Certain things are nagging and others occur in a moment. The things that show up time and time again— that is where the opportunity presents itself. Real work can take place. It’s here where the reflectiveness in the pause can shine. You can be mindful in the next word or action. Sometimes that pause is on the fly, you won’t have time to sit with it. You will have to take a breath and then release.
I have a thing that has shown up in an array of situations for a few years now. I have had opportunities to respond. Sometimes I have walked away whispering to myself with a smirk, “Over that.” I have also found myself moping away disappointed in my reaction— healing- is a messy, messy roller coaster. I have been thoughtful. I have been firm. I have laughed it off. I have been petty. I have ignored it. I have half-way then whole-heartedly agreed with it. I have been seconds away from crying. Practicing the pause can definitely help, but I’m human. And I have feelings. Some days I have all the feelings. Sound familiar? It is on those days when if the thing shows up—, my smile is a little bigger if I can walk away feeling unattached to the opinions projected onto me. I do the pause proud. I make myself proud.
Others won’t always be gentle with your heart. But you have to be. We have a responsibility to ourselves. People will be people. Some will do harm unintentionally. Most aren’t thinking, “What can I say that will really throw her off track today?” Others, the ones that are closer to you, that’s different. The hope is that there will be awareness, but again, —people will people, so you have to protect your heart. The pause can give clarity in the tough moments. We know the trauma attached to certain words or phrases in our lives, the history behind it, the disregard that pierced your happiness. When similar situations arise or certain words reach your ears, — you are triggered. You may have to deal with a wound over again. And you have to figure out emotional survival techniques in the moment. It’s not easy. I don’t think there’s a cure-all. I just know the importance of pausing and gaining perspective.
My grandma always tells me, “Just breathe.” Those breaths have reminded me time and time again that I have control over my thoughts and feelings. We can’t control the things that are said to us or done by others, but we can handle the thing in an empowered way. You may have to let the words roll off of your back at times, but it’s also ok to have real conversations and reactions. If someone is hurting you, tell them. A deeper understanding of each other can come from talking. It’s also ok if you don’t want to explain yourself. It’s fine to have inward reflection and let it stay there.
We live in a “post-everything”, “instant news” and “gone viral” world. The pause is important to remember. We can save ourselves and others hurt, discomfort and pain if we just think. A lot of things that we put on others is unnecessary. A lot of words we direct at others are unnecessary. Some questions don’t need to be asked and some opinions don’t need to be expressed every time. We can handle people with care and empathy. We all have things that we are trying to sort through. Be mindful. Also, side note: we don’t have to cancel everyone either. Imagine being canceled at your lowest point. Judged by your biggest mistake and not granted forgiveness. Denied the opportunity to learn and make good. Those are usually the times when we need to be pulled closer not pushed away. We can correct others without being disrespectful or making them feel alone.
In the end, we can’t turn back time and re-do our encounters. But when something familiar rears itself front and center in our day and it’s a source of discomfort, just pause. We don’t have to relive the pain, frustration or irritation over and over again in the same ways. We have another chance to be better, to act in a manner that reflects growth and give these uncomfortable things context so that we can continue to heal and move past the thing.
Tiffany Reneé is a writer, poet and activist based in New York. She is a free spirit who loves to truly connect with others. She believes that life gives us opportunities to learn and grow daily if we are open to see the beauty in the expansion. Family time, deep conversation, wine, cooking, music, laughter and travel are a few of her favorite things. She’s a soulful dreamer from the Midwest who has always been drawn to the city lights and the possibilities that exist in choosing “more” of what allows you to live a life that you love.