The Great Pause and Its Gifts for Living

Those of us who were aware of time will remember 2020 and the great pause. People created a lot of memes bidding farewell to the year. Sure, the chances are that there are other years in our lives that we’d much more prefer to relive if given a choice over 2020. However, the year of the great pause also brought its gifts.

For me, I completed a short book. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it because I never seem to have too much time to focus on my personal writing. Nevertheless, that’s one of the gifts that came out of the great pause. I realized, hey, time’s wasting. When are you going to get on with writing?

Uncertainty Brought by the Great Pause

The older I get (I can’t speak for anyone else), and through this pause, the more I realize that uncertainty is simply baked into life. If you happen to come back to this space, you’ll start to see glimpses of my life, and you’ll undoubtedly learn about how I spend my time. Hint: I do a lot of business writing!

During the 2020 pandemic, I wrote a lot about uncertainty and moving forward in business. However, we have to move forward in life as well. One doesn’t have to travel the world or even leave one’s hometown to move forward. And I suppose that’s one gift that served as a reminder in 2020 to get on with things that are important to me. Moving forward, in my view, meant writing—for me.

A Part of a Chapter of My Book

In honor of the great gift, among several, that came to me as a result of the great pause, I’d like to share a small section of the book I wrote while I was on lockdown. I wrote these words in the spring of 2020. By that point, we were starting to understand more about the pandemic, but today as I write this, we have several vaccines. In less than a year, a pandemic and vaccines—a first in human history.

Stillness in a Tempest

As I sit here reflecting on those early days before the lockdown, I think of the uncertainty permeating through so many aspects of our lives. I recall the early days as a period of rushing to get as prepared as possible before coming face to face with the inevitable—for the fortunate ones—socially distancing until we knew more.

Yet, in the uncertainty of the storm and challenges we faced, there came the point where there was just stillness. We all did everything we felt we had to do, and then we entered into the eye of the invisible storm that descended in the places where we lived until the entire planet was under its shroud. As I heard the birds tweet for the first time in the city where I live, I leaned into the idea that walking on shifting sand—being uncertain—was how it would be for the foreseeable future. Still, accepting those are the circumstances was moving on with life.

I have never had a disease, and I hope I never will, but in my dealings with people who have faced a dreaded disease, I’ve always seen a moment where acceptance permeates their existence. The stillness in a storm is accepting the circumstances, including the great pause of the global pandemic.

There is an idea that I’ve loved written by Confucius thousands of years ago, “The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” I’ve always thought that it aptly sums up how we should live life—be supple and bend with the winds. If you are rigid, the storms can break you during times of uncertainty.

And it was in acceptance that a friend and I talked about larger things in life…

April 23, 2020 During the Great Pause

Not too long ago, during this uncertainty, a dear friend told me she was thinking about the 10 most creative things in the universe that potentially proves the existence of a universal energy or God (whatever your beliefs). She said she asked people for their thoughts, and I gave her mine, which I’m sharing here.

To me, it’s not so much about proving or disproving anything. A universal spirit either is or is not self-evident. Some things I’ve experienced, but others not. Still, knowing they are there, even if I never experience them—makes life just a little more fascinating and extraordinary. So, here goes, and I’m sure others have other ideas about the 10 most incredible things in the universe.

1. A snowflake. One cannot top the elegant union of science, mathematics, art, and nature.

2. Aurora Borealis. Nature’s most magnificent light show. I hope one day to see it.

3. OM. The sound of the universe. It started when the universe was first created, and it still reverberates in nature.

4. Music. A creation of humans but the one thing that is indeed the universal language. It can also change one’s mood and allow us to communicate and connect with others of different generations or backgrounds.

5. Memory. Because it allows us to hold a piece of the past if we wish, and it helps inform our futures. And, it also provides for those serendipitous moments where a song, taste, or scent transport you back to a warm place in the company of people you may never see again.

6. Taj Mahal. One of the greatest expressions of love ever built.

7. Black holes. They are a mystery that we cannot fully grasp and have no way of finding out. I like to believe that there are other dimensions through there, and that’s where our energy goes when we die. (Oh, you didn’t know I had a Ph.D. in astrophysics?)

8. Curiosity and imagination. In a world increasingly surrendering itself to AI and technology, these remain uniquely human qualities and have allowed us to move from the Stone Age to where we are today.

9. The fingers and toes of a baby. Like a snowflake, elegant, and natural perfection. One day, I hope I can kiss the little toes and fingers of my grandchild. But, if not, I will have to borrow a baby. (I just realized I have not held a baby in 15 years. That needs to change.)

10. Love. Because deep affection, caring, and passion for anything or anyone always presents joy, creates peace, and allows us to hope. We all need to love each other more.

The great pause is coming to an end—at the very least, the last chapters are now getting written. Soon, we shall move into whatever our regularly scheduled programming we decide. Hopefully, it will be fulfilling, with more intention, kindness, and peace.

© 2021 My Red Sneakers. All Rights Reserved.

Words Matter in the Negative & Positive

Many of us pick up our phones as one of the first things we do when we wake up. I’m guilty as charged. I do it all the time, and I know I shouldn’t. So, this morning I picked up the phone and doom-scrolled through the news. For some reason, it bothered me more than it usually does. Words matter, and I spend my days immersed in them in one way or another, and today, the stories I read were hostel.

The irony was that although I felt bothered, it wasn’t any worse than it’s been in years— more doom-scrolling about the pandemic that doesn’t end and political venom.

There was also an article about an actor offended by a review. The reviewer was now dealing with the wrath of social media. I read the review, and I read his response. Sure, his words in his piece weren’t glowing, and the actor has every right to respond. But the hate on social media and the prospective loss of his job was a bit much. Unfortunately, it always is these days.

It’s just another day in “paradise,” I suppose. But today, it annoyed me. Where have we come to where all of this shouting, hate, shaming, and drama is acceptable?

Finding the Positive in the Negative of Words

As much as I have a love/hate relationship with news and social media, I still read articles and use social. As is the case for many, social media is a way to keep in touch with friends and family, especially during this great pause because of the pandemic. Still, I sometimes speak up on issues that align with my values, but overall, I think social could be so toxic that I have to make it a point to seek the positive from it continually.

As we know, every negative has a positive. That’s just the way it is in life. It’s on us to make a decision even in the face of a pandemic or whatever our challenges to dig deep and find something positive in our circumstances. For me, one of the things I do on social is to participate in groups related to things I enjoy. For instance, I’m a member of a group that shares photos of old New York. Actually, I’m a member of several of those groups because I love New York. It’s my home. But I’m also a member of groups related to supporting women.

Sharing the Words About Our Reality

Once I finished with my news doom-scrolling, I went on social, and up popped a familiar woman in a group supporting women. She’s had a tough time of it as she battles cancer and posts as often as she can with her words of wisdom, courage, or simply tiredness of it all. In other words, she speaks her truth. In this particular group, she’s got many supporters—including me, who usually comment.

Although her beautiful silver mane, which she lost because of chemo, was growing back to compliment her fierce blue eyes and returned to work, she admitted trouble taking her own inspirational advice to stay positive. She shared that she feels she has PTSD. And although moving forward, she shared she’s tired. We all get there from time to time, but to the point that words matter, there was something that caught my attention as I’ve followed her progress.

We Get Up—That’s What We Do

She got back on her feet, determined to keep going when a male friend of hers asked what she would do to make things better. It was a simple as that. And she wrote, “When we fall we get up. I put on extra makeup…gel in my hair …lipstick under my mask…cashmere under my t-shirt….that’s what we do …we make lemonade out of lemons and we put in the work to be vibrant and best we can be. Life is a gift xoxo chemo in the morning xoxoxox.” The words, “That’s what we do,” resonated with me. So simple, and so true. Yes, that is what we do. It’s baked into who we are as humans. We move on. Her words shifted my thoughts from the negative of what I had been reading—doom news noise—to the humanity we share.

My reply to her in our social group was the following, “We get up. That’s what we do. Even when it’s impossibly hard and we’re sick of it. No one could do that lift but each of us. Sit on the floor for grounding. Then stand. Stay there for a moment and feel the solidness of the ground you walk on and then put one foot in front of the other and move.”

It’s amazing how words from people whom we never met could resonate and have meaning to us—words matter—and sometimes they greet us as we get out of bed. So, we get up. That’s what we do. We move on.

© 2021 My Red Sneakers. All Rights Reserved.