Episode #76: What Will You Do With the Pause
There are moments in our lives when, for whatever reason, we find ourselves with clear(er) calendars and fewer to-dos or perhaps a moment or a season when our priorities are turned on their head. If we don’t pause from time to time (or honor the pause that finds it way to us) and ask ourselves whether the way we are living is actually giving us life, we may find ourselves at the end wondering how we managed to waste this one wild and precious life (per Mary Oliver). The pause is precious. It is a chance to change everything that needs to be changed. To heal everything that needs to be healed. One pause at a time. What will you do with the pause?
Welcome to the Freedom from Empty Podcast: Building Strong, Effective, Resilient Leaders, and Humans. My name is Booth Andrews, and I am your host. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.
If you want to be among the first to know when the FREE 30-Day Well-Being Challenge becomes available again, go to www.boothandrews.com/wellbeingchallenge (or you can click on the link in my bio @theboothandrews on Instagram) to join the waitlist.
And, I am giving you a hint as a podcast listener: my tentative plan is to offer this challenge again in February 2022.
Since I last recorded a podcast, my entire family of 5 got sick. And for about three weeks, I did the absolute bare minimum. As my energy is returning, I have been reflecting on what I want to opt back into . . . and what I may decide to opt out of (or just choose not to re-engage). I am asking myself questions like:
Am I living and working sustainably?
Do I want to make any changes to how I am structuring my time?
Are there any shifts in my business beckoning and is now the time to explore or implement those changes?
Are there any projects or offerings on my list that just aren’t resonating anymore?
What am I excited about (or what feeds my soul) and how can I do more of those things?
What am I going to do less of or stop doing altogether in order to make space?
Am I setting age-appropriate boundaries and expectations for my kids?
As the seasons shift and shorter days call to me to slow down, turn inward, and reflect, I find myself wanting to allocate more time for space, breath, reading and reflection and less time booked back-to-back-to-back with personal and professional commitments.
Have you ever heard the phrase “drinking from a firehose?” It means, to take on or be inundated by more of something (i.e., work, responsibility, information, etc.) than one is capable of handling. Sounds kind of like “life” right?
BUT, there are times in our lives when the flow through the firehose is reduced to a trickle (albeit often only temporarily). A moment in time when, for whatever reason, we find ourselves with clear(er) calendars and fewer to-dos or perhaps a moment or a season when our priorities have been turned on their head. The things that seemed important suddenly seem less so, and other aspects of life gripping our awareness.
Illness can be the catalyst for that shift as can career transitions, big projects that we clear the decks for, moving to a new city, caring for a loved one, life transitions, changes in seasons or school schedules, global pandemics, a new year, a new quarter, budget season (for personal or business) and so on.
I recall the "gap" that occurred after my ex-husband recovered from a sudden, six-month health crisis through the end of 2017 into early 2018.
Because I was solo parenting for our three children while he was sick, I had turned down the volume on all of the other commitments in my life; winding down my consulting clients and going in-house part time with a former client who now became my employer.
That was it. That was the list (although plenty overwhelming at the time). Care for the children. Earn income.
One could say that I turned the valve on the fire hydrant so that the water flow through the proverbial firehose was just down to a trickle.
As he recovered, and the employment scenario turned out not to be a good fit, I found myself in a gap, and I had a choice.
I could call all of my former clients and say, "Hey! I'm back." While some of those clients had already replaced me, it would have been easy enough to turn the firehose back up to full blast in relatively short order.
My other option was to take a breath. Look around. Consider that there might be a reason why I had suddenly found myself with an empty slate. And to be thoughtful about what I did (or committed to) next.
It seems important to note here that while I had built a good book of business for myself prior to taking that job (work that I was incredibly grateful for), the work I was doing was not particularly aligned with any sense of purpose or enjoyment.
It was work I had taken because I knew how to do it and it would help keep a roof over my head as I was still deep in recovery and healing from my own mental and physical health crisis. Basically, it was work that I could reasonably deliver even though I wasn't operating anywhere near 100% capacity.
I had actually had the idea to start what is now The Booth Andrews Company in the summer of 2017. Before my ex got sick. But this idea had been pushed to the back burner like everything else.
And so, as I surveyed my life at the beginning of 2018, I had the chance to ask, was now the time to take the leap? To create something new? Something more deeply aligned with my story and purpose? Well, you know the punchline now, because I did start my business in May of 2018.
But please don't be confused about the fact that this time in my life was also terrifying. No income meant no rent money. Or gas money. Or grocery money. And those of you who have been following along for a while know that I liquidated all of my assets and was drawing long-term disability from my insurance carrier to survive financially during my multi-year health crisis. You can hear more of this story in Episode #35 of the podcast.
I had a very short runway to figure out what I was going to do (or not do). But I DID have a moment to pause, to reflect, and to decide on my next course of action.
When life opts us out of the rat race for a moment, for whatever reason, I think our tendency is to just pick up the firehose wherever we left it, and to start drinking all over again as fast as we can. Except that there is a backlog of water in the hose from all of the things or people that we put off while we were disengaged. We push harder. Run faster. Try to figure out how to do more with less time.
Often the nightly meditation I do via the Calm app prompts me to notice the pause . . . the pause at the end of the exhale, right before the body begins its next inhale . . . and the pause at the end of the inhale, right before the body begins the next exhale.
We have choices in the pause.
In the process of healing and rewiring old patterns, habits and beliefs the pause is the moment between stimulus and response, when we get to make a choice about whether we will continue to respond in the way we have been conditioned to respond, or whether we will start to lay down a new neural pathway . . . toward a different response . . . one that is in deeper alignment with our truth, our purpose, and our well-being.
In last week’s newsletter, I shared the idea that you get to choose your monkeys . . yes, some monkeys are adorable, but in this context, “monkeys” are the commitments, responsibilities and problems you are trying to solve that aren’t actually yours to carry or solve. If you aren’t getting the newsletter, you can sign up at www.boothandrews.com/newsletterpage (or you can also click on the link in my bio on Instagram @theboothandrews to get to this sign up page). You can also check out the cliff notes version of last week’s newsletter on my IG feed.
Here is where we often stay stuck.
We forget we have a choice.
We may not even realize that we are living a life made up of someone else’s expectations. Or what we have abdicated by saying yes to everyone else.
We forget that we can strike things from our to-do list.
Say “no” (even to something we originally said yes to).
Change our mind.
Do less of the things that suck the life out of us.
And do more of the things that fill us up.
What will you do with the pause?
And will you wait until life hands the pause to you or will you give yourself permission to pause from time to time?
Every year? Every quarter? Every week? Every day?
The more I am aware of the pause, the more pauses I see.
And I am getting so much better at allowing the pause instead of hustling to fill my time with something that will make me feel productive.
And sometimes, I create (and hold space for) a pause on my own, although I admit that is still a challenge.
From time to time, I observe the rat race we are all running with curiosity; this strange way we have decided to spend our precious days on this planet.
Rush around the house putting on our costumes and our masks both literal and figurative masks (clothing, makeup, and so on).
Run out the door, our arms full with bags and briefcases, maybe a lunch bag, a gym bag.
Drop the kids at school (if we have them).
Car upon car upon car upon car on the interstates and spinning through parking garages.
Trains and subways standing room only.
Grab coffee and maybe breakfast in a drive through or at the shop on the corner.
Work. Work. Work.
Run the commute in reverse. Run errands or shuttle kids.
Grab dinner on the run or rush something onto the table.
Kids to baths and bed.
Collapse and zone out watching Netflix or swiping endlessly or back in our work email.
Shuffle to bed bleary eyed but overstimulated.
Sleep fitfully; brains churning with our worries and anxieties.
Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
There are absolutely choices we make within this construct that have value. For ourselves, for our families, for the world.
But if we don’t pause from time to time and ask ourselves whether the way we are living is actually giving us life, we may find ourselves at the end wondering how we managed to waste this one wild and precious life (per Mary Oliver).
The pause is precious.
It is a chance to change everything that needs to be changed. To heal everything that needs to be healed.
One pause at a time.
What will you do with the pause?
Thank you for listening today. Don’t forget to go to boothandrews.com/wellbeingchallenge to join the waitlist for the next FREE 30-day well-being challenge when it launches!
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I look forward to being back with you next time!