Lots of people like to choose one word for the new year. The idea is that that one word guides your whole year.
I have never participated because all the words people choose–things like courage, love, hope, inspiration, etc–feel sort of cliche and not very applicable to me. Don’t get me wrong, people have done lovely things by focusing on these words. They are great words! Just not for me.
As usual, I was just going to start 2016 like any Friday without work: cleaning some things and reading some things and napping. While I napped, though, I dreamed about how I tend to have knee-jerk reactions that I don’t necessarily keep to myself. My worst offense is text messages or emails received. But I am equally bad about yelling at my kids or making snap judgments about others.
I need to practice “wait time”.
I need to let time pass before reacting.
I need to pause.
As a teacher, I know the importance of the pause. In the wait, something is created. In the pause after I ask a question, thoughts are happening. I let one hand raise. I wait. Another couple go up. I wait some more. A few more hands will raise. Then we proceed. But in the pause others were creating opinions, thoughts, guesses.
In my life I don’t stop and wait enough.
When Charlie smacks Eddie for no reason for the eleventy billionth time, I don’t pause. Instead I grab and arm, I yell about being kind (yes, I see that ridiculousness too. Yelling about kindness. Oh, Katie.) I hustle to time out not waiting for any explanation–in fact, I discourage it by adding, “I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT!”
When I get an email at work (or I suppose from anyone, but really real people rarely email me except for at work…which is a whole other issue. Probably.) suggesting something I don’t immediately fall in love with, I have a tendency to fire back defensively. I don’t walk away, think it over, let it settle in, and then form a logical, rational response. In fact, my email back is probably too long, includes too many exclamation points, and has an ALL CAPS word or two thrown in for emphasis since the reader can’t see me talking with my hands. It’s no wonder people avoid emailing me.
I know most of these snap reactions are fueled by my anxiety, and I would probably be a lot less stressed out all the time if I could find a way to reel those outbursts in a bit.
That is why I am choosing the word “pause” for 2016.
But not just for the bad stuff! Yes, I want to pause before I raise my voice at my kids (and hopefully not raise my voice at them), and I want to take time before responding to people on social media or email. But I also want to pause in conversation. I want to pause in work. I want to pause in small moments.
I want to step back from the crazy after-school-routine of emptying backpacks and lunch boxes and sorting homework from returned papers and planners. I want to pause and talk to Eddie about his day while I look at him. In the face. Rather than give him monosyllabic responses while I dump carrot stubs and squishy rejected grapes from his lunchbox, I want to sit down next to him and see his eyes when he tells me about something that made him happy, or watch his face as he tells me about a frustration or disappointment. I want to hug him rather than mutter, “I’m sure you’ll do better tomorrow.”
I want to take a breath when I am feeling overwhelmed. I want to be able to pause and lie down when too much is happening in my head. I don’t want to plow forward just because I feel like a “normal” person would. I want to be quiet and listen to what I need.
The pause has always frightened me a little. I’ve always felt that I needed to fill the silence, react immediately, be more “on the ball”. I thought that is what was expected of me.
But that is not working for me.
And so I will pause this year.