"Press Pause" - Why We Resist the Whole Idea
You don’t have to argue with me, I know it all too well: it is the hardest thing in the world to take a break. To take a deep breath, to. Truly. Stop.
We pencil in yoga between other errands. We schedule a five minute break for meditation. We know we can get morning pages squeezed in in the thirty minutes before work…
But to really take time? To open up to stillness?
We avoid. We resist. We find every reason (and there are always reasons) not to slow down and p-a-u-s-e.
Our resistance is reinforced on three levels. And since awareness is the beginning of shift, let’s take a moment here to peel back the layers and really take a look at what is going on here.
Society doesn’t want us to stop being productive.
We live in a capitalist society that chugs along on our—and everyone’s—productivity. Sure, do yoga (if it means you have to buy all the gear and pay for a membership). Try meditation—as long as it fits in around everything else.
Our economic model insists that the bottom line has to keep growing. This idea of continual growth is not supported when we look around at the natural world (of which we are a part), but pay that no nevermind. In our culture, progress and productivity are keywords that are reinforced from the time we are born. Backing up, storing, releasing, doing with less, taking a break…our culture and our economy don’t know how to deal with these (very naturally occurring) ideas.
More=good, and more more=better. This is the cultural message we creatives have to work with…and it gets us tangled up about how “real” we are. If we don’t have any end product to show for our work, our hours…are we really creative at all? (Answer: yes, we are. We just don’t feel like we are.)
Our family and friends don’t get the concept…sometimes on purpose.
In our closer circles, the people who love us want to support us. And they don’t always know how. I’m reminded of a woman who told me her partner asked her after she shared her frustration with her current blocks and limitations, “I don’t get it. If writing is what you love, why don’t you just write?”
“Why don’t you just write/draw/paint/do that thing you say you love to do?"“
This kind of disbelief can sound like disapproval or doubt even when it isn’t intended to. And it is impossible to explain how some days we don’t get the pages done, or the canvas filled, and that’s okay—we were still working on our projects. (It’s especially hard to insist on this when we often don’t believe it ourselves. Someone else asking this question only turns up the volume on our own self-doubt.)
Then there are the (well-meaning but sort of clueless) friends who think that just because we’re not “at work” in an office somewhere, we of course have time for a phone call, a chat over coffee, or to pitch in at the one hundred and one volunteer opportunities that need us. Sometimes, even without knowing it, they purposely interrupt us because it makes them nervous to think of staring out the window. Pausing, doing less, might open up space in their own lives for questions, for wondering, for beginning to feel the feelings, doubts, discoveries they have been busily avoiding, sometimes for years. They are invested in us not pausing so they don’t have to think about the possibility of doing the same.
When it comes down to it, we’re our own worst enemies.
Even if we can fend off the cultural messaging and set boundaries with family, the voices in our heads are all too ready to jump into the quiet of a lull time, suggesting we aren’t really serious writers (or we wouldn’t be “wasting time”), that we’re fooling ourselves, that we’ll never pick up the paintbrush or pen again, never have another idea, etc etc. These voices are endless, relentless, and really rather boring when we actually stop and listen to them.
So there you have it. Our resistance to Pausing is echoed, supported and reinforced on three different levels: culture, closer circles, and self. In another post, I’ll look at what the benefits of stretching into Lull might be for your long-term creative health.