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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Do you ever notice how days just go? One minute it’s Monday, the next it’s Thursday, a few after that it’s July, and then you turn around and it’s six years later.

Well, to be fair it’s more like… one minute it’s Monday, then for the next ten years it’s Monday, then suddenly it’s Thursday and July and six years later.

Either way, it’s very easy to get caught up in whatever is happening without really noticing what’s happening.

That’s why early today I settled on my word, and tried to abide by it as much as possible: pause.

It’s sort of the cousin to mindfulness, but pausing is more about reminding yourself to notice the moment you’re in rather than being immersed in it.

Pause while making the French toast to appreciate the scent of cinnamon.

Pause between loads of laundry to sit on the couch and chill with the people you love.

Pause while walking back from the grocery store to notice the dozens upon dozens of birds lining every branch of an entire row of trees. They were loud enough that their chirping caught my ear over the sound of traffic. And interesting enough that I didn’t even think of taking a photo to document it.

Pausing isn’t really about taking a break. It’s about cold-stopping whatever you’re doing on autopilot, muting whatever has your mind in a whirl, and paying attention to what you’re probably not seeing or smelling or tasting right now.

I paused today to taste a new bourbon I’ve never had before. Really taste it.

It’s one of the cool things about bourbon. You don’t just knock it back, you swirl and nose and sip and breathe and close your eyes and taste.

I’ve been known to rapid-fire cocktails, but bourbon is for pausing.

Today’s was a mellow sweet maple syrup. Others have been apple, smoky wood, or raisin. A particularly interesting one tastes like the basement flooded and you’re drinking juice out of the wet floorboards.

In honor of today’s word, this would be the ideal opportunity to pause and let you know that my brother Brian chimed in on the question of how many cookies we were allowed as kids. Thirty-six days into my word project and the thing that got everyone’s attention is cookies. I guess it runs in the family.

He remembers that we were allowed four, too. He did soften the blow by suggesting that maybe when I was a kid, which was years before anyone else was a kid, I was only allowed three, but later mom changed it to four. You just never know.

Pausing to explore odd random memories is nice, especially if you don’t quite remember them. Then someone else can fill in the gaps and you can decide to agree, or pause for another sip of bourbon and debate it.

Today I paused to watch a video with Ralph. We’ve been wanting and trying to watch it in two minute snippets for a couple of weeks, now. Today, instead of saying, “Hold on, let me just fold the towels…” I left them in the dryer and sat down to watch the video. The whole video.

You know what? The towels didn’t get up and leave.

I paused my entire routine today to take an eight mile walk with Kevin, who may or may not have actually wanted to walk eight miles, but once you’re out and not home yet, you kind of have to keep going until you get there. That’s where I saw the birds.

And a clod of dirt on the sidewalk.

It was just sitting there, brown, with little tufts sticking out of it. I could tell it was a clod. Not a clump or a chunk, or, god forbid, a piece.

It reminded me of the poem For Whom The Bell Tolls. I paused to almost recite it from memory. I didn’t get all the words right, though. I bet that memory is out playing with my memory of cookies.

On any given Sunday in July, I’m pretty terrible about being mindful. That’s why pausing is so important. It’s like WZZZHHHHH!! I’M IN THE WHIRLWIND!!!! And pause.

It’s in those little pauses where you appreciate the cookie, and don’t just eat all four of them at once. And when you listen to the story someone is telling you instead of thinking of your next sentence. Nobody has figured out how to do the rewind button on life yet, so in the meantime, pause will have to do.

Which means it’s time to pause writing this and pay attention to the actual world around me.

Photo: three pours from a blind bourbon tasting at home last week