“You are a human being, not a human doing.” I heard those words spoken years ago during a Quaker meeting. After a deep silence, my fellow worshiper had shared that simple message. This week it bubbled up from my consciousness during meditation, no doubt because I’ve been too much a human “doing” lately.
Like many families with children and/or educators, we are bracing for a challenging school year. Starting next week my husband and I will be teaching college English online full-time, while our 3-year-old son, Stanley, will stay home with us. We are grateful that we can continue to shelter-in-place while doing jobs we love, but it will take its toll. The magnitude of caring for a preschooler while attending to our teaching feels overwhelming.
Since our work life and home life have collapsed into one space, boundaries blur, creating a raggedy, nerve-jangling scarcity of time. I’ve had to halt progress on the novel I started writing earlier this summer. It feels terrible to step away from a project I love. To borrow a simile from Tolkien, I’m scraped thin like too little butter over too much bread.
In March, at the beginning the pandemic, Stanley outgrew his nursery rocking chair. We wanted a comfortable place to read picture books, so we mail-ordered a small, emerald green couch to replace the rocker. It’s upholstered in velvet. Stanley likes driving his toy trucks on it because they leave tracks, beautiful arching patterns in the nape of the fabric.
Last night, he had grabbed his favorite Tonka and was absorbed in making half-circle tire-tracks on the cushion when I told him, “It’s time for bed now.”
“I will pause my truck,” he said.
He knew, beautifully, how to honor the transition needed for the next moment. To surrender to it. “I will pause.” What if I said that more?
“I will pause.”
Stanley also knew that when the time was right again, he would “unpause” his truck. It would be waiting for him, just where he left it.
Some things may have to be paused this school year, but knowing that it’s not a final stop, but a brief intermission, gives me hope. Pausing gives me time to gather my attention. Pausing lets me to sink into restoring moments of silence. Pausing allows me to be a human being and not just a human doing.
At some point, after online course shells are built, and between marathon rounds of essay grading, I will “unpause” the manuscript. For now, I am honoring the season I’m in.
Have you ever had to pause something that was hard to put down? How did you handle it?
Wishing you a week of more being and less doing,
Founder of Writers’ Studio