The Pause That Refreshes

Stop. Breathe. Come from a place of choice.

The morning wasn't going so well. My younger son, Jeremy, was dilly-dallying at the breakfast table. We had gotten up late and didn't have much time to get dressed, eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and get to school on time. “Come on, hurry up,” I kept pushing. “We’ve only got fifteen minutes.” I was rushing around like a crazy woman and Jeremy was sitting there playing with something instead of making any move to get ready. In fact, he got slower the more I demanded him to hurry up. He didn't like the breakfast I fixed. He couldn't find his shoes. He went to find his shoes and stopped to play with the cat. And even though I’ve been a student of Nonviolent Communication for four years, all that training went out the window when he got tired of my imploring him to hurry up and yelled at me to “just shut up!”

I was at the refrigerator. I threw the milk in and slammed the door. I made a guttural angry “ugggghhhh” sound and walked over to the table with my hands on my hips. I was about to let him have an earful of how I was doing all the work--fixing breakfast, packing lunch--when all he had to do was eat and get his shoes on. And he couldn't even do that!

And then I paused. And it was enough of a pause for a thought to enter my head, “You have a choice here.” I stood that way silently for a moment, flush with anger. The debate inside me was huge. My old brain wiring was telling me to react in my habitual way of blame and shame. My heart was telling me to take a break, calm down, and get in touch with my intention of how I truly want to relate to my son. Jeremy was looking up at me with just as much anger and defiance in his eyes. I said, “I’m going to my room. I’m too angry to talk right now.”

Up in my room I started pacing. I just let my angry thoughts ramble for a while. “Why do I have to do all the work around here? Why is everything so hard? Why can't I have a calm easy morning? Why does he have to ruin my day? Why is he so uncooperative? Why can't he just do what I say do? Why does it have to be so hard? Why is my life so hard? Why can't something be easy for a change?” The anger slowly turned into sadness as I got in touch with how much I longed for calm and ease in my life. And how often those needs were not met for me as a working mother of two young boys.

I kept walking back and forth in my room. I remembered the Nonviolent Communication retreat I had attended earlier in the year where I had learned about the “Living Energy of Needs” and I decided to try an exercise I had learned there. I tried to think of a time when my needs for calm and ease were met and how it felt. I thought of the time when I was on silent retreat in the Rocky Mountains. The memory of wide-open space and the quiet of nature came flooding into my senses. Instantly, a phrase popped into my mind…“it feels like butter.” I laughed. Where did that come from? “It feels like but-tah.” In my mind I saw soft creamy butter spreading with ease on a slab of toast. Then a long beautiful satin scarf floated into my mind. It was a soothing lavender color. It flowed like a wave in the gentle breeze. So soft and billowy. Ahhhh….my walking slowed to a meditative pace. I was beginning to feel peaceful in my body. I took a few slow steps around the room saying “calm” and “ease”. Then an image of water formed in my mind. A pond, its surface as smooth as glass. The reflection of the moon and stars was shimmering on the surface. Somehow I knew it was deep, deep water. I breathed the stillness into my body. “Calm.” “Ease.” Ahhhh….this is what it feels like when I have ease in my life. Butter. Satin scarves. Still water.

By the time I walked back downstairs I felt like I had been on vacation to the Bahamas. Of course, things hadn't changed much in Jeremy’s world. He welcomed me with “It’s about time! Now we really are going to be late. Thanks a lot Mom.” I said, “That’s okay. I’m feeling much better.” And I calmly finished packing his lunch and helped him find his shoes and smiled at him as he got in the car. We had a quiet drive to school and I went in and signed the tardy slip. As I left, I said, “love you” and he said, “love you too, Mom.”

I learned that day that it is possible to have peace within even when it is not very peaceful outside. And I’m grateful for that moment of pause. It gave me a chance to make a choice in how I responded to Jeremy. My choice was to own what I was feeling and to do the work of getting in touch with my needs. That choice was very different from my habitual response of yelling, blaming and shaming. I’m glad I took that vacation to the Bahamas instead.

The author, Sherri Boles-Rogers, is a Recognized Facilitator of GaNVC.