I wake today to a gray sky that mirrors the shadow in my own heart. The fingertips of softly falling rain reach indoors to tap me on the shoulder, reminding me to pause. I have things planned, the to-do list, but the weather suggests my plans can wait. Today, I will be still, be present, be at home, and I will snuggle in. It’s that kind of day.
I browse through my collection of cookbooks for a coffee cake recipe. I find three in “A Taste of Georgia.” The female bakers sign their names, “Mrs. John Smith (Betty),” “Mrs. Dale Brown (Irma),” Mrs. Bill Mason (Barbara),” their first names follow in parenthesis as if a mere afterthought. I’m not quite satisfied with just one recipe, so I create my own, combining the best aspects of each. I want to give Betty, Irma, and Barbara primary credit, so I call my version “BIB’s Coffee Cake.”
The house is quiet but for the gentle stream of ambient music flowing from a meditation channel in Pandora. The music alone makes me pause. I gather my utensils and assemble selected ingredients from the three recipes. I am a chemist with a beaker and a Bunsen burner. My lab coat is a softly worn kitchen smock, patterned with large, lacy white roses on a dusty gray background with four snaps down the front. It belonged to my Aunt Gloria. When I remove it from the drawer I pause to think of her. I lay the smock out on the kitchen island, lean over, and rest my torso on top of it. I sprinkle it with a few of my tears, put it on, and get to work.
While the cake is baking I sort through a mess of flower seeds scattered on the shelf below my cookbooks. I sort them by annual or perennial and place them in individually labeled envelopes. I find a package of cosmos and wildflowers along with a letter from a very special friend, gone now five years. It begins with “Hi Sweetie, Love ya!” That makes me smile. I pause to remember my dear friend and caress the paper over my heart while I whisper with longing, “Hello, Snookie. I sure miss you.”
When I am positioned at my desk to write, “The Pocket Pema Chodron” book is waiting for me. Filled with some of her most memorable and pithy teachings, it rests to the right of my keyboard, another reminder to pause. I flip randomly and land at page 88. It’s teaching #53, “When things fall apart.” It reads:
Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and they fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
It is during the pause that I create the room for things to just be. It is during the pause that I tenderly contemplate the experiences of others. It is during the pause where the scent of cinnamon baking in the oven becomes not just a passing familiarity, but a deep connection to the earth that grips you with a sense of holy gratitude. It is during the pause that I pay homage to the profound worth of those dearest to me, both here and gone. It is during the pause that I open the door to my heart and allow it to heal. It is during the pause that I welcome and see a vast canvas of emotion filling me with gifts unbounded. It is during the pause that life truly happens.
What makes you pause?