Mastering the art of the pause.


Hummingbird ©2009 all rights reserved

Not that long ago, I saw a hummingbird pause.

It wasn’t the one in my picture above, but rather one out in my yard that I didn’t capture with my camera. The tiny bird buzzed over to a tree branch, alighted, and then…stopped. It sat there for at least a minute, perfectly still.

I had never seen a still hummingbird before.

I wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t caught my eye by busily flitting about just before it landed on the branch. Zigging and zagging as if in search of something, it took me by surprise when it came to a stop.

Of course, it got me thinking. If a hummingbird can pause, why can’t I?

Shortly after I witnessed this, my home AA group discussed Step 10 in AA’s 12 Step Program:

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

It’s a discussion group where we progress through the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, step by step, tradition by tradition. On this particular morning, we read through the chapter on Step 10, and its many reminders that even after completing Step 9, we need to continue to monitor our thinking and behavior. Not just every now and then, but every day, throughout the day.

In many meetings, I’ve heard people mention “the pause.” It’s that self-imposed delay that helps us stop for a bit before acting/saying/doing, thus allowing us some time to cool off or carefully consider our next steps. It’s especially helpful when we’re in the midst of some confrontation, and it can keep us from owing an amends later. But it’s never easy to pull off, at least it isn’t for me.

I have a fairly quick temper, and I’m very reactive. As a writer, I also find it easiest to express myself at the keyboard, which has led to trouble in this time of electronic über-connectivity. Lately, though, I’ve somehow been able to refrain from hitting the “send” button and instead have directed my cursor to the “save as draft” button. I have an extremely full “DRAFTS” folder as a result, but whenever I reread those messages, I’m incredibly relieved I was able to muster that pause.

I’m nowhere close to mastering that pause, though.  As a single mom of two ‘tween girls, I often find it difficult to achieve. Yet as I try to practice daily, I’m getting better at it, and I know this art will serve me well when I soon find myself the proud and frustrated mom of two teenage girls.

These days I’m finding that — when I can remember to do so — it helps me to summon that image of the little hummingbird, pausing.

If she can do it, so can I.


7 Responses to “Mastering the art of the pause.”

  1. 1 Mary W.

    Oh yes, the pause! When I was first sober, I had the word
    breathe on my desk because I never did! I think the step I seem to do the most is Step 10. But I am not doing it as much as I used to. I know how to restrain tongue and pen (and keyboard!!) most days. Progress not perfection.

    Also, I am a human being not a human doing and I need to stop once in awhile. Age has something to do with it now, but I am also aware that I need to rest.

    Never have seen a hummingbird in stop mode. What a delight for you.

  2. 2 Sharon

    For me, the PAUSE has been life transforming…

    Here is the mantra I recite every day…



  3. 3 kberman

    Hi, I love your writing and identify with all you write. I was the single mother of a daughter for 11 years. Then she went to live with her father. Nov. 24, 2009 will be begin my 33rd year of sobriety. I started my recovery blog 5 years but declined comments as I felt I needed to spend my time writing. Foe 2 years I have known that I needed to comment on others’ blogs but I was resistant.

    I love to help people but I prefer to choose how and when. But, because my husband left me for another woman June 12, 2009, I now need income. I don’t know how it will come. And it isn’t important that I know how. I might screw that up is I knew. But, I can tell you with complete certainty, I will receive income.
    We read His promises at many meetings. We just have to believe them.

    For you short fuse, try shouting a word inside your head when that felling comes.
    The shouting has to be silent to be effective. I used to shout, “No!”. Another I had to use was for negative thinking–“Stop!”

    Love, Kathy

  4. 4 kberman

    Sorry– I left your link instead of mine. I guess I prayed for humility. Kathy

  5. C…. I know of which you speak!

    Been there so, so, so many times!

    Glad to hear of this revelation for you. It can be life changing.

    I have hit the SEND button only to find out it was actually the trigger on the gun I had pointed at myself… figuratively speaking. And fortunately I had only ever had the gun pointed at my foot or my ass.

    The pause thing is critical. It is a gap between life and pain brought on by our programmed reactionary thoughts and actions of the past. We learned, rehearsed, trained, and perfected the self-destructive patterns of thought and behaviour that brought us to the catastrophic state of our fully manifested alcoholism.

    Not bad eh? To discover an alternative to setting foot on the all too well worn pathway of self-destruction?

    And a critical portion of this message was carried to you by a tiny bird in the comfort of your own home.

    How is it again that some don’t see there are powers greater than ourselves?



  6. Great post. Just realized I missed this one, but glad I found it hidden in my reader file. As you know, we come to reading things like this exactly when we need to read them most. Thanks for the share.

  7. 7 Sharon

    The Peace of Wild Things

    When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of the still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    ~ Wendell Berry

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