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Pausing

 

I spent much of the week working at home in order to not be That Guy who is coughing a lot in the office. As a result I missed some of the easy camaraderie that appears at work this time of year – another thing that helps signal the emotional wind-down of the calendar, which must help counteract the stress of knowing just how many conversations we’ve all had about doing something “right after the first of the year.”

It has been an up and down holiday season around here due to sudden plan changes, a hard-to-shake cold and cough, lots of work that needs doing, and the slow onset of what finally feels like winter. I’ve taken the season on in bits and pieces, which may explain why this essay by Patrick Rhone hit me in the right spot.

I shrug my shoulders and ask her, “What can we do?” I have a lot of patience for things like this. In fact, in many ways, I look forward to them. Stuck in a line with things I have to buy and no control over the time that it is taking. It is these times I’m forced to do nothing but appreciate the moment. To observe the details of a life that goes by too fast. Mostly because, if not for these forced breaks, we run through it without recognizing that it will be over sooner than we ever think.

Patrick is attuned to those moments that make for a story, the kernel of an experience that in his skilled hands become something more, a story that can be shared. Like all stories that are successful at finding broader resonance than with only the author, this one carried something that rang important: the exhortation to pause and pay attention was a valuable reminder for me. After all, our work and lives are series of events, ways we felt at certain times, most tangible in the details that we think of later. For me – and not uniquely, I’m sure – many of the memorable moments are the times between the work, when I have a few seconds or minutes to reflect.

Working at home, a little sore and achy, I only got out of the house a few times total all week, and my social interaction was pretty limited, so it was a small set of moments that took me out of my head – deadlines, team organization, planning, shopping list, Robitussin – and helped me enjoy this Christmas season.

One of them, believe it or not, was pumping gas this morning. A small front was moving in, blowing cold wind but not yet any snow flurries. I started the pump, pulled my hat a little closer to my eyebrows, and stuffed my hands under my armpits, watching the gas station traffic: A skier still in his boots after catching the half day at Snowbowl, stiff-stepping to the pump; a dude from Phoenix, not dressed for the weather (come on, guy, it’s 7,000 feet up here), hustling into the shop door, it lit by a string of gold holiday lights.

Maybe the cold reminds me of growing up in the wintertime, maybe it was just nice to be out of the house for a few errands, but that two minutes or so of watching the world go by, just waiting and watching patiently while the city’s slowest gas pump filled up my tank was just what I needed. I would be busy again in a few minutes, but right then, no place to go and nothing else to do, was just about right.