In September 2019, a few days before my birthday (yup, I'm a Virgo ✌️), my friend Jaiar who I haven't seen in a few years was visiting, and after a visit to the cloisters we stopped at the Christopher Street piers on our way back to Brooklyn. It was a beautiful September afternoon, mixing the last of summer's warmth with the soft light of fall. In one month, I'd be celebrating 11 years in NY, and the arrival of my long-awaited green card. Suddenly, after 3.5 years of waiting and being locked in place without any guarantees on how the process will turn out, I was able to fantasize about a future that I could actually work towards. Talking about possibilities, I had a moment of Eureka! on that pier, and a seed of an idea was born. For months it slowly germinated, until it was ready to begin sprouting in mid-March of last year.
What else happened in mid-March last year in NYC? Covid did. In full force. Within days the city went into complete shutdown, as our days were taken over by waves of paranoia and depression. In the dark days of winter, we were locked in our tiny apartments, not knowing what this new reality is all about, how it will evolve, or how long it will last before we go back to "normal".
Secretly though, I didn't want it to go back to "normal". I was all ready for a change, and this forced pause - after an initial state of shock that lasted a few weeks - turned out to be the fuel I needed to push through on my new project.
In "Radical Acceptance", Tara Brach describes taking a pause as "time limited, [after which] we resume our activities, but with increased presence and more ability to make choices... we don't know what will happen next, but by disrupting our habitual behaviors we open to the possibility of new and creative ways of responding to our wants and fears."
With all its pain, grief and angst, the pause we've been forced into this past year in different domains of our lives has pushed (or perhaps allowed?) us to to reconsider our old 'normal' ways, our 'priorities' and actions, and given us a chance to consider new and creative ways to take leaps and embrace change - something our reptilian brain always tries to avoid. Though as time passes, being the highly adaptive creatures that we are, our lives are again full of commitments, obligations, errands, and plans.
What personal eureka moments have you had this past year? What new ideas did you come up with? What alternative life did you imagine and wished for, on the other side of this long, overbearing period? If we want to stay inspired, we need to keep taking time to pause.
In the final days of 2020, I packed up my Brooklyn apartment and spent 5 days driving all the way down to Texas with my partner Bryan. One thing we both felt a growing call for over the previous 9 months was to take a pause from city life and the dark New York winter. Winter down here is nothing like in the north (putting aside last week's disastrous anomaly), and the afternoon glow over the hilly views is a daily reminder that taking the leap and leaving the past behind was the right choice, even if the future is still unknown. If we just remember to keep pausing, we'll know what's the next step that will take us where we actually want to go.