On Pausing

by M. A. Sivils

I’ve learned a lot about waiting over the years. Waiting tends to sneak up like winter: quietly, imperceptible as air until everything changes, slowing down and freezing in place. The realization that I was in a season of waiting used to take my breath away in a slow suffocating exhale. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t prepare for this. But there I would be: endure. 

I find myself now in a season similar enough to give me some security, but different enough to still be scary. I am in a season of pause. 

While seasons of waiting lie before us hidden, inevitable, and balanced sharply on our ability to make the most of them, seasons of pause rest firmly in our own pocket of control. A pause is a choice. A pause is active. A pause is staring the thing you want in the face and saying “not yet.” 

For over a year now, I’ve devoted myself to building my craft into a career. I’ve worked hard, researched plenty, sought counsel, found community, committed to the necessity of social media, made lists upon lists and checked them off. I’ve taken to heart the mantra of the writer: just sit down and do it. And so far, it’s been working. 

But recently I had the opportunity to skip ahead. I was offered the chance to grab a hand way up the ladder and bypass a few rungs. At first, I was overjoyed! Shocked, really, and humbled. Who am I that I should get to just hop on up? Like landing on just the right square in a game of Chutes and Ladders, I felt equal amounts of guilt and glee. 

As I waited for more details, sitting down on my current rung to look out at the view, I realized that writing, that “making it” isn’t so much climbing a ladder as traveling through the early frontier. While the publishing industry is absolutely a business, it is still an art, and that means the straight lines aren’t always straight or connected or even lines at all. And people “higher up the ladder” are really just a little farther west on this giant landscape of a million places to go. We can send telegrams, suggest a certain route, share where there’s good land, maybe lend a horse, but there’s no way that we can really give a step-by-step map to one another. We all have different destinations. We are all going to have different ways of getting there. 

Realizing that, I realized I also wasn’t ready. Like I said, I’ve been making steady progress moving west my way, and I’m just not ready to jump on a train. So I said “not yet.” I drew my pause at a time when a lot of people would have told me to run, jump, and grab. That’s my choice. 

And now I’m standing here with my metaphorical workhorse, watching the train speed on without me, and looking out on all the land I’ll now have to cover on foot. This is what it looks like to pause. 

While waiting seems to freeze your whole world, pausing freezes nothing. If anything, it invites further action. I can remember as a little girl pausing Little House on the Prairie so that I could run to the restroom. My sister would run for another stuffed animal; my brother would sprint to the kitchen for cheerio’s.

I’m hoping this pause works the same way. Rather than charging ahead into the great frontier, or enduring winter waiting for another train, I’ve decided to pause, make camp, and get busy doing some other work for a while. When the time is right, I’ll pack up and keep going. 

For the one searching for more:

If life were but a sum

of fast moving trains

and aerial views of cityscapes,

then tell me, what would there be to gain?

What would there be to look forward to

if everything were laid out before you,

and opening a hand was all you had to do?

Slowly, but inevitably, you would

overlook the most beautiful things.

You would no longer see the story of things

that took time before they came to be.

You would make light of moments

that made you yourself,

failing to see that you are not

a polished artifact on a shelf, 

but clay in the hands of the Potter Himself, 

on a wheel, spinning through and through.

Though it feels, at times, it is out of control, 

it is actually the tangible process

of Him making you whole,

into something much more 

than a series of moments

too good to be true.

It is slow intentional process

of Him showing you the real you.”


When I see her, I will un-pause and go.