You head out to a movie theatre to watch the latest blockbuster. (It hasn’t happened for a while, we know.) Popcorn and drink in hand, you find a seat with a good view of the large screen (or at least a decent view of it). The lights dim, the coming attractions have played, and you are ready to settle in for the film. The movie starts, and you are right into the flow and rhythm of whatever story unfolds before you. That’s when it stops. The image…paused. The sounds…silenced. An inconvenient interruption, but it’s just that: an interruption. So you (hopefully) exhibit some patience and wait for things to resume. And when they don’t, whether or not the interruption is accompanied by explanation (or a refund or raincheck), you leave.
The next day, at home, you sit to watch a movie on your home screen. You’re all settled in…and the power goes out. Again, you probably don’t wait too long to evaluate the situation before the interruption flips a switch in your brain somewhere that takes it from a minor inconvenience to a disruption that requires a change of plans.
I’m reminded of a performance of The Tempest that I saw once at Stratford Festival. The incomparable Christopher Plummer played the role of Prospero and, during the performance, when a portion of the stage was in the process of being raised on hydraulic lifts, the loud reverberating crunch of wooden floorboards was heard throughout the theatre. The next thing we knew, the floorboards broke in two with that portion of the stage partially having been raised. The actors skillfully played around the disruption. A combination of self-discipline, a clear idea of what they needed to do, and the joint collaboration of the team enabled the act to end mostly as intended. At the close of that act, various stagehands flowed out from the wings to do their part and the remainder of the show continued with repaired floorboards.
These examples speak to how people might handle interruptions or disruptions to routines and expectations. Some show patience while waiting, and adjust plans if needed. This approach demonstrates flexibility and minimizes distress about not achieving expectations. What happens, though, when we decide to change those plans and it seems like so much is paused, closed, or unavailable? What happens when our options to change those plans become limited? What happens when we have a tough time figuring out what to fill our time with?
That’s when an opportunity arises to re-evaluate. To re-evaluate what? Perhaps a lot of things. You can re-evaluate your goals, what you do during the day, if what you do is helping you to meet those goals, and to even practice new ways of achieving those goals. You can re-evaluate your friendships and relationships, and your attitude to all that is not you. For instance, whether when talking to those around you or when hearing or seeing current events unfold, do you tend to lean towards ‘critical’ or towards ‘understanding’, and how well is either of those approaches working for you?
At some point, a pause is more than a pause. It’s an indication that we’re not getting out of a situation what we want, and we’re not going to. After all, we can only sit in front of a darkened screen waiting for the movie to start, for so long. That leaves us with two choices: continue to view the situation as a pause and wait for things to get better, or find a new way to move forward. The irony is that moving forward at times might involve staying still—not staying stuck, but staying still. Staying still to take stock and evaluate a variety of things, so that there is clarity moving forward again. To an extent, we can do this ourselves. At times, it may be helpful to speak to others to help with that.
The show must go on has been said countless times with an accompanying determination to carry on. This too is a time to carry on.