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A Lesson from the Lady in Seat 22B (Learn to Pause)

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“Learn to pause or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.” – D. King [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

My flights are reserved for writing.

I don’t rock out to music on planes. Don’t sleep. Don’t crush Candy Crush.

It’s treasured work time where all the tugs and pulls of my life are set a side so that I can write blogs, create posts, layout chapters, and even complete a book (coming in March!).

Which is why I got nervous last week when a sweet, extroverted, older lady sat down next to me and began immediately talking.

After we exchanged some pleasantries I prepared to get back to work, back to the task, back to my life.

But then she asked where I was going? Why was I going there? Where was I coming from? Why? What are you working on? What’s it about?

Finally, I put up the white flag, shut my laptop, turned my head, and focused on her.

For the first time I noticed she was impeccably dressed, had beautiful brown eyes, and an ever-present smile.

I stopped answering her questions with one-word answers and started asking her questions, too. Her name was Susan and she was from New Jersey. She had three adult children and seven grandchildren. She’d been in Denver for almost two weeks with a dear childhood friend.

After saying I bet that it was wonderful to reconnect, she looked back at me, smiled warmly and shared “Oh, I was actually there as part of Shivah.”

Having never heard of it, I asked what it was.

Susan shared it was an ancient Jewish mourning ritual. Her friend’s husband had just died of cancer. Part of the custom in their faith is to intentionally mourn the loss of family members – and to assist loved ones in their time of despair.

Now, this is not the standard that I am used to: showing up, waiting in line, giving a handshake, a hug, a few words and moving on.

No, this is dedicated time before the burial, with more than a week of focused mourning, intentional grieving after. Then various other stages follow for a year. It’s all done to recognize the immensity of the loss, provide space to weep and lament, a network to lean into, and the foundation to begin healing.

This woman flew across the country, to sit with a friend for a week. Not to fix it, not to do things, not to even speak with her for a few days. Just to sit, to be, to ensure she knew she’s not on her own.

My friend, I barely had two minutes for this lady, Susan, before finally deciding to focus on the person just inches from me on the flight.

Frequently, we can become so wrapped up in tasks, responsibilities, stuff, life that we miss the chance to be fully present with the colleagues, strangers, friends and dear family around us.

Susan reminds us, by living out her faith in helping a friend mourn well, that the best part of work, relationships, suffering, joy and life isn’t the race, it’s the decision to occasionally shut the laptop, ignore the timelines, focus on another person and do life together.

And I remind you that this is not a challenge to quit your job or an invitation to take a week or more off for every funeral. No, this is a reminder that sometimes in the race to get things done, we can miss the very reason why we’re doing them in the first place. [Tweet this.]

This is your day to slow down, to pause, to take a breath, and to allow the worthwhile things and people in your life to catch up to you. You may even discover they’re sitting right next to you.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

3 replies on “A Lesson from the Lady in Seat 22B (Learn to Pause)”

Fact check: shiva follows burial. Jews bury their deceased as quickly as possible, within a day or two of death. That is day one of shiva, followed by six more. Shiva actually means seven in Hebrew.

The Buddhists’ talk about the “sacred pause” as a way to measure our reactions to events and people to be sure that our response actually matches our feelings and not just our emotions at that moment in time. Being an “emotional person” this lesson was something that helped me greatly in life as I discovered I may owe someone a response, but I never did owe a reaction.
The same way I noticed my quick responses were hurting my ability to be understood completely, we can all slow down in life a little to recognize what is truly important and what we should be paying attention to. It is difficult to find opportunity in life to grow or serve others if you are rushing through your life and overrunning you chance to see the things you should see. There is a great lesson there as it would be tragic to get to our last days and begin to understand that we missed the forest for the trees.

“It is difficult to find opportunity in life to grow or serve others if you are rushing through your life and overrunning you chance to see the things you should see. ” Well said Pete. Thanks for taking the time to reflect and respond and for ALL you do. Enjoy the forest today. J

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