As a child in the early 90s, I watched Bernard’s Watch. Everyone who saw it wanted it. Bernard’s Watch was special, as with it he could stop time, rewind and change the course of events before life continued (with no one realising of course). The only episode I really remember is when Bernard’s friend’s rabbit was about to be run over, and Bernard stopped time, and heroically saved the rabbit. Why this particular episode ingrained itself in my mind I have no idea as I’m not overly fond of rabbits; I did however, want a watch like Bernard’s.
When my marriage began to break down, one of the feelings I regularly encountered was that if life was a movie, 2 years could be done in 2 hours, and chances are, I’d know where I was. Interestingly that was true – 2 years on I was in a completely different place – on holiday in fact, divorce processing, new job on the horizon.
There is a lot I’ve learnt…and here are some thoughts from the buttons of the DVD remote control…
Do you know that ‘stop the world I want to get off feeling’?
I think we encounter it fairly regularly; “too much to do”, “everyone’s driving me insane”, and the weekly recurring ‘Monday morning feeling’. But I don’t mean those ones.
I mean the “my world has turned upside down and I don’t know how to keep going” feelings.
I don’t know whether you’ve experienced that, but if you have, you have my sympathy. I have, and I think this must be one of the loneliest feelings in the world. There is little worse than feeling you can do nothing to resolve a situation, that it is entirely out of your hands and you are dependent on other people and what they do or don’t do, in order to have the problem solved. Humans like to fix things. We like to sort things out, to resolve. When that ability is taken away from us, we want the world to stop, we want to be able to work it out, to know. We want to put life on pause.
Picture a cliché – in my mind a large Victorian living room, heavy mahogany furniture, with a Persian style rug. You didn’t see anyone but suddenly the rug has vanished, sweeping you off your feet and dumping you unceremoniously onto the wooden floor, winding you and making you question how that could happen, when you didn’t see anyone coming. Sometimes you can forget you were standing on a moveable object that wasn’t guaranteed.
In the numerous times that my marriage, friendship and dreams seemed lost and irretrievable, I lost count of the number of people that said to me, “just throw yourself into work”; well-meaning, kind-hearted and lovely people. And the premise and intention are good. If you are working, you cannot think about the problems. If you are working, it gives you something to focus on. This gives your life meaning and stops you from becoming bogged down in the problems. Essentially – put your feelings on pause. My job necessitated this, and I became reasonably adept at putting on enthusiastic, vibrant performances when inside I felt like dying.
For me, far better advice came from a friend, divorced a few years ago. “Buy yourself a box set,” he said, “one with lots of episodes that you haven’t seen before and then when it’s all too much, watch one, and because you haven’t seen it before, you have to concentrate.” Essentially; escape. I wish I’d taken his advice sooner, but when I did eventually invest (Sherlock Series 1&2 – heartily recommend it), it was like putting the world on pause. The series I’d chosen required intense concentration purely to keep up, and for an hour, I could just forget my life. Or indeed, for a few hours and watch an entire DVD back-to-back.
Pausing feelings is essential; it’s what we do while we sleep. Solomon, King of famed wisdom, wrote that ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick’ – it is these moments of ‘hope deferred’ that make us want to pause life. Intensity. Anguish. Unutterable emotions that swell deep down inside of you. To pause these isn’t to run away; instead it is to acknowledge and file, until you can process once again.
Beware the danger though. By all means pause, but remember to press play. The danger of pause is that at some point, it’ll start playing again all by itself. The pressure cooker of emotion will reach it’s maximum and the resulting explosion won’t be pretty. Release the valve, now and again, in a safe environment.
Somehow, putting life on pause in whatever way works for the individual, realigns us with who we are. For that hour, I was just the me who likes logic and puzzle solving and wanted to solve the mystery. Pausing gave my conscious time to relax (my sub-conscious never did). And I’d recommend it. Do whatever makes you pause. Something that requires concentration, that distracts your brain and immerses your thoughts. Chances are, you’ll rediscover something of yourself along the way.