Holding still is action too.

If you’re any good at yoga you’re likely better at holding still than most of us, certainly better than me. I’m usually uncomfortable being still – not as much physically but mentally.  Ideas are always bubbling up; task lists the elliptical of my life.

Apart from the realities of my life (three children with my husband one of whom has complex medical and developmental needs, running a business and working with my spouse), my personality is one of never being still and that includes my patience.

Part of my life involves working with parents and groups who face situations that require them to develop resilience, a well-won patina that pays tribute to the life they live. Often, during these workshops when we have our open discussion portion the topic of spouses/partners come up.

When it comes to relationships, marriage in particular but also siblings, friendships, parents or extended family, many of us tend to want to turn and run in the face of anger, disappointment, hurt feelings, or sorrow.  Certainly, this is true for me…my feelings so powerful that the idea of continuing feels like a physical burden I just want to drop-kick and step away from.

And yet, it’s discovering that holding still when I want to leap away or abandon ship is sometimes the most important action one can take and a helpful one when we struggle to make a decision about what to do or what direction to go in.

My husband and I have been together for 16 yrs. A lot to some and nothing to others except that given that we the three kids, live the special needs life, and work together 24/7 means our 16 years are experientially more like 16 to the nth degree.  This means a few things: I do actually know what I’m talking about when it comes to significant relationships, I understand the rigors of raising multiple children, and lastly, I am well versed in the break-down-pick-my-self-up again cyclone of resilience building.

Having successfully triangulated the most stressful factors in any marriage, know that when a person who isn`t good at holding still in any respect tells you that doing so is the most important action you can take sometimes, the reason is solid:  there are times when not making a decision is the decision.

Why might this be? Here are a few reasons:

  1.  It takes the pressure of making the ¨right” decision off our shoulders at a time when we likely need the break most.
  2. It creates the space for things to shift – be they our feelings or circumstances – so we can better understand them or reflect on them.
  3. It lets us see the difference between a moment of emotion (anger, hurt, disappointment, betrayal) and an on-going issue that needs resolution or termination.

Holding still is not ignoring or turning a blind eye, and it certainly doesn`t indicate acceptance of a situation or conversation. It means that you are managing to regulate your reaction to something difficult and give yourself the space you need to decide what to do.

Holding still can be a very active thing to do, actually. Because jumping to act is often a reaction rather than a decision and those can often implode things you wish were still together.

And it doesn’t require the skill or practice of a yogi or a monk to do it.

What does it take?

Mostly, it takes telling yourself that you are making the decision to hold still. Then, it’s about observing how your thinking and feelings about the person or situation change with even a little bit of time.  Maybe for you it can include making lists or writing a letter that you will not send.  I’m not the expert on what the decision might look like after you’ve held still for a bit to give yourself the time you need, but I do know that holding still is as active a thing to do as rushing to action.



A Valiant Valentine’s

I locked myself in the bathroom on Saturday. Not for long….but long enough to get my head back to together.

My all-knowing husband suggested that we spend a day together – alone: no kids, no responsibility. I was as thrilled and excited by the prospect of being alone as I was nauseated by the idea.

The idea was to drop the girls off at my mother-in-law’s and take off for a day at a Nordic spa. He told me about his idea 10 days in advance, which means that I enjoyed 10 days of stomach aches off-set by giddy elation.

Sidled right up to that angst was the cold, heart-gripping fear that I would have to shove my body into a bikini in the dead of winter when no part of my flesh has seen the light of day for months. Hair has been acting  as my body’s extra layer of protective warmth against Montreal’s winter months. Now, I’m bare as a skinned hare and as I leaned against the bathroom door to bar entry from a probing husband I contemplated when I had lost my mind that a date with a sexy, funny, fabulous man would have me cowering in the bathroom instead of thrilled that I had been asked out.

And as I stood there,  I decided that maybe I was crazy but I was definitely not stupid. I slipped on a two-piece, sucked in my stomach and turned to look at my profile. That would do….most of the time  I would be underwater or in the haze of a wet sauna anyway.