Solomon and Samson do this funny thing when they are playing. They’ll be in the middle of one of their imaginative games. Playing school. Pretending to be bosses from video games. Samson likes to imitate enemies from The Legend of Zelda. Or pretend to be a character from a movie. The Grinch. Eventually, one of them usually shouts: “Pause!”

Shouting pause, so far as I can tell, pauses whatever game they are playing. The funny thing is that, after they shout pause, one of them will shout: “Save!”

Shouting save, so far as I can tell, saves their progress. Like a video game.

This is funny to me. I don’t know why.

And here I’ll tell you how badly I wish I could shout “Pause!” in my adult life. Save my progress and take a break.

I could have used that this past fall. October was opaque. November was nefarious. December was dumb. Two of those three adjectives were picturesque. One of them was not.

Sorry. My English major is taking hold.

Here we are at the end of December. Thank God that Penn State’s academic calendar is shouting “Pause!”

Man, do I need a break.


I don’t know what it was about the fall of 2021. It’s been a long year. A long couple of years. And returning to normal even though things aren’t really normal probably took some sort of emotional toll on me.

Emotional tolls are funny. I often miss them. I think many people do. Then, suddenly, my body is tired and my soul is anguished. Anguished is another great adjective.

Anyway, this is how emotional tolls works for me. I smile and grit my teeth in the moment of some ugly thing. Then, a little bit later, I recognize that my body is rolling with some strange energy I don’t understand. I’ve been hurt. I’m upset by something. Angry. That sort of thing.

Historically, I hold onto that emotion for about ten years and then write a best-selling memoir. And by best-selling I mean not-best-selling. Worst-selling, maybe.

I do think I’m getting better at understanding myself as I get older. My worst-selling writing helps me figure things out.

I’m 41 now. I’ve figured out all sorts of things. In doing so, I recognize that there are all sorts of things I haven’t figured out and probably never well. That’s part of what makes being alive so fun. And so terrifying. Here’s an existential truth: We know so little about what we are and where we are and why we are. That humility should play a part in what we are as we move through the world.

Being alive is wild.


I’m not good at naming something that upsets me in the moment. Somebody will do something that hurts me. And, more often than not, I’ll make a joke and laugh it off. But then the harm stays with me. Festers. I could be so much better at advocating for myself and setting boundaries in the moment. But I’m not. I’m sure my childhood has something to do with that. I was a peacemaker. Which is a good thing. But making peace in volatile home often means putting my emotions aside to survive a particularly harrowing moment.

Volatile and harrowing are great adjectives.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a peacemaker. I’d rather be that then a warmaker. Or a warmonger. Or a fish-monger. Hashtag Hamlet.

Still, if I could shout out “Pause!” I’d probably stand a better chance at not being complicit when people do things that make me feel small. Make me feel unseen. A joke at my expense that I haven’t consented too. That sort of thing. My self-deprecating humor and my humility tend to open up the floodgates for folks to take shots at me that I often miss in the moment. And process later. Shouting “Pause!” might help me figure out how to less complacent when folks are, as a great man once wrote, knocking down my cardhouse.

All of this is to say that the fall of 2021 was a doozy. And I’m thankful for a moment of pause. My progress is saved and now I get a little bit of a break.

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