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Pause Button

“On the news, this lady,” Dad turned around in his chair, though he never needed to see me before he began to speak. “All these shootings. She said she wanted to hit the pause button, but that she knew it was her privilege that she even could.”

I nodded.

“Me too, I guess." He paused, the remote control for the time being balanced on his lap. It would only be a matter of time before he would forget he was holding it. I might be on the couch next to him or in the kitchen when the crash came. "Not like people who it’s life and death.”

“No,” I confirmed. “I have heard people say that before.”

It’s true. I had reflected on the give and take of that reality myself, mostly in my professional life.

For example, The idea of ‘pause’ could be a game. A cause for reflection. At a meeting last week, a colleague shared her idea of finding old remotes around the house and passing them out to her campers. Each cabin would then have a guided talking stick to “pause” or “rewind”.

The need to ‘pause” was a mental health self-care strategy for my BIPOC colleagues. Several professional development opportunities had illustrated this reality for too many.

It was not the idea of ‘pause’ that was necessarily problematic. But, asked myself what was I doing while I put the world on pause. Was I learning? Was I reflecting? Was I healing? Or, was I consenting, turning my head, away. In my personal life, I found the why of the ‘pause’ was definitely the trickier question.

In Hebrew class, the teacher asked, “What do you want to talk about?”

“The war,” a student added quickly.

I shook my head. I didn’t.

Our teacher tasked us to list all the words we could related to war. The tilt of their heads told me that many were taking detailed notes. I only blinked at the screen. She added new words for ‘anti-aircraft’ and ‘gun’.

“Two people died,” my teacher informed us. “But it could have been hundreds without the defense system.” She paused the video that had been demonstrating the weapons in action.

“Two is too many,” a classmate prophetically declared, all those simple words, an easy phrase to string together. So easy in fact. So much easier to know the right thing to say about dying, than living.

If I had been watching this class as a recording, I would not have selected ‘pause’, instead ‘fast forward’. I didn’t need these words. I could talk about what was happening with the words I had. I knew all the nouns and verbs to describe that my niece was sleeping on the floor in her brother’s room because she was afraid.

She finished comparing three different verbs for ‘to kill’, each with different contexts. Classmates practiced example sentences. If someone asked me what my family was doing, the words I needed to review were 'dirty' and my verb tenses for 'to fall', because when my local news covered rocket attacks, my brother sent videos of the park.

My Hebrew teacher asked, “Any questions?”

“No,” I shook my head, another kind of nod. One of consent but the one where you turn your head. Turn it away. Except.

Each word I learned, each word we heard, remembered, repeated uses air and takes up space. There was only so much of that around us.

I logged off the Zoom and shut down my computer. The click of my laptop folding together was buried by the smack and echo of plastic against wood floor. Again, my dad had forgotten the remote in his possession. I could see him shrug, reach and resettle this menu of options in his hand. The device in his hand was sturdy and made to withstand his carelessness. No one else reached for the object. True, the ‘pause’ button was one of many choices. The real questions concerned who had the control.


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