A timely pause can save your life

Originally posted at http://www.dispatch.com/opinion/20180612/chrisanne-gordon-timely-pause-can-save-your-life on June 12, 2018

We live in a fast-paced environment. We thrive on “beating the clock” from the first sound of the alarm in the morning, or the opening of the stock exchange, to the “closing bell.” We are all part of the race that is modern existence. We text, we Instagram, we communicate in short bursts of conversation to save time — and we believe in instant gratification.

Recently, we’ve seen how, in the NBA for instance, a second’s hesitation can be the end of a game or the end of the hopes for a national championship. In our military, a second can literally be the determination of life or death, and decisions must be made in fractions of a second — and all survivors must live by those decisions.

This past week, we have seen the finality of decisions made, either over a month or over an hour but executed in an instant — an instant when all vision has been blinded and all hope has been abandoned. The loss of well-known public figures Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain reveals how very final this “instant” can become for a family or a following. Every day more of us are choosing to exit this race rather than just bowing out of it, for a moment or a day or even a year. We have forgotten the energy possibly regained by just being still. We have foresaken the Power of Pause!

Video gamers understand this power all too well. They defeat an opponent or overcome a difficult challenge by pausing and resetting or re-evaluating. Or they may hit the pause button to stretch or get a snack, disengaging from the stress and the fast-paced challenge of their virtual life so they can power up and tackle the next hurdle in the game. Our physical lives might not be so easy to pause as a video game is, but the game of life has much higher stakes for the gamer and for their survivors.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week reported that 30 percent more of us are taking our own lives today than in 1999. In the darkest days of my recovery from traumatic brain injury, I, too, saw a potential way out of my pain and confusion through any number of methods of suicide. Unlike so many of our young military veterans who struggle with nontreated or undertreated traumatic brain injury, I was not surviving in an adrenalin-charged state, and I knew nothing about firearms. Fortunately for me, I found a way to pause my life — specifically through prayer — and it was in the quiet that I could power up.

Many memes have been posted on social media regarding these two sad losses. One that resonated with me, a caregiver often expected to show strength and a steady hand even in the most trying moments, simply states: Check on your strong friend.

Just because our society embraces the game of life, it doesn’t mean it can’t also embrace putting it on pause. A brief timeout can make all the difference in overcoming, instead of succumbing, to the next set of challenges life throws at you. A hundred timeouts may be even more important.

Please, to all of us on the fast pace — to anyone who feels hopeless, or helpless or so much a burden that he or she believes exiting is superior to existing — please reach out to someone.

All of us could learn from the virtual world a lesson so very important in the real world; what video gamers have learned from the first day they held a control device — the Power of Pause.

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