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From Rush Hour to Rest Hour: Finding Joy in Life’s Pauses

By Mary Flett April 13, 2024 Mindset

Here I am, waiting for Spring to arrive and Winter to finally release its grip, and I feel like I am stuck in rush hour traffic. I am idling and unable to move forward until others move first, and I have no power or influence to get them going. The folks behind me are waiting for me to move on so they can get to their destinations, and I feel the pressure of trying to comply. What’s the hold-up?

I am a fickle waiter. Depending on my mood, blood sugar levels, available distractors, and what is causing the delay, I can be generous, judgmental, and/or downright snarky. Being placed on hold on the telephone will result in my snarky rising to the top. Waiting for wildlife to cross the road or a beautiful sunset to reveal itself brings out buckets of generosity. Anything in between these demarcation points falls into judge-y.

Opportunities for Personal Growth

To be clear, this relates exclusively to my own behavioral set of “opportunities-for-personal-growth.” For example, even though I am trained to be a good listener, all too often I find myself completing whole conversations in my head and interrupting the person I am conversing with because they are taking too long to come to the point. Turns out, this is not a good strategy. Seems as if I have, on occasion, been wrong in my inner dialogue and my outward comments end up being misdirected or irrelevant.

I also have a knack for finding the slowest line for check-outs. My technique is primarily visual. I try to find a line where there are the fewest individuals waiting. What seems to be faulty with this technique is that the number of individuals in a line apparently does not have any bearing on the number of items being checked out, the ability or inability of the customer to find ways to pay for the goods, and/or the capacity of the checker to scan, bag, and complete the transaction. All these elements contribute to my being kept waiting!

Why Can’t People Drive Right?

And then there is driving. Let me state for the record that I have been accused of being a lead-foot. I like speed. Over my many years of safe driving, I have had one or two occasions to spend time in the company of highway patrol officers who have encouraged me to enjoy the scenery at a slower pace. Advice, I assure you, I have taken to heart. At least until I am out of their radar range.

Since I live in a community that is both a tourist destination and replete with aging drivers, I have increased my capacity for tolerating odd driving habits. But it is proving to be particularly challenging at present.

Between folks who are following disembodied voices on their GPS (and who have no clue where they are or where they are going), and locals who have well-established routes to get to points A and B, I frequently find myself crawling at a snail’s pace behind one or more of these drivers, my blood pressure stratospheric and my adult brain sending frantic instructions to my reactive brain to restrain myself from honking my horn and using sign language.

I beg your forgiveness for playing on stereotypes, and, certainly hold myself as an exception, having never gone slowly or gaped at the scenery. Not ever. Not once.

Double Standards Apply Here

I wish I was as perfect as I demand others be. But I struggle with setting appropriate boundaries and screwing up my courage to ask for what I need and not completely falling apart if I don’t receive it. I still swear out loud when I am frustrated with my own limitations. I know I disappoint myself and I strongly suspect I disappoint others at times.

Still, more often than not these days, I find I am able to catch myself in these behaviors and just smile. In these moments of awareness, my foot comes off the accelerator, my inner dialogue reverts to observations rather than judgments, and I take a bit of pride in being efficient and able to move on with my day.

In observing my own imperfections, I am finding fewer in others. I am finding more space and capacity for the possibility that my first impression may have been slightly skewed. My jumping to conclusions covers less acreage and gives me more chance at recovery if I have misjudged. These remarkable shifts only come with age and experience.

What Are You Waiting for?

So, here I am stuck waiting. Because I can’t go forward at the pace I want and I can’t distract myself with creating care plans for the rest of the world, I am left with figuring out just what it is I am waiting for. And the answer to that question is, “Depends…”

Sometimes I am waiting for things to be over; for pain to end, for sadness to lift, for anxiety to be replaced with a sense of control and safety. And sometimes I am waiting for the other shoe to drop or good news to arrive. Sometimes I am waiting for words to come or names to go with faces. Sometimes I am waiting to be loved again.

When I have tasks to accomplish, like writing this, or attending a class, or meeting up with friends, the waiting is easy. Without the tasks to distract me, my mind will often run away with catastrophic contingencies (especially at 3:00 am!) or else just drift off into a space that isn’t quite sleep but isn’t being awake either.

Finding Joy in the Pauses

Joy is found in the pauses. Kind of like breathing. When I inhale and hold my breath, there is moment just before the exhalation that is sweet anticipation of release. And when I exhale completely, there is that sweet empty space where I can rest before filling my lungs once again. These pauses are just another form of waiting, but they are anything but stuck.

I have decided to seek out the pauses. To celebrate them when they present themselves. To make good use of the time I have in the suspension between what may happen and what has happened. I am putting my energy into seeking more joy.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have patience when things go slower than you like? Is waiting difficult for you? Do you take waiting as an opportunity for self-growth? What have you learned about yourself in those moments when you need to slow down?

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Great article that I completely resonate with.

Mary Flett



I started laughing at these kinds of things. It really makes a difference. Things ultimately get resolved or we learn to live with them. The clock is ticking. Best to enjoy your own good company and work things through with some laughter.

Said by someone who wants things done yesterday. Or who did.

Mary Flett

Glad to know I am not laughing alone! mlf


Well said ….am learning n get inspired each time i read your article…cheers

Mary Flett

You are very kind! Most happy to have your eyes on my words!

Viktoria Vidali

Delightful article, Mary. I enjoyed your sense of humor, and particularly this point you made: “These pauses are just another form of waiting, but they are anything but stuck.”

In public speaking, as you may know, pauses are powerful. People tend to want to fill up every empty space, but it’s in stopping that you are able to underline points or allow people to take in the message you are communicating.

Mary Flett

Thank you!

Elta Woodliff

I loved this commentary! I totally identify with it and only wish I had the power to write so expressively.

Mary Flett

Glad you could identify! Thanks for reading!

The Author

Dr. Flett is a keen observer of all things related to aging, and is known for her unique ability to bring humor and clarity to complex and emotionally challenging topics. She passionately shares her 30+ years’ experience as a psychologist in how to age better and age well.

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