When my kids were little, I taught them to say the words “Stop, please” if anyone in the family was doing something that bothered or upset them. I made it clear they had to say the exact words in the exact order. They couldn’t just yell, “Stop it.” Because the words themselves were the cue that you’d crossed a line and really, really needed to knock it off.
I’d say my rule worked about half the time. The rest of the time, I’d hear a string of “stop, please” appeals and understand a certain sibling was not adhering to the rule. Then I’d have to step in, always with a reminder that those words were sacred and needed to be respected.
There have been many times lately when I wish I could say “stop, please” to so many things in our fractured and suffering world. Stop, please, to the violence, the political gridlock, the racial injustice, even the pandemic. The advocate in me does try to find ways to send my pleas out in the world, but I admit this last year my voice came out more as a whisper.
So lately I’ve been focused on myself. What can I stop doing in order to regain my strength, my energy, and my creativity after such a traumatic time? I started by saying “stop, please” to the voices that told me I wasn’t doing enough, that I didn’t have the right to take a break. And then “stop, please” to the voices that chastised me for failing to keep my fears and worries in check. “Stop, please” to the voices that tried to convince me I was not well. And “stop, please” to the ones that insisted I hold tight to old identities that no longer fit. And finally, “stop, please” to the voices that repeated old mantras about output and busyness as the measures of worth and success.
It took months of repeating those words to myself to arrive where I am now, in a healthier, although still pondering, state. It took months to stop the looping thoughts that were holding me back, and to find wisdom in the quiet spaces. Each day a judgement still arises about how differently I’m moving through my days, but if I catch it early enough, my “stop, please” seems to work. Because the truth is, there’s no authority figure (no mom) that’s going to step in and set things right. It’s up to me now. Only I can give myself permission to honor where I’m at and feel safe enough to know I have the power within myself to stop or start anything I choose. Sometimes stopping is the first step to starting.
By Teresa R. Funke
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