Microcosmographia by William Van Hecke

How to Pause

Microcosmographia lxiii: How to Pause

Microcosmographia is a newsletter thing about honestly trying to understand design and humanity.

Hallon, I’m apparently joining a couple of friends like Sarah and Ash by, while not having intentionally and officially stopped sending letters, starting to send them again.

I tend to believe that for maintaining resilience, your inherent character is less important than the systems you’ve put in place as a vehicle to weather the bizarre world we’ve grown around us. When challenges come, I hope to have some system for handling them, or to develop one anew. And, well, the past year has put all of my systems to the test. The vehicle is windswept and battered; the passenger is shaken but intact. The theme that seemed to emerge for me was “expending a lot of effort in order to feel mostly okay”. Without the systems in place, it would likely have been “despite expending a lot of effort, still not feeling okay at all”.

The past six weeks in particular have been the real trial. I’m on leave from work, running the household of three by myself. Survival has been my only aim, and I’m pretty proud that my systems have allowed me to achieve it. (I think loneliness has been the worst of it. Do say hello!)

One of the most important additions to my all-encompassing meta-system is a new understanding of what to do when life, or the entire world, or both, get too absurdly askew to carry on as normal. My automatic response was to pause all systems and focus entirely on the sudden exec-level design dash at work, the household distress, or the current event of historic gravity. Surely I can’t be expected to run my systems and keep up with all that.

As it turns out, though, there is a sort of hierarchy to the systems that determines which ones are all right to switch off, and when.

The lesson here was, apparently, that it’s okay to pause your cerebral, ambitious systems for success when things get dire. But it’s not okay to pause your systems of nurturance and well-being. You’ll need those more than ever.