Elongated Pause

-by (the current) Albert Berkshire

No story is ever completed in a single lifetime.
No story is ever completed in a single lifetime.

I’ll start in this life.

Quite a few years ago, back when I still asked people what they did for a living, thinking that was appropriate conversation material, I spoke with a man who answered by starting with, “In a past life, I used to…”

In a past life. At the time, it was my first introduction to the phrase, or thought, or ideology that a person would have a future life, and thereby, a past life. Initially, I understood him to suggest he had lived a life, and was now pack to live another. My most elementary understanding of Buddhism lead me to assume he remembered his previous life lived. Of course, I was wrong.

Call it small town experience. Or lack, there of.

I did question who lives more than one life. And later in life argued that with all respect to those who believe in reincarnation, we only get one trip that we remember, so we’d better make the most of it. Call it a precursor to hearing my friend Bruce say, “Use the good china.” I’ve since used his expression to the point of wearing it out. Mostly, I might add, I use it every time my wife, Robina, and I discuss using something that may or may not be in the “save for guests” category of our social life. Most notably, Terroir Jurassic, Compte, Sauvagine, and a few ash covered gems from my more recent cheese fascination. Robina likes to make things last. She’s a saver. I like to dive in…make a ridiculous grill cheese sandwich.

I’m very much an all-in kind of person. Especially when there’s cheese. I also work from home, so being armed with a refrigerator filled with all the things I love causes me to throw caution to the wind much more than one should. Again, I’m using the good china before the bus meets me on the crosswalk. I think you know what I mean.

I also mean, cheese before death. What a delicious way to go!

So…back to my past lives. The ones before my cheese life.

All these years later, I’m still fond of that chance meeting with a person who innocently, and quite correctly, referred to having past lives. I realized a few years ago that many of us do. We just don’t really see them as lives lived. At least not until we get older. It’s probably about the same time we start to develop an intimate relationship with our own mortality. Pretty much the same moment we hit the brakes on the downhill section, take the ride-arounds, and avoid the drops when we’re mountain biking. Except my Robina. She’s a bit of a grizzly on the mountain bike. Straight-lining is her thing. A faster route to the beer, probably.

We differ that way. I’m more reflective. Also more of an Elmer The Safety Elephant. (You can research that one if you like.)

Past lives, as I came to understand, really meant “when I was that person. When I was someone else before I became the person I am now.” More of a growth perspective, one might say. In one of my past lives, I worked in radio as a radio personality. Actually, to this day, I’m convinced my brother still thinks I’m a DJ. I was, I guess, until the late 90’s. Now I write for the industry. Essentially convincing people to buy shit they don’t need with money they don’t have. But that’s a demon I write about elsewhere.

That past life had a lot of crazy moments. The people I met, the listeners who called, the work I did and the people with whom I did it, all helped shape my life back then…in that past life. We all had our professional crutches. And perhaps, the most notable for anyone who worked on-air in radio, was the elongated audible pause. That “ahhhhhhh” that people used to fill in the space while they were thinking amidst conversation. It’s a terrible crutch that we all tried to avoid, and now, mostly, cringe at the first inkling of it being heard in an interview.

And I can’t help but mention it. Every. Single. Time. It makes me crazier than normal. If we know each other personally, you can relate to my level of crazy on any given day. Well, maybe not relate (I barely can), but at least recognize my form of crazy.

Elongated pauses – audible or otherwise – always make me feel like something isn’t flowing. Like the conversation is disjointed, forced, or the two people aren’t understanding each other, or one has a lot less to say than the other. Or both just have nothing to say. If there’s only one, I guess it’s fair to say the person has nothing to say at all.

Or just can’t spit it out.

That’s been my writing for a dreadfully painful nine months. Nine months. I guess I could have even given birth to an idea in that time. Though any dependents – words or otherwise – would be not be welcome in my world. I just looked after a dog I love for people I love for one night and it was a new level of commitment that just isn’t for me. We did, however, quickly learn who in this house would have been the primary caregiver of children (if they existed in our world), and what each of us would have had for a parenting style. Alarming, I admit, is an understatement.

So in these nine months, I feel like I’ve written only obits and do lists. The latter being only slightly happier a task than the former.

As for writing, it’s difficult to devote so much mental energy to a character and then have to develop an entirely new mental creature. And while I am quite comfortable in saying these new characters that have been floating around in my head are infinitely more my style of characters than those from a former writing life, I struggle with putting their story to paper. I know it. I can write it start to finish, but I just can’t get it to paper.

Seems the only ting that is flowing is a stream of consciousness. And that can make for some oddball writing.

Complete with elongated presses on the pause button.

Maybe I should just consider new characters part of a new life. Maybe in month ten. Until then, there’s cheese…as soon as my honey leaves for work.


Albert Berkshire is an author and storyteller. He does his best to live one life at a time, though proper character development sometimes requires a break from reality. The latter being something his current characters fully understand. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, Albert is found on Twitter @albertberkshire, and semi-socially at www.facebook.com/AlbertThomasBerkshire