Have you noticed “wait” seems to be a four-letter word in our culture? We’re just not accustomed to waiting; waiting feels all wrong in our push-button world. Through the process of waiting for several sets of medical test results, I have come to believe waiting should be comprised of one part doing and nine parts being.
There’s an old English axiom, sometimes attributed to John Wanamaker: “Do the next thing.” When restlessness has laid hold to my waking hours, when I am too brain-weary to do anything meaningful, yet too keyed up to do nothing at all, I hear this saying knock around in my skull. “Do the next thing.” Start the next load of laundry, balance the checkbook, check email, make a pan of homemade chicken pot pie to share at work. Each of these becomes, for me, an act of worship, of reverence for this thing called Life. They are small investments in the continuity of things, even those that feel delayed by waiting. They create small movements that counter my natural inclination toward soul-sucking, navel-gazing inertia.
And we’re good, we Americans, at doing, but we’re not so adept at this business of being, of hearing what our souls are longing to tell us, of listening to the world around us and finding where we’re cooperating with the Universe and where we’re not. Waiting has granted me the opportunity to ponder, observe, reflect. It is when I have breathed into the waiting rather than wrangle against it that I have become its student. And these are some truths that have emerged from the process:
• In waiting, I have learned to acknowledge my fears. “What if . . . ?” With no resolution in sight, I have called my fears by name, let them have their say, and then decided what role, if any, I will assign them in my day-to-day life.
• I am more sensitive to others’ hurts and disappointments. When there is no resolution in their situation or when the denouement in one plot line of their life-journey doesn’t align with their hopes, I want to be as supportive and understanding as possible. We are, after all, all co-sojourners in life and, thus, co-thumb-twiddlers.
• I see the gift in small things – a day without aggravation, cars that run, phone messages that get returned, a breeze, a flower. These are like sunshine during a soul’s winter solstice, when seeds of hope lie buried in frozen soil. The small blessings remind me that not all is yet-to-be.
• Waiting has afforded me the opportunity to distinguish between desire and desperation, to articulate what is and is not critical to my life and well-being. This has forced me, really, to be my own best friend and caretaker. For example, would I like to share my life with someone? Yes, emphatically yes. Will I become Mrs. Faversham, locked away in the attic of my desire if I don’t meet someone? No, emphatically no.
• As I listen to my longings, I have become gentler, more forgiving with myself and others. As humans, we’re all heaping piles of want and thwarted needs. Waiting has helped me peek behind the curtain of human behavior and see that sometimes what is motivating another’s impatience or rudeness is that their piles are obscuring their objectivity. I can only hope my day of Zen-ness with this human condition can touch someone else’s day of despair, and that gentleness and compassion will be returned to me on days when my piles are too high.
Whatever it is you are waiting for – for a marriage to get better; for those who’ve been entrusted with the care and feeding of our cities and nations to get a clue; for test results; for meds to kick in; for loved ones to finish poking around in their scat and decide what needs to be salvaged and rinsed off and what needs to be relegated to life’s compost heap; for other loved ones to commence the scat-poking process, I encourage you to listen to your longing and not be afraid to let it speak to you. Once you have divested yourself of some of the excess baggage that accompanies normal expectations, you will find yourself traveling lighter, able to move freer and more intuitively through your life with the rest of us wayfarers. And when you celebrate your or others’ accomplishments and realization of dreams, your joy will be deeper and more compassionate and more genuine. So, what are you waiting for?
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