I'm not very good at waiting. That is, waiting for a moment to happen. It doesn't matter if I'm waiting on a big thing - like an opportunity that might be coming or a trip I might be taking - or something small, like waiting to place my order at the drive-thru.
It's hard to say whether the trouble is worry, excitement, anxiety, something else altogether. It may not be any of the above. Certainly, I would confess that in the waiting, I'm not scared. It's not fear. Anticipation, maybe. A recognition that something is about to change. However small that something is. Excitement? That one thing is drawing to a close and a new thing beginning? It's hard to say.
But I don't think my problem with waiting has anything to do with what's happening next. It's not a reflection on whatever I'm waiting for, but rather, a lie I've come to believe and I think I'm not alone in this. That lie is this:
Waiting is an incongruous moment of my life.
You've likely heard that, too. You've probably believed it. Waiting is what we do between doing things. So it's not something, but nothing at all. It's a lull in the action. It's a pause. Everything has stopped when we're waiting and so the end of waiting is a big thing because it's a change in inertia. An object at rest wants to stay at rest and when my waiting draws to a close and it's time to move, something in me objects! Even the smallest things feel like big things next to the 'nothing' that I'm doing when I'm waiting. It feels like a dramatic shift.
And not just that. When we aren't waiting, when we're doing an actual something, that something speaks into our lives. By necessity. By definition. Whatever we're doing helps to shape us and so doing something feels like making a bold statement. In the waiting, I'm uncommitted. I am who I am, but what exactly is that? It could be anything. When the waiting is over, I commit myself to being the kind of person who orders the Bacon McDouble. Who does that? If the car in front of me will pull around to the next window, I do.
But in this brief moment, I'm with you. Who does that?
In the waiting, you know that coming up, you're going to have to make a decision. You're going to make a statement. You're going to speak into your life or something else is going to speak into it for you. You're going to open yourself up to some possibility. Waiting, then, is the process of beginning to consider the possibilities and starting to let go of the emptiness so that your hands are free to embrace a new truth.
It's all very intimidating.
The odd thing is, at least for me, once the process is started, the anxiety is gone. All the trouble I have with waiting doesn't plague me between the order box and the pick-up window. As soon as I put my car in gear to head toward a door I'm about to knock on, to see whether it's open to me or not, I'm fine. Between the blood draw and the phone call, I'm okay. Yes, that's right. I am more scared to have the test than to receive the diagnosis. More anxious about the interview than the offer or rejection. More troubled ordering the Bacon McDouble than eating it.
And the only reason I can think for all of that is this: that between the beginning and the end, I've already emptied my hands. Waiting...has become a part of the process. It's the next step when I've already taken the first step. It's not a new thing I'm doing but a new breath I get to take. It doesn't seem as big and overwhelming and defining in between as it does in the beginning.
Maybe because it feels like I'm already doing something. Like I'm in the middle of the something. I'm not starting at nothing; I'm already here and so waiting is the next logical step.
I'm speaking for me, but I know I'm not alone. There are so many of us who can't handle the wait. Some of us cope by staying busy until the moment comes. Some of us cope by worrying ourselves sick. Some of us cope by going early, thinking we can make the time pass faster. If you think about it, you have a coping strategy for the wait. Some way to bridge the gap between what feels like nothing and what's obviously something.
But you know what? I think the waiting is something, too. I think before it's begun, it's already started. I think we can settle our spirits (and our stomachs) just a little by understanding what it is in the waiting that's already happening and recognizing this time for what it is. Because it is something. It's already something.
Waiting is part of the moment.
To be continued...
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