Tom Petty sang about it: “the waiting is the hardest part”. The process of waiting can induce feelings which run the gamut from heightened, anticipatory excitement to actual fear and dread. It is an amazing state of being.
I’ve unexpectedly found myself thrust into waiting in a very unsettling place. In an effort to thwart anxiety or worry, I did what I do best. I moved directly towards it in order to gain a better understanding, and extract what is beneficial within it. I spent some time pondering what waiting is, and is not.
WAITING IS UNIVERSAL. We are never alone in our waiting. Everyone is waiting for something, almost all of time. We wait for the light to turn green, for the train to pass, for the phone to ring, for the test results, for the change to occur, for the next kiss, text or meeting. We seem to always be in between moments, just waiting.
Sometimes though the wait is a very long one, perhaps years and years. This usually happens when we are waiting on a circumstance or something outside of ourselves and our control to change. This kind of waiting can test us, wear on us, scare us, frustrate us or steal our joy. This makes the next thought so important to remember.
WAITING IS FINITE. There IS a beginning and an end, although it can be easy to lose sight of that. When the waiting period stretches beyond what our capabilities seem to be, it helps to step back and look for signs of movement. Almost always, there are small nuances we miss that signify progress really is being made. Acknowledging and celebrating small victories along the way helps to bring needed perspective.
If we can identify even a minuscule piece of something positive, it’s like adding a page break to an endless word document. You can just digest it easier. The document itself is still lengthy, but it seems to make more sense. Waiting can be a marathon and not a sprint. Finding a moment to pause makes all the difference in how we finish that race.
WAITING IS NOT SOLID. It is merely an empty space, a blank wall, and what we decide to fill or decorate it with is entirely up to us. It is not an outcome or an end game in of itself. Much of what we encounter within it is dictated by our choices. It’s like tilting our head towards our shoulder, and experiencing the stretch of our neck. It may feel good or uncomfortable depending on our tension, but it is beneficial either way. When we view waiting as the space between our ear and shoulder, and not as the actual feeling of the stretch, we can see a clearer picture of it as just a “space”.
Since there is nothing concrete about it, we can change what occurs within it at any time. Rearrange the mental furniture or remove the clutter from the space, hang better thoughts up on the walls or just step out of it entirely to regroup. We can resume the process over and over again, and sometimes we have to do just that.
WAITING IS NOT EASY. Often, in an effort to find relief from the thoughts that occupy this space called waiting, we label the process. Even while waiting for something fantastic, we may lose patience because we want it ‘now’. We begin to anticipate the gratification, satisfaction, or the possession.
When waiting for something that is not good we may find fault with the process and view it as tiring, worrisome, negative, irritating, or a waste of time. Taking pause and accepting the situation can produce good fruit. It is within the waiting that clarity often comes. We can learn so much about ourselves as well as others, simply by observing how we react to it and behave in the midst of it.
It’s as if waiting is comprised of woven threads of time, connecting moment to moment. If we learn to simply run our fingers over the thread without pulling and tugging at it to unravel faster, we can grow in patience, self-awareness, and ultimately learn to let the process impact us less and less. On the other side of waiting is the next moment. It is simply an extension of the moment before.
For anyone who is waiting for anything, or what may seem like everything, just know that you can feel a sense of peace within it. Truths are there for the taking. You are not alone and nothing lasts forever. The only constant we have is change itself, and the blanks in between are a natural part of each shift. Be gentle on yourself as you embrace it, and seek to understand yourself better within it.