The lessons of waiting

Waiting for important information is never easy. You know how it is. You are filled with anticipation. You keep looking at the clock. Your mind is a Tilt-a-whirl of scenarios and possibilities. You don’t know what’s coming. Is the answer yes or no? Is the news good or bad? You have no idea. Your wait has emotional heft. It is hard to contain yourself, much less put your focus on something else.

However, in an effort to maintain control and feel productive, you try to distract yourself by making a call, getting a cup of coffee or reading a magazine. It is difficult to concentrate. Everything in your being is geared towards the information you’re expecting at any moment. You find yourself hypervigilant. You listen for sounds that might signal that what you’re waiting for is at hand, be it the sounds of footsteps, the turn of a doorknob, the ping of an incoming e-mail, the buzz of a text message or the ring of the phone. You keep looking for some small sign that your wait is nearly over. Every fiber of your being is awake and alive and readied for whatever is to transpire. You have played out every possible outcome in your mind.

And you still wait. Time crawls. The tension is palpable. Your mind is solely dedicated to hearing the news and finding sweet release from your anxiety. Your body tightens, clenches, wiggles or rocks in a pull towards equilibrium. Everything about you is readied for the long-overdue response.

Time has now become a determining factor in your thinking. Too much time might mean this; too little time could mean that. You find yourself becoming irritated. The waiting drains your energy.

You discover that waiting, itself, is a fiercely private matter. Even if others are involved in the waiting process with you, each person’s waiting may be experienced differently. Some might liken it to Dante’s layers of hell; stoics may simply find waiting an inevitable reality and take it in their stride. The defeatists are resigned to expect the worst possible outcome; they slump and sigh in passive knowing that life is always hard. The optimists are positive and hopeful; they create acceptable solutions for every contingency. The fighters look at everything as a personal challenge; they are convinced that sheer will can conquer all.

Then, there are also those who are fueled by the tension; they place themselves as best featured player in the drama of unknowing; they create havoc and uproar. Waiting is not easy for most of us humans.

The unknown is scary. It can be anything, good or bad or in-between. It speaks of the future; it can trigger the past. It can portend great change. Waiting is akin to hanging out in a hallway with multitudinous closed and locked doors. You are standing in the hall, and as the song goes, they hear you knocking, but you can’t come in — at least yet. You feel at the mercy of the powers-that-be. You have little or no control of the process.

Waiting asks you to sit with the mystery, and that can be stressful. However, it does offer an opportunity to call upon your Best Self to teach you patience and acceptance.

Waiting can remind you that you are resilient; you have opened and re-opened your heart more than you ever dreamed possible in love, compassion and caring. Waiting reminds you that there are always options, some a little harder to swallow than others. Waiting reminds you that you are courageous and tenacious. Waiting reminds you that your power is not held in the unfolding of the mystery, but in how you choose to handle, manage and respond to it. Waiting is a call to trust yourself, be with yourself and support yourself as you allow the mystery to unfold.

May your next wait be long enough to remind you of who you are and short enough to keep you sane.


“There is always one unexpected little moment in life
when a door opens to let the future in.”
Graham Greene


, ,

4 Responses to The lessons of waiting

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell August 7, 2017 at 9:43 pm #

    Thank you, Marga, for your comment. Lovely. Much love to you.

  2. Adele Ryan McDowell August 7, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    Na’ama, you always add so much to the mix. Thank you for your very well-considered comment. Much love.

  3. Na'ama August 3, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    Yes. Waiting is a difficult, if inevitable, lesson. Can’t say I’m particularly fond of it. Can say I’d had more than my share of it, or more than the shared I’d have preferred to have … Then again, not all waiting is created equal. Sometimes the gravity of waiting and its consequences are far weightier than other times. It can add up. It can also become finely differentiated …
    I’m thinking that maybe having plenty of ‘waiting-experience’ makes one both acutely sensitized to being-made-to-wait, and proficient in applying the gradients of waiting to each circumstance.
    All in all, waiting is indeed a very personal thing. Nonetheless I’ve found it can be oh-so-helpful to not be alone with it. To have someone to share at least the exasperation with, if not fully the experience.
    Amen to keeping sane.
    Much love to you!

  4. Marga August 3, 2017 at 12:43 am #

    Thank you, Adele. This is something we all struggle with, and I will remind myself that ‘Waiting asks you to sit with the mystery’…

    And the blessing at the end — beautiful!