Waiting is an integral part of life.
There’s the joyful anticipation sort of waiting … to meet the little person you’ve been carrying for nine long months … counting the days till a birthday or Christmas … the homecoming of a loved one … the long awaited holiday. That type of waiting increases our anticipation, longing and hope.
There’s the waiting that tries our patience like queues, delays, interruptions (and wayward cows, if you're a farmer).
And then there’s the really tough one … the agonising wait to know if I got the job … for the medical results I fear won’t be good news ... to find a life partner or to hope that this month I might be pregnant after so many disappointments.
My first pregnancy was a breeze, almost textbook. My second was a very different story … month after month of heartache and disappointment waiting to fall pregnant. One night after yet another disappointment I did what I always do when I’m sad or stressed, I did the ironing. I ironed the laundry basket empty, tears streaming down my face over every shirt, tablecloth and pillowcase. Eventually, exhausted, I crashed into bed and slept until the early hours of the morning when I was awakened by the smell of smoke. The whole laundry was ablaze. Distracted by pain I had forgotten to switch off the iron.
Waiting can be excruciatingly painful.
Recently a friend waited, watching his wife slowly dying. Long gone was the day that the word cancer ripped through their hearts like an earth shattering quake, demolishing their life in it’s path. They threw everything the medical profession had at the hideous intruder, with courage and hope.
Oh how they hoped and prayed that she might be spared, but it was not to be. At times death seemed imminent but that was not to be either, as days slipping into weeks and weeks into endless months. With all the love and compassion and willingness in the world, exhaustion haunted my friend but he battled on, caring, supporting and waiting with her to the end.
I wonder how we are changed in the waiting?
Waiting invites me to face the reality of my own helplessness. That deep gnawing demand for control that we all know so well, comes up against a situation over which I have no control at all.
I can’t make the checkout person work any faster, I can’t turn the traffic lights from red to green, I’m unable to make Centrelink answer my call any quicker and I definitely can’t stop the march of cancer.
So I’m left with two alternatives. Continue to fume, fuss or stress internally and maybe verbally, or accept the invitation that is being handed to me and learn the lessons waiting has to teach me.
Waiting allows me the space to grow that still axis within myself that is comfortable with helplessness; that allows me to resign my demands for control. Then I am free to accept waiting as a gift.
Having got my attention, waiting enlarges me … it grows my patience, increase my mental and emotional strength and endurance ... it slows me down to remind me what's important in this moment, in this day.
It's a bit like the time spent on a flight between take off and landing. The in-between time which we can see as a inconvenient prelude to the main event or as an opportunity to prepare for what’s ahead ... to stop ... to rest ... to reflect ... to listen.
I think the in-between times of waiting may actually be the most valuable parts of life.
What do you think?