I sometimes wonder if it’s my special mission in life to become an expert on waiting. Not a mission I chose, but one that was secretly given to me. It is not a skill that I would choose to develop. I, like most people, hate waiting.
Just think about that slow driver who made you miss the light. Argh! The injustice of it! Or, how about that person in line in front of you at the grocery who still pays in cash. Who does that? And why? Why!?! Why would anyone pay in cash??? Or how about trying to get three kids into a car — at the same time? Impossible!
The ironic thing is that, as Americans, we don’t really know the first thing about waiting. Friends of ours recently spent a year living in Uruguay. In order to pay their utility bills, they had to go to the actual utility office — the real bricks and mortar building. They had to go on the few days that the utility office is open and pay their bills in cash. In cash, not a check, in actual paper money. And they had to do it along with hundreds of other people there to do the same thing. Can you imagine if we all had to go to the local Comcast building to pay our bills in cash? Total chaos.
I first learned to wait during my thirties. Friend after friend was getting married. My cousin four years younger than me got married. Then my cousin eight years younger than me got married. Being from the Midwest where they marry young didn’t help with the wait.
When my husband finally came along, all the waiting seemed well worth it. But then the wait for babies came. And each day can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting for a mysterious event inside your body to happen once a month. It’s extremely frustrating to have no knowledge of what is happening inside your own body and why it won’t function the way you want it to, or the way it should. Once you realize all the intricacies and specific timing of how babies are conceived, you wonder how any babies ever get made at all.
During our wait for babies, we decided to adopt. We were fortunate that our adoption process went quickly, lasting seven months from start to finish. But those seven months were filled with uncertainty and anxiety. With domestic adoptions in our state, there is no guarantee that the baby you are hoping for will come home with you. A birth mom can change her mind up to two weeks after the birth. Thankfully, our adoption went through and we brought home an adorable bundle of energy with a head full of red hair. Then, all of sudden, six months later I was pregnant.
But my training wasn’t over. After we became a family of four, and then five, we realized our house won’t work for the long term. So for the past six years we’ve been looking for a house that will work. Granted,
we I have a lot of specific parameters we I want, so that adds to the difficulty of this task. We also live in the midst of one of the worst housing markets in the world. What seems like a reasonable activity in most areas of the US, is a seemingly impossible feat for us. So the waiting continues.
There are thousands of books written on productivity and efficiency, along with thousands of products to help you multi-task so you can get more done in less time. But there are very few books written on waiting. And life will involve waiting. But we can’t resolve ourselves to be good at waiting. We have to train for it, and training involves practice. As John Ortberg proposes in his book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, to practice waiting, we need to “deliberately choose to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.” Here are some of his suggestions on how to practice:
- Drive in the slow lane; no passing, swearing, or honking allowed.
- Eat your food slowly. Force yourself to chew 15 times before each swallow.
- Choose the longest line at the grocery store.
- Let one person go ahead of you at Starbucks.
- Go one day without wearing your watch.
My guess is that for the rest of my life, I’ll be learning how to wait. Just like everyone else. As our world becomes more technologically advanced, we have more information and resources at our fingertips and the skill of waiting becomes less necessary and less valued. And the more impatient we become.
This keeps us from living well and enjoying the life we’ve been given. In order to combat our impatience, we need to learn how to wait. The better we become at waiting, the more happy, fulfilled, and at peace we’ll become with who we are and what we have.
“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” — Joyce Meyer
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — E.M. Forster
Practice redirecting your thoughts while waiting. Try thinking the opposite thought of what normally runs through your mind. Can you be kind to yourself and others while you wait?