How We Wait

How We Wait October 28, 2021

When I was a kid, there was nothing worse than waiting. I would whine, cry, throw a tantrum. I didn’t like it, to say the least. My parents were bombarded with questions like, “when is grandma getting here?”, “How much longer until my birthday?”, and the classic “are we there yet?”

As an adult, my tantrums are more subtle. But waiting is still the worst part of being human.

Waiting is a long walk into uncertainty. You don’t know if something is really going to happen. Or if anything is going to happen. In the meantime, plans could be derailed, kingdoms fall, and all sorts of other unforeseen possibilities. The sky itself, I so often hear, might possibly descend.

When we want things, we want them in the here and now. Waiting is excruciating.


Two-Sided Coin

When I was a kid, there was nothing better than waiting. The anticipation of Christmas morning had me buzzing all of Christmas Eve. The excitement of grandma’s visit had ideas of joy and expectation swirling in my head.

Thus began my long and complicated relationship with waiting. It persists today.

Waiting is a long skip into hope. Anything could happen. You could be surprised into joy, kingdoms could arise, dreams fulfilled.

When we want things, it drives our energy to pursue those things. That drive is often as rewarding as the thing itself.

A few years ago, we realized that, although Kylie loves surprises, I don’t really like them. It is not that I hate surprises. It is not about control, for me. At least, I don’t think it is. But what a surprise robs me of is the expectation. I’d rather plan and look forward to a vacation over Kylie waking me up and telling me to fill a suitcase. The sudden joy is increased. The prolonged joy sacrificed. I like when Kylie gets me gifts to an event I can look forward to.


How We Wait

Waiting, painstakingly, reminds us we are not in control. It also, joyously, reminds us that possibility exceeds our imagination. And we live in that tension, so often trying to quell it.

We tend to think what we are waiting for is going to be our last season of waiting. We get blinders on in this regard. We want what we want and are sure when we have it, the wanting will be over. So, we wait. And sometimes we get something, only to discover we have to wait more.

We are waiting for the next event, relationship, circumstance, or product as if it is the key to happily ever after. No more waiting there; just a smooth sailing into the sunset. It is the way people think about marriage and retirement and everything in between.

The truth is every season of waiting just begets another.

Waiting is an ever-present, inevitable aspect of our everyday lives. We will never escape it. Our feelings about it will continue to be complicated, but we will wait nonetheless.

So often, I think the key to waiting is the question, “what am I waiting for?” 

This feels less and less right the more life I experience. “What am I waiting for?” presupposes that waiting is about getting. The destination is the point of the process. If we wait for the right thing, waiting will be a) worth it and b) conclusive. 

There may be some truth to this, but I no longer think it is the key.

“What am I waiting for?” turns my thoughts to an imagined future. Which, however helpful, inspiring, hopeful, etc., it is not reality. After all, I have to figure out how to live in the here and now. I have to be present. I have to wait, today.

So, the key is not what we are waiting for and it certainly isn’t about figuring out how to sidestep waiting. 

The key to life is how we wait. I can’t overstate this enough. How do we think about waiting, in what ways does it affect our behavior and drive our emotions? Waiting is a great magnifying glass. And it hones in on character. How we wait reveals who we are.

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