How to Survive the Waiting

This morning, a boy turns to me and asks, “Can you give me any tips on how to wait for something?”

I’m stumped.  I’m floored.  I’m overcome with how sweet (but so important) this question is and how many years of his life he’ll be waiting for something.  Here he is–just a boy–already waiting and needing to know how to survive the wait.

I’m overcome with how much of life is about waiting.  I think every person I know has something they are waiting for.  My own waiting–for the dreams of my children, for the plans I’ve made with my husband, for my own novelist longings–are equal parts delight and despair.  Waiting is the not yet.  It’s a yes and a no at the same time.  It’s the impossible focus on two dimensions:  hope and the reality of now. 

It’s the grand universal Maybe. 

I tell the little boy (he’s not so little now–we’re on our 4th year of walking to school together) that all I can offer is this:  Focus on the great things right in front of you today.  But then I correct myself.  I remember the beauty of longing, the joy of waiting because something is coming.  I run up beside him and tell him that it’s a great thing to wait.  It’s the best thing in the world.

Something is coming.  It’s just around the corner.  Living with flair means we delight in the Maybe.

Journal:  What would you have said to this boy? 

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  1. My immediate response would be practical, because that makes more sense to me than emotions. I have a hard time trusting emotions, and I think that's why waiting is so hard. I'd remember things I've waiting for in the past, and what it was like to wait for them, and what it was like when they finally arrived. Take waiting for a book, for example. If you order it, and then think about it all the time, all of your life gets wasted away–and time goes so slowly–because you're focused on the book you don't have yet. But if you do something else while you wait, it helps the time go faster, and you enjoy life more. However, if you never order the book, you'll wait and wait forever for it to arrive, and it will never come. (Of course, it might come if some kind soul buys you a gift, but that's not my point!) In some cases, waiting for something to arrive requires you to act. You have to actually order the book. And then you trust it will come and spend time doing something else in the meantime. That's one example. And, of course, I'd put that more in kid-speak. 🙂

  2. One day, I was in a traffic line; nothing was moving on the Interstate due to construction. I was waiting. As I waited, I looked to my left into the grassy median. It wasn't so grassy – it was filled with beautiful, purple wildflowers which I could miss had I not had the opportunity to wait and be still. I told my youngest sister about this – she was amazed – she said she never would have seen the flowers, even when waiting. Yes, enjoy where you are now while you wait with anticipation for whatever is to come!