The Waiting Game

I am impatient. I hate waiting. For summer. For Christmas. For answers. For questions. For my husband to get ready. For the dog to go to the bathroom. For anything and everything, I hate waiting. Impatience and I, we have a love/hate relationship. It is my enemy, and yet it is my familiar friend.

The thing about impatience is that it sounds harmless. It’s irritating, yes. It’s unbecoming, yes. But it’s not, at least at first glance, excessively detrimental. Zoey doesn’t appreciate me yelling at her to hurry up and do her business, but she’s over it in seconds. Geoff gets frustrated with me pushing him out the door, but in short time he moves on. I don’t like being annoying, so I’ve tried to fix it, to “keep calm and wait,” but my attempts thus far have been admittedly halfhearted.

Another one of my less-than-pleasant qualities is that I can be selfish. (Ugh.) This is probably the root of my impatience, and it also the root of a recent pressing need for change. Embarrassingly, it has taken twenty-six years for me to realize that this impatience hurts no one more than me, and not in a harmless, bothersome way, but in a serious way that I wish I’d recognized sooner.

The way I see it, life isn’t filled with brief moments of waiting. Life is waiting. We do more waiting than we do doing. We spend the weekdays waiting for the weekend, we spend the weekend dreading (a form of waiting) the weekdays. During painful times, we wait for joy. During joyful times, we dread pain. We wait and we wait and we wait. And meanwhile, those of us who don’t like to wait, don’t know how to wait, waste every one of those moments thinking that the moment worth living is coming, when the moment worth living is actually happening. So we miss it. We miss life.

Impatience is actually a form of insecurity. People who are impatient like to be in control. That’s why we worry during periods of waiting, because we feel helpless. As if worrying matters, as if worrying means altering the outcome of whatever it is we’re waiting for. What’s worse, impatience makes anticipation, which has potential for enjoyment, miserable. The uncertainty that accompanies waiting, I believe, can be more than just bearable. It can be pleasant. After all, isn’t the road trip usually better than the destination? When we’re impatient, we’re oblivious to the good stuff. The best stuff, in fact.

Eckhart Tolle, a well-known author and philosopher, can say it much better than I can, so I’m going to go ahead and let him close this entry: “If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.”


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