“It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”
~ Elizabeth Taylor
When we’re young, the waiting is one of the hardest parts of life. That’s why most kids will repeatedly ask the classic road trip question: “Are we there yet?”
Waiting for a birthday party or Halloween night or Christmas morning takes forever when your age is in the single digits. The anticipation is delicious.
As we grow up, waiting is still hard. When I was in high school and college—and for (too) many years after college—one of my personal theme songs was by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, mainly because of its reassuring chorus:
Beginning in middle school, I had dozens of crushes on boys, all painstakingly chronicled in spiral notebooks, but I never really had a legitimate boyfriend until age 21. I always felt a bit defective because of it. I thought I must be too ugly, too fat and too boring to merit being “asked out” by a guy.
Even if I didn’t buy into the idea of a sole soul mate, I was waiting to fall in love, waiting to meet that someone special, waiting to be unconditionally adored.
Eventually, I got tired of waiting. I metamorphosed into a sparkly, slightly-slutty social butterfly. I started settling, taking what I could get, letting go of my high standards and ideals. Even so, I was waiting for one of those guys to love me and accept my love. Shockingly, that never happened.
As most of my friends and peers started getting married and having children, I was still waiting for a decent boyfriend and a sustainable relationship. (Another one of my theme songs was by Paul Simon, and its key lyric is: “You don’t feel you could love me/but I feel you could.” That about sums up my love life in my 20s.)
Finally, at 29, I quit waiting and moved to Guatemala.
I started studying mindfulness and getting deeper into my yoga practice. I was living the dream—in the present.
No longer was I tormented by waiting; I was consumed with just living life and soaking up new cultures and exotic experiences.
I believe it’s because I quit waiting that I ultimately accepted my solitary self and later met my life partner, but that’s another story.
One year ago, I was precisely 41 weeks pregnant. Late, if only in my mind. That waiting period was mentally excruciating. Physically I was a blimp, of course, but thanks to prenatal yoga and good luck, I had a relatively easy pregnancy.
During that wait, I had lots of moments of uncertainty and fear. I envied girlfriends who’d delivered their babies either early or on time. Irrational what-ifs arose—what if she never comes out? What if I’m somehow blocking the birth from happening?
Then there was also the great unknown of being a “mother,” which at the time I felt completely unprepared and unqualified for.
When it comes to having a baby, by the way, it turns out the waiting wasn’t the hardest part, not by a long shot. It’s the constant care and nurturing. The endless cycle of feedings and diapers. The emotional roller coaster of infancy and toddlerhood.
One brilliant benefit (in addition to the cute, lovable and cuddly baby) is that the patience, mindfulness and compassion required in parenting are excellent fodder for cultivating a more mindful daily life.
The waiting can be the hardest, worst part of life, whether it’s waiting for a delayed flight, waiting in a slow checkout line, waiting (and working) for the weekend, waiting for the next party or vacation… or waiting to die.
Aren’t we usually waiting for whatever’s next and never truly enjoying or feeling what’s now?
Waiting is inevitable. How we relate to waiting is our choice.
Do we fill all the quiet, empty moments with noise?
Are we addicted to playing games or texting or otherwise tap-tap-tapping on our phones and tablets?
Can we invite more space into our minds and schedules?
Can we transform the waiting into an opportunity to pause, be grateful—to everyone and everything—and, most of all, to be here in the present moment?
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Editor: Bryonie Wise