Wait just a second.
Wait a minute.
Wait for it…
Are you feeling antsy yet? Do you want to shout, “Just get to the story lady, I’ve got better things to do than wait for you to get to the point!” But what would you say if I told you that waiting is the point?
I know, I know. Nobody likes to wait. In fact, most of us actively hate it. Especially in today’s instant world. Need information? Google it! Hungry? Nuke it! Bored? Netflix it! In fact, we can get just about everything we want with a few clicks of a mouse. At least that’s what Madison Avenue would have us believe. We are bombarded by advertisements on TV, in magazines and online touting how simple, how easy, how quick their products will make our lives. And I suppose it can be true on a surface level… I mean, I love EasyMac as much as the next person. But lately I’ve found myself becoming frustrated at the realization that the stuff that really matters is very rarely simple, quick, or easy.
There is no Google for real life.
And so, we spend our lives in a state of growing irritation about all the things we are forced to wait on – for studio notes, a much needed paycheck, the insurance settlement, test results. We wonder how long do I have to wait until the project gets the Green Light, or the pregnancy test shows a plus sign, how much longer until I find my soul mate or at least someone who will watch Modern Family with me and not judge me for my four leaf clover pajama pants?
This week I have been noticing how many times a day I utter the phrase, “I can’t wait until…” As in, “I can’t wait until I have time for a vacation.” “I can’t wait until I have a bigger house.” “I can’t wait until someone buys my pitch and makes my movie so I can win a bunch of major awards.” My most ridiculous “can’t wait” moment came while I was watching Oprah’s Master Class series on OWN this Sunday and actually said, “I can’t wait until I’m as wise as Maya Angelou so I can tour the world giving lectures and reading my poetry.” Ridiculous, because I’m pretty sure no matter how long I wait, I’m never gonna be Maya Angelou.
The real problem with saying I can’t wait is that in reality, I have to. Because most of life is in the waiting and so, in a way, how we wait determines how we live. If we are impatient and antsy, always focusing on what we are waiting for more than on what we already have, we will never be satisfied. How quickly we forget the thing we waited for and wanted for so long and then got! There’s always something more to want. And so waiting feels like a punishment, which is why we end up running from it, instead of relaxing into it. But if we could relax we would discover why patience is such a virtue.
Waiting gives us time to reflect on our lives. And it is only in the waiting that we really learn the lessons of what all of the doing means…
When I found myself divorced at 30, on my own for the first time in my life, and embarking on what I hoped would be a successful career in screenwriting, I was paralyzed with worry when I sent out my first spec script. I hoped it would not only help me support myself, but that if it sold, I would be so busy I wouldn’t have time to think about my broken heart. But the studio execs who had the script to read weren’t working on my timetable, and so I found myself forced into a holding pattern for feedback. I sat by the phone plagued with visions of what my life would be depending on whether they loved it or hated it – my whole future seemingly hanging in the balance. I felt more alone than I ever had, and the isolation just seemed to be amplified by the wait.
Finally, when I couldn’t take the silence in my studio apartment for one second longer, I decided to get out and go for a hike. I took a path I had never tried before and as I walked, I began to feel the icy fingers of panic grip me. I had to take a break and wait for the waves of fear and loneliness to subside as the question consumed me – when would I ever find love? Too worn out to move, I sat and waited for the anxiety attack to pass. It was then that I finally noticed the world around me -- the tall weeds and busy bees, the sun peeking through the clouds.
And that’s when I saw The Tree.
It was standing in front of me with two thick branches spread wide like open arms stretched out for a hug. I felt myself drawn to the welcoming embrace and so stepped forward, closer to the tree, and was stunned by what I saw: carved into a heart in the bark were my initials. No other names or letters…just a simple KH in the center of the tree. Well, you can bet that I stood there and wept as I let the answer to my question wash over me…I didn’t have to find love, I only had to look and see that love was all around me. I didn’t need the approval of some executive to tell me I was worthy or that I mattered. I like to call moments like that God Winks. They are subtle but powerful, and oh so easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. It took a forced waiting period to get my attention and show me that like Dorothy’s slippers, I already had the love and acceptance I was desperately searching for…they were with me all along.
I try to remember that tree, that moment of unexpected grace, whenever I am frustrated by not getting what I want when I want it. I’ve even come up with a little acronym to drive home the point when I forget: When we WAIT, We Are Imparted Truth. I know, how very Gary Busey of me – but it’s true. Which is why now I can’t wait for the opportunity to wait…