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The Joys of Waiting

I hate waiting. Most people I know hate waiting. Life is full of waiting: we wait for loved ones to come home, we wait for movies to start, we wait in lines at groceries, banks, or the DMV. We wait to hear the results of tests at school, and the results of tests about our health.  Right now my love is waiting to find out if a new job will come through, unable to make commitments until he a5bf950448372b7a778f89216c198160does. As writers, we wait for the muse to strike, we wait to hear back about a submission, we wait to see if anyone will discover our work, and we wait to learn if they love it as we do. All this waiting creates an often excruciating sense of anticipation, anxiety, or dread. It puts us in a state of suspended animation, of limbo: we understand, while in this limbo, why Dante used that term to describe the experience of being in neither Heaven nor Hell, of being profoundly uncertain of where one will wind up.

So, in an exercise of deep spiritual dedication, I thought I’d better come up with the top ten joys of waiting. You know, turn this thing on its head. Take a deep breath (well, maybe not if you’re waiting in line at the DMV) and find what we can love about limbo.

Top Ten Joys of Waiting

10. Any waiting room, anywhere, can serve as an object lesson in how NOT to decorate a room for the comfort and pleasure of its occupants.

9. The “take a number” machine reminds you of your first trip to Baskin-Robbins Thirty-One Flavors as a kid. (Oh, would there be any Bubble Gum or Peppermint Stick ice cream left by the time it was your turn?)

8. The conversation you eavesdrop on while in line provides excellent inspiration for dialogue between the two least-educated characters in your work-in-progress.

7. In an hour spent staring at your toes, you are taken on an emotional journey from rejection to acceptance, from “my toes are hideous!” to “I kind of like my left pinkie toe” to “my toes are beautiful, just the way they are.”

6. You finally have time to read your friends’ Facebook posts. (Although you regret, deeply and forever, looking up “twerk” on YouTube, as your friend recommended.)

5. You realize you have a great excuse to say “no” to invitations to upcoming events you were dreading anyway. “No, I’m sorry, I’m still waiting to hear about [fill in the blank], and I’d hate to take up someone else’s spot at your third cousin’s bat mitzvah, the one with the Klezmer Captain and Tennille cover band, only to have to cancel on you at the last minute.”

4. You realize you have a great excuse not to start cleaning the bathroom, because that phone call might come any minute, and you can’t answer the phone with your hands covered in Comet.

3. The anxiety from waiting gives you the energy to organize the hall closet. (Hey, your partner/roommate/kid can take that giant garbage bag of stuff to Goodwill. You’re done, you’ve earned a cold beer/dish of ice cream/nap.)

2. You make up six new verses to “American Pie.” In your waiting-induced mild psychosis, you think they’re better than the original.

1. Suddenly, a voice cuts through all the fear, anxiety, anticipation, or dread, and reminds you of everything you have to be grateful for, right in this moment: the ability to breathe, to worry, to create lists, to laugh, and to love.

two empty chairs lakeside at sunset

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One response »

  1. Reblogged this on Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder and commented:
    Liz Fountain has this lovely thought on waiting, which is timely for me. Just yesterday, I went to a local festival. I waited in line to park for about 15 minutes, got to the booth, and realized I had no cash. I had to turn around, take a 20 minute drive and wait in line for another 20 minutes. After parking, I met up with friends and waited in line all day for food. A lot of waiting all afternoon, and I had a great time.

    When my anxiety was high, this would have been torture. I always kind of passed it off as just getting restless while standing around. What’s interesting about this for me is that the change didn’t take a lot of conscious thought. I remember someone saying in therapy once that waiting in lines was a common difficulty for many people with anxiety. When I heard this, I recognized it in myself and even realized I had gone so far as to avoid some situations where I knew waiting would be a part of the game. I didn’t do this all of the time, and certainly everyone has their limits with a long wait, but it’s interesting how sometimes perspective can shift with just a few moments of inspired thought.

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