Sometimes The Best Things Happen While We Wait

Flickr / János Balázs
Flickr / János Balázs

Like many other humans, I find it difficult to wait. I’ll always pay extra for express shipping, I always spring for the faster oil change; I’ll gladly give up the nutritional value of a slow-cooked pot roast for the convenience of a Chipotle burrito bowl. Sometimes, when somebody’s almond milk half-caf cappuccino is ready before mine I’ll take it and pretend I thought it was my order all along; I might apologize for the misunderstanding, but between you and me, Internet, I’m not sorry. I’m in a hurry.

I’m impatient: for the next thing, for lunch at 10:30 in the morning, for 2016 and for Hillary to be crowned queen of a dutiful nation.

In part, we have become accustomed to immediacy. There’s a reason they call us the “Amazon Fresh” generation– we are addicted to same-day delivery for everything from our Jerusalem sunchokes to our rainbow chard.

Our aptitude for waiting has decreased. Waiting used to be a respectable pastime: People used to collect stamps over lifetimes, because they knew what we don’t — that you can’t expect to amass greatness or limited edition Benjamin Franklin Z Grills overnight.

Now, we measure things by their expediency, not by their dependability. The postal service is doing so poorly because it is so slow. It doesn’t matter that they have vowed to be there for us in rain or 13 feet of snow; it matters that even when it’s sunny and 75 they take their sweet time.

We forget that like fine wines, much improves with time or age. When we rush, things can be bitter, and taste too much of oak.

I don’t mean being passive — that’s a virtue for another blogger to blog about on, say, askmen.com.

I mean learning to wait for the things you cannot change — the big and the small things that simply “take time”: like waiting to merge onto a clogged freeway; waiting for the band to come on; waiting for the economy to recover, for a broken heart to heal, for your bangs to grow out, for Spring to come, for your “overnight” package that never made it out of Cleveland.

So much of life takes place in this meantime; and yet few things are more frustrating than hearing “give it time,” except maybe — “there is no wi-fi in this cafe.”

What explains our discomfort with waiting? Perhaps, it’s because nothing is more anxiety-ridden than not knowing how things will end or even if they will end. Except knowing that they will end badly, or in bloody pieces, like in the Saw, and later in bloodier pieces in Saw II.

When I was younger or 22, I thought that things I wanted like jobs and romances and nice adult handbags would come more quickly. I figured they would fall from the sky like the meatballs of my Pixar dreams. And I would gobble them up and grow fat with achievements and happiness. And it would all happen quickly.

But like anyone even a few years older would have told me — meatballs have a huge carbon footprint and you can’t schedule your life or check off boxes on some plan you made for yourself when you were still playing MASH on Saturday nights and thinking the worst thing that can happen to a person is that they’d have to marry James Wellbery and live in a shack. You can, but you’ll have a lot of missed appointments and even more disappointment and you will have dismissed someone who could have made you very happy.

I find myself again expecting to be further along, closer to my goals, to the stated objectives that 22-year-old me would have thought I’d already have done or been or had. But the 22 year old me got a lot of parking tickets and sometimes she went to sleep without brushing her teeth and I wouldn’t have trusted her with a pet fish.

Patience is a virtue, and waiting is a luxury. We are lucky to have moments in between. We are fortunate to have to “take time”; to spend it as if its expendable, like our discretionary income that we’ll blow on sheep’s milk ice cream because we are always curious about new trends in dairy.

In 1971, when Robert Pirsig wrote about life as a journey, or a father-son motorcycle trip across the country, he wrote about finding humor and insight and self-discovery in the hours in which you’re on your way: “To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.”

In other words, the real hard work of life is done in the midst of the climb; in the Second Act, and in those spaces in between the mile markers. It’s in the middle of things that we actually discover what we’re capable of, and what we truly want to see when we reach the end. TC mark

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