A wise friend recently said to me “there’s a lot of waiting in life. It’s best to get comfortable with it.”
It’s true. How many times throughout our day, our week, our year, our life, are we left waiting? Waiting in lines, waiting for a reply from someone, waiting for plans to work out, waiting to hear a result, waiting for something that we have dreamt about, waiting to figure something out. We spend our days waiting to get through difficult, boring or simply uneventful things all the time, and often, we chase pleasurable experiences to fill these uncomfortable moments.
Mostly, we are terrible at waiting.
I think of my 8-year-old daughter, who really hates waiting. She wants what she wants right now and has a really difficult time being patient. She is creative, vibrant and expressed, and when she is impatient, we ALL hear about it.
It’s not just kids, we adults do it to, just not in such an out-loud way. Our impatience is a little hidden. And we mask it by busying ourselves with doing.
We scroll on our phone when we are waiting in a line or for an appointment. We distract ourselves with checking and re-checking our email. We keep piling things onto our to-do list, and then we feel like there is not a moment to waste, not a minute of our day that is unscheduled, unplanned, idle. And when we are left waiting for something – the grocery checker, a red light, on the phone being assured that our call is very important and will be answered in the order it was received – we feel annoyed that our busy day is on hold.
At the start of the summer, I hung a hammock between two trees in my backyard. It’s a shady and quiet spot, and as I hung it, I smiled thinking of all the relaxed time I would enjoy in that hammock on warm afternoons, tucked in with a book and an icy cold drink.
The other day, I realized that I have not spent one idle afternoon in that hammock since the inaugural few minutes I took when it was very first hung up. Instead, I have filled my days of summer with doings. Doings with the kids, doings that felt urgent – driving around, dropping kids here and there – scrambling trying to get work done in the few hours I have when my kids are in camp – driving to pick them up.
I work hard as so many of you do, balancing life between running a family and household and running a business. Seeing my empty hammock was a sudden reminder to me of how easily we fall into the constant treadmill of doing rather than being. Then I remembered – I have plenty of tools to remind myself to be mindful about taking time for being. First, I could forgive myself for getting caught up in doing. Then, I could trust that what needs to get done will, even if I take some time to pause and sit in a hammock each day.
And beyond that, could I find small moments of being rather than doing throughout my day? Perhaps in those seemingly throwaway moments of waiting?
When my friend shared that wise thought about waiting, it imprinted on me. Life is full of waiting. We can either be frustrated, impatient, distract ourselves, try to get away from the discomfort, or we see it for what it is. A part of life.
Really, waiting is a gift. An enforced pause. Lately, I have been doing my best to practice waiting in lines without checking my phone. Using the opportunity to pause and take note of my breath and my body, observing what’s happening around me, and checking in with what’s going on inside of me. When I take on these moments of waiting as if they are mini meditations, a whole lot of spaciousness opens around me.
Oh – and I’m working on getting in the hammock more. In fact, it’s the next thing on my “to-do” list.
Let me rephrase that, it’s the next thing on my “to-be” list.
May you find the gift in waiting,
PS: If you, like me, sometimes have trouble stepping out of doing into being, consider joining me for my fall weekend retreat to Harmony Hill. We will unplug, take time for silence, and immerse ourselves in practices designed to cultivate present moment awareness. There are just a few spots left, don’t wait to register. Learn more here.