What does waiting do for us?
We wait for rain. For tomorrow. For a larger budget, a baby, a text, an apology. We wait for experience to be supplanted by wisdom, and for the cake to finish baking.
Waiting (the scraped-knees in-between, the middle) is home to handwringing, eye-rolling and pacing. We think about eternity or “the next thing” or nothing at all. We yank our minds away from obsession. We seek obsession. We write narratives, create a multiverse of endings, some happy and others tragic. We shout, tell lies, laugh harder or cry.
Mostly, we try to slog through the muckiness. The middle is largely uncharted, so we either dig in our heels and try to turn around, pity our own stuck-ness and build a home in the muck, or try to find a short cut.
But there is an alternative.
I picture Hawkeye and BJ in the Swamp. In one episode, a freak accident leaves Hawkeye with temporary blindness. He’s forced to linger in his tent, in post-op, in a lawn chair. This giant is brought to stillness by a mistake, and he has no choice. He can’t fight it, can’t speed up the healing.
So he listens to the rain. To people slipping in the mud. He absorbs the world around him as he never has before. Obliged to pause over each note that, when strung together, comprise the symphony of a single day, he finds something he didn’t expect.
“Something fascinating has been happening to me. One part of the world has been closed down for me, but another part has opened up. I’m going through something here that I didn’t expect,” he hesitates. “It’s full of trap doors. But I think there must almost be some kind of advantage in this. I’ve never spent a more conscious day in my life.”
When Hawkeye’s most immediate means of pleasure is removed, he “sees” how each minute creates a whole day. Or, on a more abstract scale, how every moment spent waiting links together each memorable, life-changing event.
The concept isn’t profound until it’s practiced. Then, and only then, does it become the best practice. The middle is worth lingering over. Not for how it will change the future but for the value gained from being fully present at any given moment. Waiting for the sake of waiting. And fully, drastically changing the paths in our brains, mending brokenness on a level that will lead to true healing.
We wait our whole lives, actually. Until our hands are veined, our eyes yellowed, our faces lined. Until we’re remembering more than anticipating. Until our souls, tired and multi-roomed as they are, reach their home.
Wrestle with the waiting, but also learn to listen. To notice. To value deeply those parts of life that make all the big moments hang together. The dinners that taught us to love onions and garlic. The conversations that created new spaces in our minds. The people that went from nobody… to somebody. And all of this in the relative blink of an eye.