Have you noticed that people seem to be increasingly incapable of waiting? Stand in line at the grocery store, post office or Target and observe. People gripe, curse and hop from one line to another trying to get out of the store a tiny bit faster. I’ve noticed this because when I’m not paying attention I find myself doing exactly the same thing.
If I were actually running late for something it would be a different story, but the truth is that most of the time I’m just in a hurry. For no objective reason. It’s just become a habit to try to get through pretty well everything as quickly as possible.
When did waiting become so abhorrent to us as a society? When did having everything happen fast, happen now become our way of moving through the world? I’m not advocating for things to take longer than they need to. What I’m wondering is why we are so unwilling to let things take the time that they need to take? I wonder why we can’t patiently wait in a line and perhaps have a pleasant chat with the person in front of or behind us?
Those of you who have been reading me for a while know that I love story. I love collecting the stories of people I meet whether I will ever see them again or not. For me stories are nourishment, they connect me to not only other people but to my own humanity. When I listen to a story that I don’t find particularly interesting I find that I can get involved with the storyteller. The story may not fascinate me but why this person is sharing that particular story does. Waiting gives me a chance to learn something about someone else.
Waiting also gives me time to learn something more about myself, as much from my impatience as anything else. When I find myself internally fuming over a five minute wait on a line in a store I kind of have to stop and ask myself what is going on? Am I really so busy that five minutes is worth the agitation? And if I am that busy then why did I think going shopping now, or doing whatever task I am feeling thwarted by, was a good idea?
There is an odd way in which being impatient is connected to entitlement. When I am being impatient the unstated belief behind the impatience is that I shouldn’t have to wait. That somehow I am special and the rules shouldn’t apply to me. Truthfully, I just don’t want to be that person.
Then there is the other side of waiting. The side that allows us a break from the pace of the world. The side that let’s us take pleasure in the enforced pause. Imagine if you viewed waiting as an opportunity to take a breath, to take a moment and to quiet the noise in your mind for just a few minutes.
Imagine if, instead of stressing when you had to wait, you used the time to just relax a bit. To just let your mind calm down, to not think about anything but the moment you were in. Instead of mentally racing around to be able to just be and observe the place you were in without judging or thinking ahead.
The waiting that will help you survive the grocery store with your sanity and dignity intact will also help you get through the hard times of life. Being able to wait means that you won’t fly off the handle at every provocation. Being able to wait means that you will stick with things when they are hard. Being able to wait means that your peace of mind isn’t determined by chance.
The next time that you find yourself in a position where you have to wait see if you can find the opportunity that lies in that enforced pause. See if you can relax into the wait and then see what happens.