“Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait”.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow — “A Psalm of Life”
I’m writing this from an actual waiting room. My too-big-for-me-to-go-in-with kid has an appointment, and I find myself waiting.
I wonder how much time the average person spends waiting. According to a survey by Timex, people spend around 6 months of their lives waiting in line, and they spend about 43 days waiting on hold with customer service. Excruciating. Especially the customer service part.
These days, I’m also waiting to hear from a literary agent. The great news from my late September writer’s conference is that more than one agent showed interest in Justin’s Cupcakes! The experience of pitching my picture book was exciting, and I felt brave speaking confidently about my work. For now, I’ve submitted my manuscript exclusively to one agent, and I’m eager to hear back. It takes time. Literary agents spend time working for the clients they already have, working on reading piles of manuscripts, and meeting authors and illustrators face to face. So for now, I feel patient.
Sitting in this waiting room, though, is giving me time to think about all the things we do while we’re waiting for stuff–little or big stuff.
We WONDER. I wonder what will happen next? I wonder what they’ll think? I wonder if I did all that I could? I wonder if my work was good enough? I wonder if it’s gonna be ok? This last question transitions nicely to another favorite waiting activity…
We WORRY. I’m worried how this will turn out. I’m worried she didn’t understand. What if the results are bad? What if they’re good? I’m worried about what they thought. I’m worried about someone I love. The worrying can go on and on if we let it.
We WISH. I wish they would hurry up! I wish this had never happened. I wish I’d done this sooner. I wish I knew how this will turn out. I wish I knew everything would go the way I want. Where’s a genie when you need one? My mom always said, “If wishes were fishes, we’d all take a swim.” I always rolled my eyes, but I get it, Mom.
We WAFFLE. I changed my mind. What was I thinking? Was I crazy to try that? I shouldn’t have listened to that doctor! Should I have said yes to that interview? Did I say something stupid? I did. I definitely did. Maybe not that stupid…When we’re waiting, our wishy-washy minds can go crazy.
I’m trying to lecture myself about waiting. It comes with life. There’s no avoiding it. We can’t choose to never wait. We can choose to wait differently, though. And nope, it’s not easy to change–not for me anyway.
*steps up to pulpit to deliver sermon to self*
Instead of wondering, DELIGHT in the opportunity you’ve had. Find a way to be grateful for your current, albeit waiting, status. Example: I’m grateful I was able to go to the doctor. I’m proud that I took a brave step in my career. If the results aren’t what I hope for, I’ve got someone beside me. If nothing else, delight in making it this far. Plenty of people haven’t.
Instead of worrying, DEBRIEF. Make a list of what went well. I know–it’s not always what I think of first, either. Force yourself to focus on the PROS side of your pros and cons for a while. It’s fine to think about what could’ve gone differently, but don’t let yourself do it until you’ve visited the positive side of the situation.
Instead of wishing, DELIBERATE. The definition of this one is worth noting: engage in long and careful consideration. Think about it. Consider all the who, what, where, why, when, and what if of the situation. I know that my mind does a lot of rabbit chasing and that “careful consideration” of things is a rare commodity. Slow down and think things through. Some people do it with prayer or meditation. Be deliberate about deliberating.
Instead of waffling, DECIDE what you will do–no matter what happens. Imagine the best-case scenario and play out all the steps you’ll take if that happens. You can also spend time deciding what you’ll do if things don’t go the way you want. Make a plan. Make a plan B. Also make plans C-M, because you never know what life’s gonna throw your way.
I know of two children’s books about waiting (incidentally by two authors I love):
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t come across adult books about waiting–not very quickly anyway. You’d think that people would get better at waiting as they grow older. I’m not convinced it’s true.
No amount of reading or wisdom or alliteration will change the amount of time I have to wait. It’s out of my control.
Funny how “time waits for no man,” but man is always waiting around for time to do something. Hmm.
If you’re “in the waiting room,” remember you’re not alone, and while you often can’t choose how long you’re there, you can choose what you do while you wait.