So this should be a …what? Philosophical piece…on the beauty of waiting. We live in an increasingly fast-paced, disposable world where we all want everything to be available RIGHT NOW! But we would be better off remembering waiting is just life: EXCEPT I HATE WAITING!!! WITH A PASSION!! So. Maybe I could qualify that a little better…I equate waiting with a loss of control and a bit of bad luck, I suppose. That’s partly because I’ve had some bad health luck in the past – a while ago now, and actually, once I’d had the worst news, the results actually started to get better – and so the waiting was usually rewarded with something positive. But that didn’t mean the waiting wasn’t horrible. It was pretty much always horrible and mentally exhausting and hard not to watch clocks and the like. The term hyper-vigilant could have been coined for me.
And some other things I’ve hated waiting for include: hearing from agents. Hearing from publishers. Not hearing from agents. Not hearing from publishers. As a TV director back in the day: waiting to hear if I’d got THE job or was eating cornflakes for the next month (the curse of the freelancer…eternally waiting). For my divorce to come through, so I could start afresh. For texts from men I liked, or emails. Or no texts from men I liked. Likewise emails. For the blinking 202 bus home on a freezing night with too much shopping to carry and sore feet.
Now I’ve been waiting a lot again this year – largely for work stuff, which has finally – hurrah – turned out well – hurrah hurrah really!! But at times, it was nail-biting and anxiety-inducing because I’d thrown heart and soul into something I’d worked on passionately, and now its fate was in other people’s hands. I also had various minor medical things to wait for again; routine tests, that kind of thing but with my history, it seemed STRESSFUL in the extreme. And actually, I am quite good at trying to live life normally whilst all around me things are crashing down. For a while back there, I got used to a shadow of fear. It was crap, but I got used to it. I haven’t missed it, mind you, not one tiny little iota, and this year has been a reminder of how much I haven’t missed it – that horrible waiting, clutching feeling in the tummy.
So it’s important to also remind myself that, as a storyteller by profession, I have a tendency to spin a story and come up with the most dramatic ending…and that’s not very helpful. My counsellor would slap my hand for that!
So: perhaps you’ve been waiting all this time thinking well come on then, you dozy cow – why am I bothering to wait ’til I get to the end of this musing…Where are the positives in waiting? There MUST be one or two, no?! OK, so – maybe they are right here:…remembering to bring ourselves back to the present moment, without catastrophising; to say ‘the sky is blue’ (ahem. It’s been mostly a crap grey colour this week.) That cute/ funny dog is wagging his tail; the branches on the tree is blowing in the wind (and right off, last night). The kids are laughing. My kids are laughing: naughty, sure, and oh God look at the mess they just made: but they are here, warm and loud and dirty-handed, dirty-faced, and I love them and it’s OK. I am still breathing. We are still breathing. My boyfriend is here and he’s still 6’3 and good at letting me lean my weary head on his chest (and very good at telling me off for being impatient in traffic jams, and learning to wait because it’s beyond my control). So. All’s alright with the world really.
And yes, I am living my life to the best of my ability in the present moment. To not wait, to not insistently be waiting for life to get better, for life to be more meaningful, to enjoy the moments we are in, to enjoy our families, our lovers and our loved ones, we really do have to do it NOW because only then, are we not waiting. We are just getting on with living – and we are lucky.
And blimey sometimes it’s just so hard, let’s admit that. It’s hard to not fall down that rabbit-hole of fear and negativity: but we owe it to ourselves to drag ourselves out of the hole again, and set ourselves back on the riverbank, whatever the result of the waiting, and keep on putting one foot in front of the other. And keep breathing DEEPLY.
On Radio 4’s World at One, I just heard the most moving letter to the terrorists from the husband of a young mother killed in the Paris attacks on Friday. He was about to get his 17-month-old son up and feed him a snack and play with him, just as they had done before the mother was suddenly killed on Friday, and it would not be about waiting but about living and showing the terrorists that they could still live. BRAVO my dear friend. It made me cry. He said “Right now I am devastated by grief” but for his son, for himself, he says, he will go on. And that involves living, not waiting. Not waiting for it to pass I suppose, but learning to live with it. Accepting. Good luck to everyone who has to wait for anything that is so difficult. Good luck to us all.
And a big PS. ‘Mindfulness’ was not trendy in the way it’s now when I went through my health trauma 5 years ago. I have my own views on the cult of mindfulness; they go along with ‘clean eating’ as a fad In my case I was already interested in Buddhism and helpfully, already the proud owner of a book called “When things fall apart” by an American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. There is help and advice out there on how to live with loss of control, and to the best of our ability. We don’t really have control anyway; we never know what might be round the next corner. So let’s try to embrace what we do have.