Recently I rediscovered a forgotten pleasure.
I have come to believe that waiting is one of life’s under appreciated treasures. Unfortunately, societal norms have created the impression that waiting should be a source of frustration. Competition is rampant and “doing” and recognition for task completion are the gold standards. Wait-time is regarded as wasted time and a barrier to progress and personal fulfillment.
Looking back to times when there were children to shepherd through the day, wait-time was built in. As a parent, I waited for the end-times of swim team practice or piano lessons, track meets or dance rehearsals, and endless hours for the return of vehicles that carried our young charges off to out-of-town games, concerts and dances. Without these culturally imposed wait-times, I had forgotten the pleasure afforded by being too early.
In retrospect, I realize that I was deliberately eliminating wait-time. I loath to admit it but limiting wait-time seems to feed my egomaniacal tendencies. This is how it works. I cram a load of annoying little tasks (stuff that could be done anytime) into the pre-departure moments so that I can race in at the last minute — or a wee bit later — to meet friends at appointed times with hair-on-fire urgency. It is probably a subconscious desire to send the message that I am a very busy person with many important things to do and yet I am graciously and magnanimously making time just for you. “Now, don’t you feel special?”
However, thanks to my current infatuation with the tai chi sword form I am on the road to recovery from this delusion of self-importance.
During the summer, a small group of practitioners have the opportunity to meet in a Tacoma waterfront park for sword practice with the teacher of teachers. Well, it is that travel time that spurred me to inaction. From my house to the Gig Harbor YMCA is a jaunt of about 40 minutes, and the foray over the Narrows bridge adds another 15 to 20. That two-hour round trip is one that I can almost make on one full charge of my hybrid vehicle and use virtually no gas. It simply does not make sense to go home after a session at the Y and contribute to carbon pollution problems by making a third and fourth trip the length of the Key Peninsula, so I hang around in Gig Harbor for several hours before heading over the bridge. It is this period of idle, unstructured time that led me to rekindle my interest in and appreciation for wait-time.
This new indulgence created a quiet wait-time interval before the demand of doing. Yes, I could attend to those courtesy tasks of answering email and otherwise connecting with the world at large, but I find that I can very well fill that time with less reactive thought and engage in some proactive thinking. It took some doing to break the hold of the handheld message control demon that blinks and jangles and insidiously demands attention. My electronic responses may affirm my existence to the outside world but they do little to nurture my inner soul and creative instincts. Now I travel with notepad, sketchbook, pencils, pens, bits of fabric and needles and thread, and find delight in using these primitive tools.
I’ve also had time to think about the meaning of time and consider the possible positive benefits if people could just plan for more wait-time. Why not delve into the selfish realm of personal thought rather than scanning the latest electronic message and forwarding it without taking time to ponder, assess, explore balancing arguments, and commit brain power to observational analysis of that message. If the message is worthy, forward it but add personal reflective comments to justify filling another’s mailbox.
Think of wait-time as the height of multitasking efficiency. Wait and read a book, write an essay, compose a poem, sketch a delicate leaf, drink in the colors of spring, feel the gentle pressure of a summer breeze, savor the crisp air of autumn, study the movement of light upon an incoming tide, listen to the world around you and to your innermost thoughts.
While mastering the art of waiting, watch people moving on their way to their next appointment. You may find yourself hoping they arrive with time to spare so they too can snatch a jeweled moment of wait-time.
It’s there for the taking. Why waste it?
Award-winning humorist Carolyn Wiley lives in Longbranch.
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