By Bonnie Schwartz
I am learning how to wait. It has taken me a long time. One might say that I have been waiting a long time to learn how to wait.
I have been one of those people who has often, perhaps usually, confused motion with action. Any kind of motion has felt better to me than stasis, even when it has been motion that hasn’t offered any kind of actual progress, or motion that propelled me to people and places that I ultimately found dissatisfying or even worse: painful. Motion has given me the illusion of progress. But for the most part, I can see now, it wasn’t.
Lately, waiting no longer feels like the opposite of motion; nor does it feel like patience. I have never been patient. And yet the waiting I have been practicing of late involves patience. I see now that I can feel impatient and still teach myself to wait.
Wait for what? Usually it is clarity.
But clarity can be hard to find. So rather than clarity I often settle for something that seems to be less of a fog. A decision to go this way or that without strong emotion. The waiting helps this, helps me release strong emotion.
As a younger being I was ruled by passion. Learning to wait has helped release me from the vicissitudes of passion. I am not arguing against passion. It has its place. Using it as a place to make decisions from, however, has not proven effective. Passion can inspire in me an overwhelming urge to move, even when the destination is unclear. Or unwise.
If I can see a bit of a road ahead of me, sometimes I take the first step on it and simply follow it and see how it feels, hoping that it will lead somewhere gratifying. Sometimes it has. Often it hasn’t. If I wait, however, I notice that the road becomes clearer, the path makes more sense. Or doesn’t.
When it doesn’t, the wait is particularly helpful. Sometimes a new unsuspected path emerges if I wait long enough. Or the path that I am already on somehow changes to become one that I want to be on rather than want to leave. It is all interesting to watch unfold. Waiting is the prerequisite, however, the key that unlocks such doors.
I am learning all of this as I approach my 60th birthday. Better late than never.
I am not sure where and how one learns to wait. Perhaps COVID helped me in this regard. We have all been forced to wait for so long. Some of us, for various reasons, continue to wait. It’s not so bad. There can be a nice vibration in stasis, a feeling of contentedness. An acceptance: This is where I am. I will simply be here.
Another thing that waiting is teaching me is the power of the imagination. For if I can’t move, or have decided simply to wait, I can sometimes rest in my imagination to create the road I’d like to travel rather than take any of those that have presented themselves.
Sometimes the act of imagining can lead me to a place where I feel better about prospects. I can feel them coming into being even when they are still only in my imagination. Sometimes the act of imagining projects me into gratifying places, even if I never actually live what I have imagined. And who is to say that I haven’t lived it if I have imagined it!
Dreaming shows me where my longings reside. But dreams can also take time to reveal themselves. So we have to wait for them.
I am thinking now about the difference between patience and waiting. I don’t think of myself as patient, but perhaps I have become more so in recent years. Perhaps I have been forced, like all of us, to become more so in recent years. There is a gift here for me. I don’t have to move, don’t have to act. When I peer behind me I can see that in many regards not moving has helped me a lot. I can see when I look in the rear-view mirror that waiting has usually served me very well.
There are so many things that I am waiting for. Some I might never manifest before this present life is over; others, in all likelihood, I will. Whether or not those things and situations and joys that I can see and feel ahead of me and am willing to wait for come my way when the fogs lift, I can see that all will be fine, one way or another.
I will survive until I, like everyone else, survive no longer.
And perhaps the release of death is another thing that we find ourselves waiting for at some point in our lives. I think it is. I have seen it among loved ones who have been on their way. They knew they were going to make a profound transition and, in some cases, were curious enough to move toward it, even welcome it. The next journey. The next destination.
Is all waiting a form of moving toward death? Or is some a form of moving toward life, a life that is different than the one we are currently living? The quality of waiting that I have been learning feels like it might be the same, one way or another. Toward life, toward death, toward the death of one reality and the life of another, whether it is here or elsewhere. Toward renewal. Toward joy. Toward the purity of feeling the impact of oneself fully. Waiting aids and abets all of this.
I have always thought that curiosity is the bedrock of a life worth living. Perhaps it too is the bedrock of whatever life is beyond this one.
When I am in a state of calm waiting, I feel as close to spiritual transcendence as I ever do. I feel like I am tapping into a wisdom far greater than the one that I can access in my day to day. I feel like the waiting itself is a spiritual practice which, like other forms of practice, can be uncomfortable on and within the body. But we breathe through it.
We acknowledge the pain and frustration and the limits of our minds and bodies and say to ourselves, I will sit here anyway. I will try not to move. I will simply allow the waiting to carry me forward. I will allow the sorrow, the fear, the pain, the boredom when it comes. And it does. It all does. As does the joy and transcendence and the acknowledgement that all is actually okay.
Who knew that waiting could feel so rich? I didn’t. I am starting, now, to understand.
Bonnie Schwartz has lived in a few wonderful places. She was born and grew up in Montreal, lived in New York City for 20 years, and has resided, since 2003, in New Mexico: the north (Taos), the south (Las Cruces and Mesilla), and, since 2007, Santa Fe. She is the mother of a wonderful teen daughter who is her intellectual opposite (a math/science intelligence to her language/liberal arts consciousness) and shares her life as well with an older though still energetic warmblood horse and physically declining, extremely loving pit bull mix who softens her heart every day. She works as a property manager, helps friends with writing and design projects, and writes herself whenever she feels moved to do so, as was the case when this piece was conceived and produced. Sometimes you just have to wait for it.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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