“Learning to Wait”

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Waiting doesn’t come naturally to children. Whether it’s the incessant “are we there yet?” or the pleas of “when’s dinner?” children want time to speed up. I remember riding my bicycle up to my elementary school in August to see if the class lists were posted yet. These held special importance for me and my friends since they let us know not only our next teacher but also our next classmates. It took several bike rides until I finally got to see the list taped on my fall classroom door. And who among us couldn’t wait to be “grown up?”

As adults we need the capacity to wait, and it appears many adults don’t possess it. From the person huffing and mumbling behind me in the checkout line to the car behind me in slow traffic, other adults are impatient. The culture caters to this at the moment. On a drive last week I passed a billboard which displayed how long I could expect to wait in the hospital’s emergency room. I can’t imagine rushing an emergency to take advantage of the short wait time!

Waiting is seen as so unpleasant that in every place I will need to wait someone has installed a television. So the doctor’s office, the airport, the gas station and the grocer store sport televisions. If a transaction takes a couple of minutes a clerk will almost always apologize for making me wait, fending off my potential criticism I guess.

Mindfulness seems designed to teach people to wait. It encourages them to be in the moment, not in the future. I didn’t need to take it up to learn to wait. I had many years of experience waiting while I grew up. Now I treasure those times of stillness, when they aren’t interrupted by a television, when the only thing that I have to do is wait.

 

38 thoughts on ““Learning to Wait”

  1. how true; we’ve lost or are losing the art of being bored; I think creativity is harmed if we don’t allow children the privilege of boredom to create their own entertainment

  2. I agree that there is such a lot of value in not being obsessively busy and addicted to media devices. It makes me glad that I reached adulthood before the internet, so I got to experience things like waiting for a phonecall from that special someone who sometimes eventually called and sometimes eventually didn’t, and learning that it was often a good idea to wait until the person called or it became clear that person would never call. It was good information that many people do not now get, with being on chat all the time and facebook and able to spy on everyone else. Whole ‘relationships’ happen online, flare up, and burn out, and sometimes it involves almost no personal face-to-face interaction at all–

    I also grew up carrying a journal around with me, and paperbacks, and often crafts like knitting, so anytime I had to wait somewhere I was fine and self-entertaining if needed. When I got detentions in high school, most often for silly things like not wearing my jacket in the hallway, I would sit there for the hour and sing musical soundtracks to myself in my head, and not suffer at all. It taught me to be with me and be okay with it.

    1. Glad to hear from you again. I got detention in high school for arguing with my history teacher about imperialism. I agree that I learned a lot from waiting for phone calls both for those that came and those that didn’t.

      1. I got the award for the most detentions in my high school career (104), and felt proud that they were never for things I thought foolish, like smoking (which I despised and thought trashy), but just asserting common sense and individuality–

        1. I am impressed. The most brazen stunt in our school was my friend who rode a motorcycle in one door, down the hall and out the other door. They wouldn’t let him march at graduation!

        2. I can imagine. That is very drastic and reminds me of the Regency romances I read where the guys at Oxford and Cambridge ride their horses indoors and get sent down/ thrown out because of it.–

  3. We don’t have TVs in the doctor’s, dentist’s, or most places where we have to wait. There is still that ‘English Reserve’, sitting quietly and patiently, perhaps taking one of the well-thumbed magazines. But everywhere has seen the installation of ‘play areas’ for children, guaranteed to shatter those ‘moments of stillness’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Hi Elizabeth – first of all I love that someone captured you in this moment of seeming unhurried quietude as a child.
    I, too, have felt that people (is it the fault of all this instantaneous technology?) are more impatient, rushing and hurrying for no real reason. I walk a lot and I am always chagrined by how often people driving in cars seem annoyed by pedestrians – as if we are really slowing them down and making them late for something!
    I think that clerks must be catching a lot of grief – I’ve noticed what you mentioned about them apologizing if a transaction isn’t happening in a snap. I sometimes let people know that I am in no hurry. Or if it is apparent that someone is new or in-training, I like to encourage them to take the time they need to do things right. Maybe my sensitivity is heightened by remembering my days learning how to do different customer service jobs.

    1. I was a pretty contemplative kid, so this photo may have come easily. I think the impatience preceded the technology. I think at some point it became the cultural norm to complain about waiting. I still have no idea why.

  5. So true – waiting was a normal and accepted use of time in the not so distant past. Now, people are offended if they have to wait for anything. “Waiting with grace” is something kids (and to be fair, many adults too) who are growing up in this era of instant gratification should be taught.

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