The Other I

February 19, 2012

Are we there yet?

Filed under: Just Stuff,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 3:50 pm
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When I was very young, I used to pray that I would have the strength to be a martyr.  By the time I’d reached my teens, I’d adjusted the prayer that I would be strong enough to deal with whatever life sent me, which, dear God, I suggested, I hoped would not be martyrdom.  With increasing self-knowledge, I have considerably lengthened the list of things not to be included.

Anticipation seems to be a universal of all living things.  Cats wait outside the mouse-hole, squirrels bury nuts for the winter, birds build nests for the expected new arrivals.  We humans with our expanded mental abilities quite possibly are capable of more anticipation than any other living organism.  As children we count the almost-infinite number of days to Christmas, or the interminable hours spent in the back seat of the car until we’re finally there.

We don’t get over anticipating as we get older.  As our mental abilities mature we become capable of imagining more and more possibilities.  In fact, as most of us eventually realize that the only certainty is uncertainty, waiting for what is going to happen next is on some levels a permanent state.  That means more potential for planning but it also more potential for worry and anxiety.

Waiting to see what is going to happen might be for small everyday things:  will the roast be cooked yet?  will our guests be on time?  is it going to rain tomorrow? will this solve the (fill in whatever may be the preoccupation of the moment) problem?

But sometimes we are inevitably waiting for events that will change our lives.  And many of those events seem completely beyond our control.  Did I get the job?  Will s/he marry me?  Was my application accepted? And sometimes the most draining waiting of all in relation to medical concerns:  will he regain consciousness?  will she be able to walk again?  is it terminal?

Waiting uses up such a big chunk of time that if waiting is nothing more than empty space in between doing something meaningful, it uses up way too much of what is, by any measurements of even the most long-lived, a very short life.

There are obvious ways I don’t want to use waiting.  I don’t want to use it as an excuse not to do anything.  I don’t want to let it disable me with anxiety or distraction or disorienting hope.  I don’t want to let it turn me into a complainer or a whiner or to see myself as a heroic victim.

But I have seen people use waiting constructively.  I’ve seen them plan for contingencies, so that whatever happens they are better prepared:  “If this happens, I can…, but if this happens I will…”  I’ve seen people prepare others for what might happen.  That might be as simple as explaining why I may be late getting home tonight;  it might be as critical as making a will or, as my mother did, talking to her children about their lives after she died.

What I hope for myself is that I can use waiting so that I am better able to face whatever it is that life throws at me next.

Even if it is merely the discovery that my chocolate souffle has failed to rise to the heights I envisioned when I put it into the oven fifteen minutes ago.

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6 Comments »

  1. Wow! Is that a photo of YOUR chocolate souffle? Now that was worth WAITING for! kay

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    Comment by kay lent — February 19, 2012 @ 7:11 pm | Reply

    • Ok Kay, I can take credit for a chocolate souffle (I didn’t spend all those years in Sister Anne Cecelia’s bakery for nothing). What I haven’t mastered is the arcane process by which I use my cell phone to take a picture, load it onto my computer, and then upload it onto my blog. So the souffle might be authentic. I must confess that the photo is pretense. Or rather, somebody else’s. I guess I really do belong to an earlier generation. My impression is that the average six year old could teach me how to take a phone photo. (No, don’t tell me: you probably could too!)

      I do thank you for your comment. Terry

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — February 20, 2012 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

  2. I agree with Kay–if that’s the souffle that disappointed, we need to talk about lowering some of those high expectations! 🙂 You post makes me think about the difference between anticipation, anxiety, and waiting, as well as their similarities. Sorting things out semantically sometimes can offer insight.

    For example, my husband–the good one–used to say that patience wasn’t mere waiting; he defined patience as a kind of energy that stands in contrast to what’s wrong, by which he meant destructive, chaotic energy. I believe that’s what you’re getting at towards the end of your post. My husband was always prepared, but never anxious or worried, with the one significant exception of illness, where a faulty belief disabled him in his sixties while he wrestled with Parkinson’s disease. Before that, he lived with incandescent energy; really, the light was different in a room when he was present, and anyone running on hostility or fear just found themselves neutralized, deflated by the absence of attack or defense on his part.

    Anyway, yes. I think “waiting constructively” is what my husband called patience. I like your phrase because it implies its opposite, destructive waiting–the combination of anticipation and fear that characterizes anxiety.

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    Comment by Barbara Sullivan — February 19, 2012 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

    • i remember telling my mother once, that i could not wait for summer to be here, the end of school, exams, homework, subjugation. she looked at me thoughtfully and said, “do your best not to wish your life away.” now 65 years later, if remember mostly the joy of school, friends, new shoes and notebooks, and of course, of course – learning – whole new worlds opening up possibilities like pressing my face to a bakery shop – intoxicating. i also remember at age of 8 waiting in front of may company in downtown cleveland, ohio mother said she would be there by 4. i had taken the bus from school and there i waited – it was cold and dark. i began to cry. folks stopped (this was 1948!) and asked me what was the matter. they assured me my mother had been delayed and she would be there and pressed a dime or even a quarter into my hand giving me means to take the bus home if i could figure out how to do that. my mother appeared – what seemed at the time, a millennium later. i was still crying and another passerby had stopped. my mother laughed. i had $1.05 in my pocket. she told me that i had used my worries well, and that perhaps we could do this on a regular basis. we should try halle’s department store next time, as it had a more “elevated” grade of shoppers that went there!
      i trust that mother is waiting for me now and since her death in 1971, she is pressing me on to continue the journey using whatever props i can find – and one of the best, for me, anyway, is friends who confirm your struggles, who push you on to a higher level of being but not giving you answers, not denying your diminishments, but by respecting your ability to tap into your own resources into your own sense that you can and will go on and grow in the process. and to cherish that friendship and to hold on to it and you pick your way along that journey. life is process. yes

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      Comment by kateritek — February 19, 2012 @ 9:33 pm | Reply

      • Oh Karen, yes, yes, yes! Terry PS: And it’s a wonderful story. I wonder how much $1.05 would be in 2012 money. And to think you might have been waiting in front of Halle’s. The mind boggles at the potential riches.

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        Comment by Terry Sissons — February 20, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

      • In 2012, the relative value of $1.05 from 1948 ranges from $8.03 to $56.70. got this from goggle – so $50 got 20 minutes of work, not bad, i’d say – then i could have moved over to sterlings…..

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        Comment by kateritek — February 20, 2012 @ 5:26 pm


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