In the last week of 2011, I spent a lot of time waiting. Waiting for flights. Waiting for coffee. Waiting for elderly parents. It got me thinking about what it means to wait.

My choices, as I saw them last Thursday at IAH: I could rage against the delays, as I sometimes do in the face of the constant chatter of the work world or when stuck in traffic on the Washington beltway. Or I could accept the forced slowdown, revel in the change in routine, and use the time for constructive nothingness, just waiting to see what comes or even shaping the time to my liking.

So while waiting for the Houston fog to lift, I spent three hours reading the final chapters of Dinaw Mengestu’s How to Read the Air. In the novel, the narrator, Jonas Woldemarian, is stuck, waiting. He lies; he fails to connect with his wife and others around him; finally he flees by car, recreating the honeymoon route of his parents and imagining the early seeds of demise in their marriage. Jonas is the epitome of passivity, but Mengestu writes exquisitely and captures me entirely.

And it also gets me wondering if I’m spending too much time – Jonas-like – waiting for what comes next, while neglecting the present in the process. I’m not telling lies, but I might be wasting chances.

I Googled “waiting” (like I told you, I’m indulging in constructive nothingness at the airport!) and found a couple of insightful quotes:

    • The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting. (Fran Lebowitz)
    • Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan)
    • You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes. (A. A. Milne)

Lebowitz waits, but not passively. Sagan anticipates, and likely pursues. And Milne comes down from the tree and goes after the honey.

Several days later, as I write I remember a watercolor sunrise, all reds and oranges, given to me by my best friend Hedy in ninth grade (Hedy, do you remember?). On it she had written: my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (Psalm 130)

Sometimes I wonder what I am waiting for – not the delayed flights, but the big things, the things that make me neglect the present in favor of a future yet untasted. At other times, I am quite certain what I wait for. I’m quite certain that it is more beautiful than the most exquisite prose. And I am quite certain that it is here, now, all around us … and always has been, and always will be.

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6 Responses to Delayed

  1. WJRyan says:

    Wonderful post, we (well, me at least!) do not take enough time to reflect however I often reminded of the Dale Carnegie quote that the person who goes farthest is the one willing to do and dare, the sure-think boat never gets far from shore. My challenge is striking the balance between reflection and positive action that will move me in the direction I want to go! Thanks for the thoughts this morning!

    • Thanks Bill! Yes, I’m definitely more the “bear after honey” type. But I also find I get so busy in the doing, that I lose sight of the why. I’m too eager to jump to the destination. This blog is helping me to slow down and think. I look forward to taking a look at your blog, too!

  2. Betty Kondrich says:

    Like the picture, Kathy. The picture pulls you in, allows you to take a breather, pause and reflect.

    • Thanks, Betty! I wish for you lots of good time for reflection in 2012, many good books, conversations with friends, walks on beautiful (or not-so-beautiful) afternoons. Hope we can find time in the same city this year for a cup of tea together!

  3. Dena Dyer says:

    This is simply lovely…and thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing–and for joining the High Calling blog network. We’re really glad to have you!

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