Most of us find waiting unbearably agonizing. Few others – once able to pinpoint an unfavorable season as “temporary” – find lack of immediate resolution tolerable. While those in the latter category do exist, many more of us view delay as a raging storm and would describe it as “a hold-up” rather than “a place of expectancy.” But why?
1. We’re busybodies. With so many random thoughts, to-do list items, insecurities, etc. occupying our mental space and so many responsibilities and aims pulling at our physical energy, most of us find that 24 hours is not nearly enough day. Because of this, we make excuses for why we can’t afford to slow down and don’t deserve a moment of silence. This impacts our health and sanity as we bypass walks on the beach, mindless television watching, and prayer and meditation for hurrying and worrying. We treat our days as spaces in time to get tasks done, rather than as spaces in time rich with hope, opportunity, and enjoyment. We objectify our time instead of cultivating it.
2. We don’t have enough self-compassion. While in wait have you ever wondered what you can do to make the time go by faster, or what you did to deserve the punishment of having to wait in the first place? This line of interrogation is a form of self-loathing, because it holds you responsible for something you actually have no control over. Being tasked with waiting doesn’t mean you’re bad or unqualified nor does it mean you have to do anything other than wait in order to achieve your goal. Sometimes the only obstacle between you and what you desire is time. Why spend it being impatient and miserable instead of enjoying enriching activities that bring you peace and act as diversions?
3. We question whether or not what we’re awaiting is worth it. You’ve likely been to a restaurant with a long wait time and opted to find somewhere else to eat instead of staying. “It’s good, but not that good...” is probably one of the first thoughts that comes to mind during an experience like this. This mental weighing of worth and immediacy relates not only to dining, but to life, as we constantly delay discount – assign declining value to rewards that offer delayed receipts. Things just seem to be more important or interesting when they’re occurring now instead of later, which in turn causes things that aren’t to seem less important or interesting. The concept of sour grapes also comes to mind – criticism that occurs after realizing you can’t have something.
Regardless of why you find waiting so hard, you’ll find it much easier when you learn to embrace it and stop associating meaning to it. Maturity is being able to observe without labeling ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ The next time you find yourself challenged to be patient, view it as an opportunity instead of as an omen. Life is full of delay, so unless you want to keep experiencing it as misery, time has to start meaning more to you than what you can get out of it. Rule of thumb: if you have time to keep track of time, you aren’t living.