I loathe having to wait–idling my chevy in the drive, waiting to pick up a friend who lacks punctuality, waiting in bumper to bumper traffic; waiting in a long line up to pay for groceries; waiting for the Purolator courier to deliver a parcel thats two days late. Time seems to march slowly whenever I must wait. Waiting is wasted time for most people, unproductive time. My life’s more than half over—I have no time to waste, especially by waiting.
When I was younger, I’d often become apopiplectic, like the madman who has road rage on the highway, racing along, darting in and out of traffic, whenever I had to wait. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that agitation is just losing control, which can ruin a sunny day. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become wiser about waiting, despite the reality that waiting is still annoying, still agitating, sometimes disrupting to my peace of mind. If I allow it , waiting can still invoke frustration, because I have no control over speeding up the situation.
So what is a person to do when about waiting? Many people who are forced to wait pull out their smart phone and begin jabbering. Or they’ll put on the headphones and listen to music on their digital gadgets. I find listening to their loud conversation or noisy music adds to my frustration. Or they stand and complain, which will only fuel their frustration. Or they press the gas pedal, attempt to rush through traffic. Or they almost knock you over when trying to get somewhere quickly. In these sorts of situations, I try to stand back and watch, just observe the situation, and search for some humour. In other words, I’ll attempt to amuse myself in another person’s folly.
Waiting can teach us patience, but this is not always possible, especially if your in the midst of an unexpected crisis, like having to go to the washroom while stuck in traffic on the highway, where there’s an exist a few miles away. For those interested in self-improvement, waiting can be an exercise in remaining calm and tranquil, like a Zen monk in a monastery.
When the situation is agreeable, I have learned to distract myself. If possible, for instance, while waiting in the car, I’ll meditate by closing my eyes and focusing on my breathe. If in a lineup, I’ll tell myself to relax, not to become agitated, or I’ll move to another line. Or I’ll pull out a small notebook I carry in the pocket of my trench coat, begin scrawling down some thought in my head. When driving, I tune into something inspiring, uplifting, like techno music on Sirius, and enjoy the sound. Or I’ll recall the wisdom of the sages.
In my study of Eastern religions these past few years, I have learned two important pieces of wisdom that can be applied to many circumstances in my life, including waiting: to let things be and to let things go, especially those people, events, situations, conditions I have no control over. If I wait, nothing might ever change, and so I must change myself, my perspective,how I react to “waiting.” I have only control over my thoughts, my own emotions, and my own behavior.
How does a person let things be? You do nothing. Sometimes by becoming involved you can make things worse. And so, often the best thing to do is “nothing.” Instead just watch and observe, see how the situation, the person, the experience will play out.
How does a person let go? You just leave things as they are. You set them down and leave them be. You let it pass.
It was the Beatles who took the Eastern wisdom of Buddhism, and popularized the message, “Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be.”I have learned that it is the desire to change people, experiences, circumstances, that ruin peace of mind, that can make a situation unbearable. And so I focus and work on “letting it be” and “letting go.”