I’ve spent more time in waiting areas in the past several months than I’ve cumulatively spent in such spaces during the majority of my life up to this point. Most of my waiting time has been in hospitals and medical environments.
What became shockingly clear to me as I looked around was how few people plan and use their waiting time productively, even when they knew their time sitting would span hours or most of a day or more.
While most of those around me were glued to their cell phones as a chief means of distraction, when a phone wasn’t stuck in front of their noses, they watched the ever present TV with a blank stare, mindlessly ate whatever fast food fare was nearby, and/or just stared into space.
I acknowledge my tendency to over-compensate, but I usually take several hours worth of reading, writing, and work projects with me nearly everywhere I go.
While I’m more than a little perplexed as to why others don’t do the same, I’ve also taken these opportunities as fodder for thinking more deeply about how all of us use the waiting or ‘in-between’ spaces in our lives.
If you think about it, much of our life is spent waiting. We’re waiting for a returned email or phone call to come. Waiting for a project to be approved so we can begin work on it. Waiting for kids to be back in school so that routines can be reset again. Waiting for the end of the school year to put the house on the market and move. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
For the last three years, I’ve had to deal with several family matters that have required more patience and waiting than I’ve ever been called upon to endure. Combined with some severe business and financial droughts and a couple of health surprises, this period has pushed my patience button further than I believed I could go.
I believe I have a higher capacity for uncertainty – which is what a lot of waiting entails – than most. But what do we do with that time?
At a point of deep despair and doubt that movement would ever occur again on several fronts, I kept thinking that if I didn’t have these concerns holding me up, I’d have more mental resources available to focus on a list of goals I’d written out. As the loop continued, I thought, “Yea, if I wasn’t having to keep my mind on these particular issues, I’d throw myself into this project, then that one, then that one!” Then the most unsettling thought occurred – “Then why don’t you just do the first one anyway, because it ain’t getting’ done while you’re waiting.”
I had a list of some conferences I wanted to attend, some story projects I wanted to film, and a couple of social events I wanted to initiate. So I finally got to it.
I got on line and registered for three conferences that I wanted to attend – the StoryLine conference in Nashville, SXSW in Austin, and World Domination Summit in Portland – and started making travel arrangements. As I’ve attended these three events over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to film segments for story projects I wanted to initiate. Two of those projects – the Legacy Project and Fear and Boulders – have five or more interviews already filmed or in production.
In retrospect, I wonder if I would have really set out and committed to each of these goals had it not been for my determination not to waste my time waiting.
I needed to invest myself in goals and objectives that were attainable and not allow myself to get caught up in the malaise or anxiety that often comes when waiting for events outside our control to move the needle forward.
When school starts and the kids are out of the house, your surgery is over and recovery underway, or when the phone rings and the project you’ve been waiting on is approved to start working, what will you have accomplished or lost during that time of uncertainty and fear while you waited?
Is it possible to make that decision now, while you’ve got the time? While you’re waiting?