I had a bit of a revelation today as I waited in line for my flu shot. It’s been quite busy as of late, which is a good thing, but I had already passed on a shot last Friday because of the 45 minute wait. It was my own fault. Had I gone in last month, instead of waiting, I probably would have walked in and walked out quickly. I had a 15 minute wait today. It gave me time to think about how much time we spend waiting.
That might seem like a ridiculous thing to think about, but stop for a second and think. I hope I have you waiting right now for the rest of this. We wait in line at the grocery store, sit at the doctor’s office, and the dentist. Sometimes much too long. We wait for upcoming events, holidays, and special occasions. We watch the clock and wait for the kids to go to bed, to get up in the morning, and to come home from school. We wait for rides, lunch break, and time to go home from work. Even when we are busy doing something, we are often waiting for the next thing. In fact, is there ever really a time when we are not waiting for something, consciously or unconsciously?
I was astounded when I was younger and read somewhere how much of our lives we spend sleeping. As shockingly large as that number seemed, I can’t even fathom how much time we spend waiting. That involves both our waking and sleeping hours. Could we be wasting our time waiting for the next thing? Maybe in some situations, like romances that will never happen, winning the lottery, or for some people to change. In most cases, I think waiting gives us something to look forward to, plan around, and hope that it will be worth the wait. Of course, the time it takes waiting can seem like forever. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s good news or bad, minutes turn into hours and hours into days. We want to know and we want to know now.
What do we do while we wait? I look around and see people talking, playing games, checking email, or texting on their phones. I see them reading the headlines on magazines at the checkout, almost relieved for something else to occupy their minds while they continue to wait. It’s the reward of waiting a long time in line. My husband has gotten in the habit of taking his Kindle everywhere because he will read wherever he waits, not knowing how long it might be. At least his time is spent doing something pleasurable. Could there be more to waiting?
Years back a John Mayer song came out, “Waiting on the World to Change.” I never cared for the sentiment of that song. The world wasn’t going to change if we didn’t step up and do something to make that happen. Recently, a young girl stood up in front of the U.N., and consequently the world, and gave a good finger wagging at the adults in the room about climate change. It made some people uncomfortable that a child would have the audacity to reprimand world leaders for not giving the children of the world a better place to live and a better future. I was bursting at the seams with pride at the fact that she cared enough to face everyone and speak her mind. Those that took offense didn’t want to take the responsibility for what she accused them of. I kept thinking, “Out of the mouths of babes.” That was, perhaps, the youth minister in me cheering her on. I thought maybe they would listen better to this tiny voice heard ‘round the world. She is waiting, but still doing something in the meantime.
So, while we keep waiting for things to happen or to end or to change, what are we doing during that time? Should our lives stop? Should we just sit back and let things be? Or should we take that time, in the increments given, and give purpose to them? You don’t have to make changes that affect the world. Make changes that affect your life. Instead of being on your phone, talk to someone standing or sitting near you. I love to make people smile by making a little joke or just asking how their day has been going. Could you be planning something for your next waiting period that saves you time later? I find I never have enough time to do some things I really want to do, but it might be due to my mismanagement of time. I saw a mom playing an educational card game with her two daughters while they waited at the doctor’s. Not only were they well behaved, you could see how much they were enjoying their time with mom. I have seen people make a to-do list or their grocery list while waiting in other places. I need to think ahead to the best time to do things. We could all probably do better.
While waiting is necessary and unavoidable, don’t be so obsessed with the actual time that you are waiting that you don’t appreciate the moment now. Waiting can be done without thought, without worry, and without being the most important thing happening. It’s not worth missing out on things or for not making better use of the time. Be attentive when necessary, productive when given the time, and be willing to turn those waiting times into more than they might have been. We tend to hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. Maybe we just need to slow down a bit, take care of what we need to with our attention on it, and be better about what we do with our time. Whether you are waiting for the world to change or waiting for that special someone to call, is there something else you could be doing? Is there a better way? What are you waiting for?