The Joys of Waiting

I hate waiting. Most people I know hate waiting. Life is full of waiting: we wait for loved ones to come home, we wait for movies to start, we wait in lines at groceries, banks, or the DMV. We wait to hear the results of tests at school, and the results of tests about our health. Β Right now my love is waiting to find out if a new job will come through, unable to make commitments until he does. As writers, we wait for the muse to strike, we wait to hear back about a submission, we wait to see if anyone will discover our work, and we wait to learn if they love it as we do. All this waiting creates an often excruciating sense of anticipation, anxiety, or dread. It puts us in a state of suspended animation, of limbo: we understand, while in this limbo, why Dante used that term to describe the experience of being in neither Heaven nor Hell, of being profoundly uncertain of where one will wind up.

So, in an exercise of deep spiritual dedication, I thought I’d better come up with the top ten joys of waiting. You know, turn this thing on its head. Take a deep breath (well, maybe not if you’re waiting in line at the DMV) and find what we can love about limbo.

Top Ten Joys of Waiting

10. Any waiting room, anywhere, can serve as an object lesson in how NOT to decorate a room for the comfort and pleasure of its occupants.

9. The “take a number” machine reminds you of your first trip to Baskin-Robbins Thirty-One Flavors as a kid. (Oh, would there be any Bubble Gum or Peppermint Stick ice cream left by the time it was your turn?)

8. The conversation you eavesdrop on while in line provides excellent inspiration for dialogue between the two least-educated characters in your work-in-progress.

7. In an hour spent staring at your toes, you are taken on an emotional journey from rejection to acceptance, from “my toes are hideous!” to “I kind of like my left pinkie toe” to “my toes are beautiful, just the way they are.”

6. You finally have time to read your friends’ Facebook posts. (Although you regret, deeply and forever, looking up “twerk” on YouTube, as your friend recommended.)

5. You realize you have a great excuse to say “no” to invitations to upcoming events you were dreading anyway. “No, I’m sorry, I’m still waiting to hear about [fill in the blank], and I’d hate to take up someone else’s spot at your third cousin’s bat mitzvah, the one with the Klezmer Captain and Tennille cover band, only to have to cancel on you at the last minute.”

4. You realize you have a great excuse not to start cleaning the bathroom, because that phone call might come any minute, and you can’t answer the phone with your hands covered in Comet.

3. The anxiety from waiting gives you the energy to organize the hall closet. (Hey, your partner/roommate/kid can take that giant garbage bag of stuff to Goodwill. You’re done, you’ve earned a cold beer/dish of ice cream/nap.)

2. You make up six new verses to “American Pie.” In your waiting-induced mild psychosis, you think they’re better than the original.

1. Suddenly, a voice cuts through all the fear, anxiety, anticipation, or dread, and reminds you of everything you have to be grateful for, right in this moment: the ability to breathe, to worry, to create lists, to laugh, and to love.

two empty chairs lakeside at sunset

a beautiful place to wait


158 thoughts on “The Joys of Waiting

  1. I’m listening to radio coverage of the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It reminds me we human beings are also still waiting for some pretty important stuff: like true equality for all of us.


  2. Waiting rooms are great places to catch up on those exercises you put off that morning. Start with a few wall squats (the chairs are uncomfortable anyway). Then move to the center of the room and try some yoga poses – the standing on one foot types like “Crane” and “Warrior”. If the room hasn’t started clearing out yet, get into some “burpies” (marine pushups). It won’t be long until you’ve got the room to yourself and you can take a nice nap.


  3. I too hate waiting. It burns me out, which is why I always bring a book or magazine with me. But sometimes when you are anxious people watching and eavesdropping serves as great material for any writer’s block you’re having … that is until someone says “what are you looking at?” …and you can’t help but be annoyed and say “I’m looking at you there’s nothing else to look at,” and they say “well this conversation is private” and then you say “well if it was that private you wouldn’t be so loud and you would have taken it outside.” And then there’s a rumble. … Who knew waiting was so violent. Yeah…waiting sucks.


  4. This was a very fun read. I don’t truly mind waiting… sigh… well, maybe sometimes I don’t mind. I mind if I’m hungry and waiting to eat or as you’ve said when I’m waiting for my hubby to get home. I suppose I truly mind waiting if I don’t have a book to read, or something to do that causes me to feel productive. Sigh, ok, I guess I do mind waiting.


  5. @”I’m listening to radio coverage of the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It reminds me we human beings are also still waiting for some pretty important stuff: like true equality for all of us….”>>

    Now that is real talk for real! I’m waiting on that time to come also…Very insightful & fun way to use precious time while we wait . 2 thumbs UP


  6. Thank you so much for writing this! It provided a great laugh, (as I’m currently), waiting. More importantly I needed to read #1. Definitely what I need right now.


  7. Finally someone who agrees with me. I also hated waiting but now that I am retired that is my best feature. I had to learn patience and therefore blogging has been a life preserver. I needed to learn to take it easy and smell the roses. I was in such a rush I invited the devil in and almost joined him in a plunge into hell.


  8. Great take on an activity no one enjoys. I like how you essentially turned ‘doing nothing’ into an opportunity for ‘doing something’, whether that be making up a short story in your head centering around the woman across from you in the waiting room, alphabetizing your DVD collection while anticipating a call, or learning Mandarin on YouTube in line at the DMV. Bravo.


  9. “8. The conversation you eavesdrop on while in line provides excellent inspiration for dialogue between the two least-educated characters in your work-in-progress.”
    Yes, I do this all the time. I appreciate it when people talk loudly. The people I am eavesdropping on may not, though. (But, to be fair, I only eavesdrop if people are using their “outside” voices. And when I really need material, which is always.)


  10. Well said. I agree that waiting has definitely had a positive impact on the cleanliness of my surroundings. I’ve never had such a sparklingly clean kitchen! I always tell myself, “Submit it and forget it,” but that’s wishful thinking. How could I forget about my little stories, all nicely packaged beneath a cover letter waiting for a potential taker to adopt them? Funny enough, the waiting always just inspires me to create something else so I can send that out too and wait around to see what happens with that as well. I guess I’ll always be waiting, but at least I have these ten things to appreciate about my waiting-room status in the meantime. Great post. Thanks for sharing.


  11. This reminded me of a quote going something like that: “Everything comes in time to those who know how to wait.” [Some famous person/author I’m too lazy to look up.] Anyways, nice post. I liked the American Pie part!


  12. This post really struck a chord with me! Like the majority of people, I hate waiting. And I’ve already done a lot of waiting in my two decades of living. The most difficult wait for me was last year, with seemingly endless waiting by a hospital bed for days, weeks and months, hoping and praying my seriously ill mother would be okay. It was awful but even that waiting eventually ended, thankfully with joy rather than sadness.

    #6 made me laugh. Until a few days ago I had no idea what “twerking” was until, after all the online furore over Miley Cyrus’s performance at VMAs (which I didn’t watch), I gave in and Googled it.

    Great post! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.


  13. This is great! I laughed about ‘twerking’ because although I didn’t look it up on Youtube, I did Google it. I was so mad about reading it everywhere but having no idea what it means. Great spin on this expansion of time we all hate!


  14. Great article. My favourite is starting to be #8, eavesdropping into other’s conversations. You can catch some interesting conversations which make you wonder what was said before you got there !!


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  17. I have had my share of torturous waiting. I guess to learn to wait patiently is a virtue few of us possess. I would tell my kids good things come to those who wait. They would be convinced only half of the time. So, I was careful when to impart such wisdom. I enjoyed your post. I will wait to read your next article. I will remember # 5 for sure. Thanks.


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  19. This made my day! I laughed tons as I read it! And since I am an extremely impatient person, this will be very useful in the future. πŸ™‚


  20. The anxiety of not knowing…wow, how familiar…and frustrating…and I hope that your waiting was worthwhile…that it panned out in the end. I’ve written a lot about being in that ‘dark room’ of not knowing what will come next or knowing what will come next but not wanting to think about it.

    You already said waiting is a part of life. I once surprised a young 20s woman in line waiting at Subway …I paid for her lunch Made her day…and mine, too.

    How crazy is that?


  21. What a fantastic post, I have never thought about these things while waiting, I especially like the point on the decoration πŸ™‚ I have a “greek foot” meaning my 2nd toe is longer than my 1st toe… this has always been (to my dismay) an object of discussion with my friends if we have had to wait for something.. xx


  22. Nice! Yes, I agree that we spend so much of our lives waiting…. If I must wait anywhere, eg: deli line, Dr.’s office, I make sure my Pandora is streaming w/ headphones on or I have my own book or magazine!


  23. Thank you for this. I was expecting something more serious but was delighted to enjoy a more lighthearted article. I especially liked the truth of #1. Thank you again.


  24. Pingback: The Joys of Waiting | My Blog

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