lessons learned: the waiting

The waiting is the hardest part.

~Tom Petty


You can get so confused

that you’ll start in to race

down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace

and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,

headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…  

~Dr. Seuss

Many years ago, I experienced a feeling I had never known before.  I consulted friends and family, and no one could really name it for me until a minister friend of mind took me back to my childhood.  He reminded me of a book by Dr. Seuss entitled Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

He suggested that I was in the “Waiting Place.”  The Waiting Place?  Yes, he explained, the time between the last big milestone or decision in your life and what lies ahead.   Settle in, he nudged, you don’t know how long you’ll be there.

When I arrived home that day, I ran to my daughter’s room and grabbed the book, and what I read filled my eyes with tears.  A useless place?  What was he trying to tell me?!

Needless to say, the next day I called him.  I can hear my voice now, “What do you mean?  It’s a useless place?!”

“Oh,” he muttered, “does it say that?”

After a long conversation, I understood what he was truly trying to tell me.  While waiting may seem like the hardest part, it’s not useless–it’s all about preparation.

Just as our garden waits all winter for spring seeds, and our seeds wait for sun and rain, and our fruits and veggies wait for harvest, we too need to wait.  It offers our bodies and minds time to rest, but more importantly, it prepares our spirits for what’s ahead.

I have a friend who is one of the most knowledgeable gardeners/farmers I know.  He has mentioned on occasion, however, that he likes doing all the “starting” of projects–making mulch, sprouting seeds and such.  He doesn’t like the “down time” that it takes for stuff to decompose or grow.  It makes him restless.

Sometimes, that’s what the waiting place does for us–makes us restless.  That’s when we get distracted or find “busy work” to keep ourselves entertained rather than maximizing that time to listen and discern what our next steps on the journey may be.  When we fill that time of preparation with “stuff,” that is when we become useless.  (Ok, I’ll give that one to you, Dr. Seuss).

So while Tom Petty may have made an accurate observation about the human condition–most of us do consider waiting as the “hardest part”–I do believe it is also vital to who we are spiritually, professionally, and personally.  The challenge is doing the hard work of just being quiet and still long enough to discover what amazing things are ahead.  Then, my goodness, oh, the places you’ll go!

lessons learned: waiting on the cows

There is only one moment in time when it is essential to awaken.  That moment is now.  ~The Buddha (c.563-483BCE)

When I go walking, my preference is to head out to a country road rather than a park or neighborhood.  It is more

peaceful for my spirit and affords me an opportunity to reconnect with nature while I exercise.  Sometimes, after visiting my parents, I will stop at a road that meanders through green fields and farm land.   The place where I park my car is across from a meadow with cows.  Having had a fascination with these animals when I was little, I always stop to say hello.

the cows in the field that day

One particular day, I was short on time and really wanted to get a quick walk in before picking up my daughter.  I stopped, however, to greet the friendly beasts in their pasture.   One cow came over to size me up but then took off in haste when I moved my arm to touch its nose.  I waited patiently—my hand extended while I sat in the tall green grass.

I looked at my watch—if I don’t leave now, I’ll never get a good walk in before I have to leave.  Yet, there was something about that moment in time that drew me to just sitting there—just being.  Frequently, I am in a rush or am multitasking to get everything done.  Rarely do I sit and focus on one thing or better yet, focus on nothing at all.  Waiting on the cows that day just gave me time to “awaken” in many ways—it allowed me to appreciate the quiet of the countryside, to take in the warm sun on an atypical spring-like day, to delight in the simplicity of nature and creation, and to still my heart and soul while doing something just for me.

After about 10 minutes, I noticed more cows ambling along toward me.  Before I knew it, there must have been 30 creatures crowded around the fence—they seemed to be sizing me up as I watched them through the barbed wire.  My hand still extended, I slowly moved it closer to the cow right in front of me.  He jerked back a bit then craned his neck forward and kissed me on my hand.  The others watched cautiously, but slowly, a few others came over and did the same.

No, I didn’t get my walk in that day, but it didn’t really matter.   Something as simple as waiting on the cows offered me a gift I would have missed had I rushed on with my afternoon.  I had the opportunity to find balance and peace, and that was enough.

lessons learned: foggy mornings and slowing down

This morning I am reposting from April 2012 as it seemed appropriate–foggy morning, busy morning, and this time, I am appreciating the lesson learned.

It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.

~Joseph Conrad

This morning on the way to school, we came upon a patch of low lying fog.  It wasn’t the kind of fog that whispers in the trees, but a thick soup of condensation that surprised us as we rounded a blind curve.  As you can imagine, it took us all by surprise, and I tapped on the brakes to slow down a bit.

You see, I knew what was coming ahead was a small bridge that is barely wide enough for two cars.  Usually, I just slow down and share the road as I travel across, but on school mornings filled with late teenagers and type-A professionals, I usually stop and give right of way to motorists zooming toward me.

This morning, however, I could see nothing, and I will admit, my hands clenched the steering wheel a bit.  I inched forward hoping that what lay ahead wouldn’t blindside me.  A car from the other direction quickly approached the bridge.  Normally, I might have moved forward, but today, I waited and thankfully so.  As it flew around the curve into toward the structure, it had to swerve over the line on the bridge to maintain it’s place on the road.  Slowing down in the fog had given me the opportunity to assess what might happen and be safe.

As I sat there a moment, feeling thankful, I began thinking about how my life is when I feel like I’m “in a fog.”  I can’t see clearly, I get anxious about what’s ahead, and I forget to trust what I know to be true–the bridge is short, the fog will clear, and I will see the light of day again.  I seem to inch along though, just hoping that I make it to the other side.

The benefit of fog, however, is that it slows us down.  It surrounds us.  It encourages us to stop and think, “Why and I here, where am I going, and how do I get there?”  It does create a bit of uncertainty, but it also opens us up to possibility and provides us with hindsight.   Being in a fog creates and opportunity for discernment and perhaps, offers us a time to be in the “waiting place”-serving as an opportunity to stop and catch our breaths then make intentional choices.

And yes, we did make it over the bridge safely.  As we turned the corner to head down the next road, the sun shone brightly through the newly blossoming trees, reminding me that the fog always opens up to a newly lit path.