Monday, May 3, 2010


The skill I most lack is that of waiting. When I see something that needs doing, I like to get right on it. If someone else is working on something for me, but delayed, I'll just do it myself.

I often find myself trying to transform my car into a time machine, especially when my GPS provides me an estimated arrival time that is completely unreasonable. I like traffic insofar as it allows me to exercise one of my more honed skills of executing lane-changes-per-second (LCS); however, traffic that isn't moving at a rate that supports LCS leaves me fidgeting and looking for alternate routes.

There are very few restaurants where I'll sit anywhere but the bar. In most restaurants, bar tender is the most highly coveted position among wait staff, and bar tenders tend to provide the best (quickest) service.

Planes, trains and other modes of public transportation all offer opportunities to exercise my waiting skills. But alas, I've failed miserably in this area.

It seems that whenever I wait for something or someone, I become completely dislodged from the present and attend to the object of my waiting. To anyone with me, I become distracted and only semi-available. I'll check the clock. I'll look out the window. I'll try to see what's going on. Waiting makes me completely useless.

Passing Time
Sometimes, I don't wait, but instead pass time. Passing time is when you distract yourself from the fact that you're waiting by doing something like reading a book. Sometimes I pass time well; I'll barely notice that my number has been called or that the flight is boarding. At other times, I only pretend to pass time, but I'm still secretly (or not so secretly) waiting. I'll start the same page 20 times or lose the thread of the discussion I'm trying to conduct with the person waiting with me.

For me, passing time feels like treading water. You're active, but not really moving. I guess it could be called active waiting.

In fact there's this whole area of endeavor called pastimes. According to Merriam-Webster a pastime is something that amuses and serves to make time pass agreeably.

When I was growing up, baseball was referred to as America's favorite pastime. Pastime is big business. There are crossword puzzles and board games, romance novels and video games, Jerry Springer and People Magazine, all sorts of distractions and activities that fill time, and move nowhere.

I would note that the Google Ad that appears on the Merriam-Webster page defining pastime is: Find out about an ADHD medication available for adults. Get the facts.

In general, I'll attempt passing time in lieu of waiting. But outside that, I'm not really good at passing time. I'm terrible at holidays or vacations, at least the kind where you just sit and pass time. I've got so much I want to do, so many ideas I don't have time to get to, I can't imagine squandering time, just letting it pass by.

Letting Time Pass
The one thing that seems to work for me is to not wait nor pass time. Instead, I just let time pass as though there were nothing to wait for. I displace the object of waiting with something else I want to do. I don't fill my time; I use it. Rather than treading water, I start swimming.

Mark K has helped me to hone this skill, especially at times where I'd otherwise be waiting for his arrival. When it comes to coincidence of stated and actual arrival times, Mark is consistent in his inconsistency. This makes waiting for Mark special. When someone is consistently three hours late, you can just adjust everything by three hours. However, when someone varies between ever so slightly early and 37.5 hours late, well...

Mark is also an adept at pastime, owning more iPhone apps than anyone I know. In fact, he's so good at it, he can pass time when he has no time to pass. It's fun to be good friends with someone who in many ways represents your polar opposite.

Iris and I used to wait for Mark, cleaning the house, preparing his room and cooking dinner timed in a manner to coincide with his arrival. We worked on various methods of keeping meals warm and then having everything prepped to cook at the last minute, and so on, but none of that seemed to influence Mark's schedule. So we simply stopped waiting and stopped filling time. Instead, we do what we'd do anyway knowing that he'll arrive or he won't.

Andy Warhol said, "The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting."

I would say that the idea of waiting for something detracts from the experience of the something. In fact, we enjoy our time even more with Mark now that we don't wait for him.

Of course, not waiting doesn't mean not available. It just means not treading water, not putting everything else on hold, not anticipating.

When Waiting is Not an Option
There are some things on which we wait, where waiting is not really an option. There are questions that may never be answered, processes that can take months or years, situations over which we have little or no control. Waiting for a diagnosis... waiting for a lover to decide what he wants... waiting to be sure.... waiting to figure everything out... waiting until we have enough...

We wait. We pass time. And in our waiting, we never...

What are you waiting for?

Happy Monday!


  1. Two things came up for me with this. First the picture, by itself, brought up a scenario I've shared with those seemingly stuck, undecided, as to which train to get on, the one going north, or the one going south. Their attitudinal thought train, and ultimately how one experiences their day's trip. Undecided. So the question I give.

    Life is a precious commoditity. To me it is a constant flow of moments, it is comprised of. Like snowflakes, unique, they flow continuously in our faces as we stand, waiting on the platform. Time, moments, are the currency of our life. So, again the question, how to spend the currency our wallet is filled with at each morning's awakening? What indeed are we waiting for? How are we choosing to invest our daily 'presents'? bw

  2. BW, what a great question to ask each morning! How will I spend myself today?

  3. :) always choosing to embrace Gratitude~~~


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