The Worth in the Waiting (the value of the in between)
Eighteen years ago I lived in Mexico City, Mexico. I was a naïve nineteen year old from the Pacific Northwest on the adventure of my life. I practically feared my own shadow but I could navigate a city of twenty-eight million people and its public transit system fearlessly, often alone, and nothing but a cross body satchel and my journal and pen.
I lived in a fourth floor apartment with two other girls on the same block as one of the city’s major soccer stadiums and bull fighting ring. We lived above a bakery, the aroma of fresh pan de dulce and tres leches cake wafted up every morning, making mornings worth the trouble.
The best part of the day, as it was before long distance communication was as close as our jeans back pocket, was entering the apartment building after a morning of language class to insert a small metal key into the mailbox, surely containing all things magical and wonderful.
Love poured out by hand, in words on paper and photos, these far-traveled letters and cards were finally ours. We held them our hands, pinned them to our bedroom walls, and traced the pen-indented paper – as if they were river beds flowing with love and prayer. We felt connected in the tangible gift of ink on paper to the heart on the other side of the pen.
These moments were always worth the wait. It’s in the waiting we recognize the value.
A few of these moments were even the beginning the love story between my husband and me.
Worth Waiting For
The waiting, though, do we know how to do it anymore?
The anxious way I tap the Enter key as my laptop comes awake, as if it speeds up the process, or the way I expect immediate replies from a text message as though no one had anything else to do but wait on my bidding; it makes me wonder – have I lost the ability to sit in the waiting between?
I can’t help but feel we’ve lost the practice of patience. To recognize that what’s to come is worthy of the space and time we occupy before it arrives. To inhale gratitude and exhale hope through the process.
Where do we find those magical moments of anticipation in the every day? It’s definitely not in the mail box anymore, what with the grocery store ads and credit card applications. Hardly worth the skipped heartbeat at the sound of the mail dropped in the box.
Our culture moves at a breakneck speed, demanding instant messaging and 2-Day shipping to hold our hope and expectancy ransom. We’ve lost connection in the high speed, wireless, streaming, downloadable non-real reality we live in. And we are paying a high price for our addiction to instant gratification.
A Conscious Acquisition
As a parent pursuing simplicity, I find myself worrying about raising kids in this era of instant gratification. More than ever, we must guard the virtue of waiting, saving, and hoping in this generation of immediate expectations. Harder still, we have to model it ourselves, and as the last generation to have known life without cell phones, email, or Facebook and enjoy the innovation of technology all the more for it – it’s not easy!
Joshua Becker wrote in his article Reconsidering the Merits of Slow Acquistion , “It wasn’t until adulthood that a simple realization clicked: my grandparents took years to purchase a household of goods. They had decades together to acquire their belongings. And their home wasn’t always like this; they consciously acquired things when needed.”
In the article, Becker describes being a newlywed and feeling the pressure to ‘have it all’. It wasn’t until later he realized that a life of joy, peace, and purpose is “consciously acquired”, it’s not borrowed against or bought with one click. It took a lifetime for his grandparents to reach the level of ‘having it all’ that we often are so impatient to achieve.
Rumi said, “Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.”
What if the waiting is where our eyes are opened to the wonders and, if we’re conscious enough to them, we can feel the beauty and wisdom as we sit, in stillness and silence?
Hurry Up and Wait
I’m determined to raise patient and grateful children in a world going too fast to wait for the lessons to sink in. And in the process I still struggle with the slow acquisition belief system I’m desperate to return to. I hurry my kids along then tell them to wait.
They are in a rush to have it all and I’m in a hurry to slow it all down, with my iPhone in hand most of the time. The irony isn’t lost on me.
We have assumed the belief system of instant gratification as being a right, rather than merely an option. The value of being in process, of creating space between wanting and having, and of practicing self-discipline is fading in the blue lights of screens and Buy Now buttons.
The Goodness of Waiting
With everything we want or need just a click away, what is there to hope for? When do we just wait for the goodness of waiting?
In my own life, instant gratification has been my hope for relief in discomfort, discouragement, and even depression. It looks like impulse shopping, comfort carb loading (not of the pre-marathon kind), a bottle of wine, or a weekend of Netflix binging. The worst part is that ‘instant’ keeps its promise of relief – for an instant. The fall back down often lasts longer then the relief itself.
If we only had one weapon against this fast paced, nonstop culture of more and better and now, let it be hope. Because hope perseveres. Hope waits and comforts and satisfies. And it endures.
Hope establishes value that impulse displaces. The things we acquire unconsciously are often worth much less to us than those items, experiences, or loves for which we mindfully wait; cultivating gratitude and hope in the fullness of space.
Let it be the kind of hope that looks for the gift waiting for us in our slowing down, in taking a night to sleep on it. May it be the kind of hope that expects more from our own soul than from our current desire. Maybe, the hope will quelle the pain of not having in such a way that when we do have, we appreciate it more deeply so as to transfer the worth found in the waiting to the thing itself. Making both the waiting and the receiving invaluable.
The Space Between
On a few occasions during my year in Mexico City, I opened the mailbox to find a small envelope with stamps and postal markings from a place unfamiliar. My eyes scanned the upper left corner of the envelope, small print of a language I didn’t know, but with familiar handwriting of a friend in Lisbon, Portgual.
Sometimes it would be a note card in an envelope and other times postcards from Lisbon’s historical docks, where Christopher Columbus sailed off for the Americas. And at Christmas a box of chocolates. These were moments of pure magic found in my mailbox, but the space between each letter coming and going across the Atlantic felt divine – marked for hope of a love yet to come, and worth waiting for.