Some years back we had a white Astro Van that shot black, chalky smoke from the rear like the stack on an industrial plant, moved at the speed of a four-year-old on a tricycle and finally one day, coughed, sputtered and died. I was tempted to prance around and chant, the witch is dead but I remembered it was my only source of transportation. Suddenly I was forced to take the bus to get around.
Public transportation really doesn’t suite me because it requires that I actually stand and wait on something and I’ve never really been good at that. Besides, in my experience buses and cabs rarely showed up early and were usually late. To add to it, I lived in Michigan at the time and the winters are brutal to the faint of heart and not much better for those who consider themselves brave. Sometimes I would take a cab when I could afford such a luxury and on those days I was really feeling flustered and peeved at the world for permitting the death of my Astro van. On cab days I would loll around inside the nearby CVS until my ride came. (Did I mention I hate waiting?) Not once, but several times I missed my cab and even after explaining to the dispatcher that I had in fact been waiting patiently, and a long time at that, I had to be placed on the bottom of that list and forced to wait…again.
At first glance there seems to be an obvious difference between waiting it out and giving up. But if you look closely the two often share the same attributes.
Waiting often mocks the appearance of doing nothing or giving up because it is internal, you can’t see it. You only know that someone is waiting because they tell you so. We wait because we are hopeful and that is not always apparent to the onlooker. On the other hand someone can tell you with the broadest smile that they are hopeful, when, in fact, hope packed up and left weeks ago.
Well, what is the difference between waiting it out and giving up?
To give up is to retreat and stop hoping both physically and in spirit. When we give up we take our eyes and mind off of the thing. When I would go into that CVS to browse my eyes were no longer on the lookout for the cab and it didn’t take long for my mind to follow and focus on something more apparent–something that’s actually present.
With writers and other professionals where awaiting a response from other entities is as much a part of what we do as the profession itself, waiting must become somewhat of an art; we wait on editors, publishers, readers…checks. We are constantly pitching, selling and reaching out. We are told not to stalk or pester or appear anxious. Don’t call us until six weeks have passed…we are currently two months behind on reviewing queries… We are instructed to be gracious, enthusiastic, but not frustrated. All the while our insides are screaming for a response NOW. And if we aren’t careful our hope can dwindle to a mere ember as we move on to other projects or set our eyes on something more likely…like a real job. We become disinterested in trying to fix or adjust that which we were holding out for.
Giving up diminishes a part of us. In some regards it is like death; what we hoped for is no longer a part of us. We may smile and tell our friends we know it’s coming. They look at us assuredly smiling along with us. People want to believe in us, because in some way we reflect their own hopes and aspirations.
With waiting there is an internal anticipation, an alertness that follows expectancy. When we are actively waiting with hope, we are unconquerable and tend to take more risks and are more resilient to rejection. We are focused, centered. We are more prone to hear the voice of God, because we expect to.
And as long as we have hope, we will wait it out.
How do you deal with waiting? I would love to hear from you!