Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow…
…or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another chance
Everyone is just waiting.
–Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go!
I don’t go to the waiting place on purpose. I never think “It is time for me to wait” and then take myself there. In fact I usually don’t even realize I am there until I’ve been sitting around for quite a while. Today for example. I have dozens of tasks on which I could spend my time, but I was struggling to get moving on any of them. It was six pm before I figured out why. School starts next week and I’m scared about it. I don’t know what emotional resources will be required of me in those first days of class. I don’t know what emotional meltdowns lay in wait for me as I take Kiki back to school, launch Patch into junior high, watch Gleek embark on more homework than she’s had in the past couple of years, and hope that three classes on campus do not prove too overwhelming for Link. Some part of my psyche evaluated all of that incoming emotional load and switched over into an emergency conservation mode. Without planning to do it, I entered the waiting place where my brain is mostly idling until the important events occur.
Getting out of the waiting place is as tricky as realizing I’m in it. It is possible for me to muscle through. I can just make myself get jobs done, but that is not the same as truly emotionally engaging with the work. When I’m focused, staying focused is easy. There is momentum and happiness in task completion. When I’m waiting, I wander off. I lose track of where I was. All the jobs are harder. It is harder to get started. It is harder to stay on task. It is harder to not get distracted. I wish I could tell myself “it will all be fine” and believe that. It might even be true. I might be conserving emotional energy for crises that never materialize. That has happened before. Not lately, but within memory. Sometimes muscling through will actually help me escape. Other times it just allows me to get things done until the thing I’m waiting for arrives. Still other times I just distract myself until the waiting is over.
Whether I manage to pull myself out or whether the waiting evaporates because of arrival, knowing that I’m in the waiting place is helpful to me. It lets me recalibrate my thought processes and recognize why my brain is reacting sluggishly to things.