My new book just came out – and yes, it’s a continuation in the exploration of why – and how – we wait in life. You might think that after writing my first book (Waiting for Jack), and delving into the topic for so many years that I might have handle on this thing called “waiting”. Then you might continue in this line of thinking and assume that and once I saw the error of my ways, I never waited again. Well, not so much…
I was given the great opportunity to do a re-write of my first book with a new publisher. What first seemed like an update – an intensive ‘spit and polish’ – turned in to something entirely new after my house burned down. Faced with massive questions and upheaval, the “old” theme on waiting was no longer sufficient. As I peered deeper beneath the surface once everything was burned away and the ashes settled, I saw the truth. I was still waiting – I needed a fresh take on this “old” topic. And I would argue – most people I encountered were waiting on some deep or not so deep level as well.
This is the tragic fate of the human condition. We have what might be called “spiritual narcolepsy.” We forget who we are, what we are capable of, and what it is like to feel deeply, intensely, and joyously alive. Waiting sneaks up on us in a myriad of ways and leaves us longly silently or complaining loudly.
And here’s my truth: even before my house burned down, I was still waiting. If you had asked me, “For what?” I might not have known the answer. Yet there was a cloud of angst just beneath the surface, rearing its head from time to time to remind me of its presence. Even after a journey of personal growth spanning more than two decades, I longed to feel settled; I lacked the peace and sense of freedom I craved.
Seeing how I still waited rubbed me raw when I looked at it. One might think that, with a master’s degree in counseling, a multitude of transformational programs, hundreds of self-help books, years of work with fabulous mentors and coaches, I would be at peace. Yet my drive for perfection wormed its way into my quest for growth, shrouded in the cloak of personal development. I deceived myself into believing that, with enough study and practice, I would be “fixed.” I would arrive. I would attain the elusive state of perfection. I would find meaning, perhaps even the meaning of life! And then (and only then) would I be free.
But the more I searched for the “answer,” the more I missed the point.
Had my house not burned to the ground, I would have written a very different book. I might have played it safe. I might have hoped to give you the “Five Simple Steps To Never Wait Again!” But guess what. There are no “Five Simple Steps.” They don’t exist. There is no “quick fix.” So, instead of my watered-down words on waiting, while I continued to wait my life away, I wrote with a heightened sense of urgency, and an increased compassion for our human struggles.
The result of all this waiting is that we have lost our freedom to simply be. And, when I say “be,” I mean that deep-down, knowing sense of who we are and what we are made of, that quiet peaceful voice that tells us we are OK, the ease of feeling at home in our own skin. Instead, we have false images of how we should be, who we should be, what we should be, and, most of the time, in our own estimation, we don’t come anywhere close.
But now I am sounding the alarm – as well as whispering to you gently. I say the time has come to stop waiting for the world to make sense. The time has come to stop waiting for life to slow down and things to settle out. The time has come to live our lives anyway—in the face of waiting, of massive upheaval, as well as everyday stumbling blocks. If this really is (and I will borrow the profound words of Mary Oliver) our “one wild precious life,” what are we doing about that? Will we live in fear of the other shoe dropping, the bottom falling out, or the house burning down? Or will we go forth anyway, into the unknown, embracing the uncertain and reveling in the wildness of the in-between?
Adapted from What Are You Waiting For? Learn How to Rise to the Occasion of Your Life (Viva Editions, October 2013) For more information, please visit your favorite bookseller