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The Value of Waiting

picture of woman and dog, Raleigh Psychotherapy, waiting, counseling, Katherine Broadway

I learned there was value in waiting when I was 12 years old. It was the first year that I knew there was no such thing as Santa Claus. Having discovered the truth the year before, I knew that somewhere in our small house would be a mother load of goodies for me. One day when I was alone in the house, I began to search. The presents were not hard to find. There they were, tucked behind some boxes in the storage closet. One present in particular that I remember was a View Master, with three reels to view. I spent a joyful 15 minutes with my discovery, looking at each reel several times. I walked away that day the victor!

Christmas morning came, and we gathered around the tree to see what treasures awaited us. My brother was thrilled by his model airplanes, comic books and various other gifts. I, on the other hand, sat smug in my victorious knowledge. What I soon discovered was that there was no excitement awaiting me that morning. I knew what my presents would be, and had even used them. I had already experienced the joy of the View Master and had played with it. My morning was lack luster and disappointing.

What I saw in my brother and those surrounding me was the culmination of weeks of waiting and anticipation. They were discovering something new, and were able to share the excitement and joy of the moment. I sat alone with the knowledge that I had not been able to wait nor did I know the value of waiting. It never occurred to me that, with each passing day, the suspense would grow and the fun would increase.

That holiday season, I was too young and inexperienced to tolerate the discomfort that waiting creates. I was uncomfortable waiting for the time when I could have something new and exciting, and I wanted to make that feeling go away. I wanted to turn my discomfort into excitement and intensity. I remember the feeling of doing something forbidden and the possibility of being caught. Upon finding my gifts for a short time, intensity and relief replaced the discomfort of waiting. That Christmas, I learned a valuable lesson.

In the years since then, I have had to wait many more times in many situations. Circumstances taught me these forced times of waiting can bring valuable results.

Among them:

  • Priorities become clear: Waiting allows you to sift through information and opportunities. When examined, many situations are not as appealing as when you first hear of them.

  • New possibilities arise: As you wait, it is surprising how new options and ideas will come to mind, or you will have an unexpected conversation that will give you new information that can be applied to the situation.

  • Self knowledge: As we wait, we will see feelings and thoughts in ourselves that are familiar, but if we listen closely and watch ourselves, we will see new dimensions to those thoughts and feelings. Waiting slows life down to the point where we have the time to see and hear, if we will take the time to observe.

  • It is an opportunity to develop self compassion and kindness: Waiting creates anxiety and stress. Self doubt occurs as you question, “Can I make it through this?”. The added time helps you see that you are a member of the human family, and that we all get anxious and stressed. You are not alone in your experience and there are those who can help you.

  • Waiting is an opportunity to rest and reset: Most of us run full tilt, which prevents us from taking the time to rest and reflect on our lives.

  • Waiting prepares us for the changes that we are facing: We want to rush ahead into situations and get them over in a hurry to alleviate our discomfort. That is like trying to run a race without training. We might finish the race, but at the finish line we will be exhausted. Training, or in this case waiting, allows us to complete the race with extra energy in reserve.

I do not know anyone who enjoys waiting. There are those who don’t mind it and have learned to fill their time with reading, knitting, watching television, meditating, or other options. They are experts at self care. These people know that they are powerless to make something happen before its time. Perhaps, they know that waiting serves a valuable function and in many cases is necessary.

Even though we can cite multiple values associated with waiting, usually we wait because we have no choice in the matter. If we are sick, we must wait until there is help, we must wait for our body to heal, or we must wait for the medication to take effect. We can fight, complain, and cry but we cannot control the speed at which the change occurs. At times, we cannot even control our responses. We are anxious, angry, impatient, depressed, afraid and no matter how we try to take care of ourselves, sometimes our behavior remains beyond our control. At times like this, we hold on to ourselves until the moment passes...and it will pass… and we shift to another feeling state. In the meantime we breathe.

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