“Wait” is my third least favorite word in the English language. #1 is “moist” and #2 is “turgid.” They grate against my ears. Waiting is particularly hard, especially during the holidays. This blog post is not about Black Friday, but Black Friday is what spurred on these reflections. Particularly the emails pouring in the Monday before Thanksgiving—“Don’t wait—Black Friday deals start NOW!” One of my favorite Twitter accounts posted:
“black friday through the years:
2013: thursday 8pm
2020: 4th of july”
Americans are notorious for our need for instant gratification, until we can’t even wait for the actual good thing coming to us and have to have pre-sales. And pre-pre sales. And don’t forget the after-sales like Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. I will admit to spending two hours on Black Friday searching Amazon for dresses and car seats for Lucy, but that was about it. It was not very enjoyable—everything was highly calculated and researched, and then I went back to the fun stuff—more wine and baking with some of my favorite people. And a bath with lots of bubbles to round out the night.
While I can wait to buy things, and don’t feel this pressing need to get more crap (in fact, I’m in that lovely purging phase because our apartment is TINY), God/the universe is forcing me to wait in other ways. And it’s so hard. To wait for Christmas, to wait to see loved ones, to wait for medical answers: not just for my issues, but loved ones as well. Will my father-in-law go into remission after this third round of chemo? Will my only grandparent figure live long enough for Lucy to remember her?
And the doozy: We just found out that we will not be staying in Pittsburgh next year, and are waiting to see what job offers Michael gets elsewhere.
We are heartbroken because Pittsburgh is. . .well, it feels like home. We knew it might only be a 1-year gig, and promised ourselves we’d go into it 100%, and we have. We’ve tried lots of restaurants, made friends, enjoyed our jobs, explored the area and I halfway started a business with a very talented friend. But this news affected a lot of things. After meeting with a lawyer and accountant, I realized it would be too hard for my partner and I to do our business in separate states, which means I’m forging ahead on my own, and waiting to hear what state. . or even country. . .we’ll be moving to. In the meantime I’m doing market research, working on my website, and brushing up on my skills and knowledge. But oh, the waiting! To find out where we will be, and when I can do what I want to do! When my husband will find a semi-permanent or permanent teaching job where he can thrive and have time to get published, without the constant slew of applications. Waiting is agonizing.
If you are a Christian, or used to be a Christian, you might know a little bit about Advent. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter—it’s a period of preparation and waiting to celebrate Jesus’ birth, rather than decking the halls immediately after the Thanksgiving turkey is cleaned off our plates. It’s the pause button in the calendar. Think of Martha Stewart taking stock of her flower beds before the cold hard frost (I’ve been reading too many holiday magazines lately! ;) ) Often this little breathing period clarifies what I want most. Not presents, but peace. Peace in transience. Flexibility and confidence, even when I feel rootless.
My friend Emily sent me this beautiful collection of Advent reflections. The first page made me cry. It opens not with the story of Mary being told she’s pregnant with Jesus, but with the lesser-known story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were sort of godparents to Jesus and were barren. Okoro, the author, talks a lot about waiting—waiting for peace, waiting to have a child, waiting to get married, waiting for that perfect job, that salary, that good health. I thought of my beautiful, talented, single girlfriends who want nothing more than to meet a strong partner they can build a life with, and yet they are waiting. My girlfriend who wants a child but doesn’t yet have a partner. How long should she wait to adopt? Friends who are waiting until their non-traditional relationships are acknowledged and accepted. Friends who are hoping that maybe their surrogate will work out this time.
Waiting stretches us to our limits. I don’t know how many more moves I can handle. This next move, now slotted for the end of July will be #29 I think? I’m only 31 years old. But Black Friday and Thanksgiving and this bad news taught me: I want to say “Yes.” I want to be vulnerable and open to whatever happens, and thrive where I am, even if it’s only temporary. I want Lucy to have a fun, loving mom, not a mom who is tightly wound and always thinking of the future and clenching her butt cheeks in the checkout line because the people in front of her are buying the entire toy department for their kids. The mom who’s got 99 problems but waiting ain’t one. (This is my 99th blog post so I had to work that in somehow).
Whether you are spiritual or not, I’m sure you are waiting for something, and are in a similar state of anxiety. What do you want most and yet it never comes? Let’s just sit there together for a second. Rest in that icky feeling of displacement. Stew in it and let your fingers get all pruney. Realize that nothing bad is happening. You are merely waiting. Breathe in and out. Be thankful for the air filling your lungs. Be thankful for the present moment. Maybe you ate a great meal or you can hear laughter. Maybe you are finally at peace with your body and don’t feel the need to torture it anymore. Maybe everything is going wrong but you saw a beautiful tree today or found just the right shade of blue. Hold onto that. Be thankful for the people and places in your life, the things that are sure and that you are NOT waiting for. When your mind races back to the “but I want. . .” or “if only. . .”—when the anxiety pulls you again and you want to lurch away from the present moment, breathe deeply. You are OK. You are beautiful and important and not alone. You will get through this.