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The Waiting Room

January 30, 2011

by Sarena James

(Whether you mark time by the tick-tock rhythm of a clock, or by the page-flipping rhythm of a calendar, at some point in life, you will find yourself in the waiting room; and what you do while you’re in there will make all the difference in the world.)

I’m convinced there’s an art to waiting.  Sometimes it’s seen in the nervous twiddling of thumbs and heard through heavy sighs and smacking of gum. Then there are those times it comes with peace and a good posture or simply a silent smile.  Waiting has a certain swag or limp, depending on who’s walking it out.

I’ve been eyeing a large bowl of strawberry hard candies with delicious gooey-ness inside for more than twenty minutes. No doubt they were strategically placed in full view to be a momentary distraction when the physician’s running late. Our appointment was forty-five minutes ago.  While peeling back the foil on my third piece of candy, I observed something that ultimately would change my life. I saw how very differently people wait.  

Perhaps the young woman seated in the corner of the room rocking to the beat of her iPod tunes doesn’t know what time it is, or even care. Whatever song she’s listening to has her fingers quietly snapping and her feet lightly dancing on the floor. She’s found her pass-the-time rhythm and so have the mother and toddler seated across from me who are hugging and giggling over a Highlights magazine.  I like watching the wait of the couple who are expecting a child.  She’s excitedly pointing to names in a Baby Name book and he’s ignoring her playful nudges, because he’s fixated on the Explanation of Benefits Book from Blue Cross Blue Shield!

Standing next to the window is a stubble-faced man who has the discontentment of someone whose appointment was scheduled for two days ago. He’s cutting eyes at the receptionist and rudely tapping at his watch. Safe to say his wait will be that much longer.  

Watching the characters in this room, I’m reflecting on the different waits in my life.

There was a two-year wait before my husband and I conceived our first child. During that time there were tears of uncertainty and frequent window-shopping trips to Motherhood Maternity in hopes that one day there would actually be a reason to make a purchase; and one day there was.   I knew exactly what I wanted to wear because I had spent much of my wait picturing myself as a stylishly beautiful mother-to-be.   I knew the color of the crib bedding and the sweet lullaby that would play from the mobile. I guess you could say I spent my wait preparing for what I wanted. When life called my name to be a mother, I was as ready as I knew how to be.   

Then there was the wait when my career stalled, okay failed, and I plummeted into a ditch of self-pity and stayed there for months. I blew up black balloons and buried my hopes of becoming a writer… all because of one editors’ brutal opinion. That was one of the hardest waits (weights) of my life.   I lost a few years moping, but when I found my ink again, I belted a soulful chorus from the movie, The Wiz:

Believe in yourself, right from the start
You’ll have brains
You’ll have a heart
You’ll have courage
To last your whole life through.

I took an awesome, nearly perfect job, writing for a jewelry gallery, interviewing artists from around the world about their unique collections. I went on to write for other newsletters, took more writing courses, and started free-lancing as well.

Six years passed between the birth of our first daughter and our son.  For the first year and a half of his life we lived with little to no waiting room experiences. Things were fairly (or at least acceptably) normal.  When the official diagnosis of Autism came just before he turned three, we had no idea we were in for the wait of our lives.   

As a parent of a child with special needs I feel as if we’re always in some sort of waiting room; literally and figuratively.  We wait on the results of new studies, the discrediting of old research, the development of new therapy techniques, insurance benefits to improve, access to healthier food and diet options, Individualized Education Programs (IEP) to be implemented,… and then there’s the ultimate wait for cures and miracles.

Sitting here in this space for almost an hour now has made me a student of time. Today’s lesson has confirmed one simple truth: Life has an inevitable wait, and how you fill that time can be damaging or helpful. On Aisle 9 is launched from our waiting room in hopes to enlighten and strengthen those on this journey.

What are you waiting for? How are you managing your wait?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Shelli Quenga permalink
    February 1, 2011 4:33 pm

    Mindfulness and waiting are tied together for me. If I am waiting, then I’m not present. Instead, I’m focused on the future and the hopes and dreams that I want to realize.

    I have not spent time waiting for the things you have, but I’ve done my share of waiting — for sobriety for loved ones, for health for the sick, for comfort for the dying. And yet, when I think back to what caused me the most anxiety and stress, it was the waiting for something to change.

    What I’ve tried mightily, yet not very successfully, to do is to be mindful, to be present during those waits, so that I can still find some element of joy, some modicum of peace. It is the hardest thing I do because it means I have to give the “waiting” to God. (I kinda like to take things back, thinking I can manage it better.)

  2. LaDonna Davis permalink
    February 1, 2011 8:39 am

    Great article! I’m waiting on my dream career along with other things and I’m working as I wait. Like the people mentioned in your article, I’ve waited laughing, listening, and fidgeting. I’ve waited most of my life for many things. You would think I’d be a professional “waiter” by now, but not so. The positive side of waiting for me is that I’m usually granted what I was waiting on and so much more.

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