As the second-hand drags her heels around the turquoise face fastened carefully around my wrist, I wait. Twenty four hours. Two important things. I wait.
Waiting is not my forte. Dreaming, perhaps. Or stressing. Stressing is definitely my forte! But waiting? No. Which strikes me as odd because I should be good at it. In fact, I should be an expert at it, the seven tortured years of painful infertility that shredded my heart while I prayed and hoped and pleaded and waited. Seven years is a long time to wait. But 24 hours feels long, too.
I’m not even waiting nicely. You’d think being gutted for seven years would at least render you a graceful wait-er. I could be calmly going about my business of the day. I could be prayerful. Instead, the lid slams off and on my pot of roasting tomatoes while I frantically stir before I flit chaotically to the next task that darts past my attention, a million things started, nothing complete. I can’t hold a thought long enough to follow supper’s recipe. I absent-mindedly stuff a handful of Sour Patch Kids into my mouth.
Yes, I’m definitely not waiting well.
I’ve noticed lately that a lot of the lessons I learned during my experience with infertility are coming back around for a second visit, and I’ve been surprised at how much I find myself lacking. If first term had ended and I’d collected my report card, I’m afraid I’d find “Needs Improvement” scrawled across most of my subjects, if my subjects were things like staying present in the moment, delighting in the little things, grace upon grace, and – yes, waiting.
The role of grader is typically one I foist upon myself, carefully measuring my performance to find out where I come up short. But I’ve also been noticing that this role doesn’t serve me well, the constant judging and self-flagellation causing more pain than growth.
Shocking, I know.
Instead, I’m reminded of the years I spent teaching. I’d (at least try to) introduce the important concepts with a bang – some sort of hook that caused my students to engage, or at least sit up and take notice, so they’d be ready to absorb the objective. But did I stop there? Did I expect them to have mastered it after I presented the hook? Of course not. We spent time in class manipulating that concept, playing with it and learning about it. Then they practiced out of class with their assigned homework. And hopefully, for at least some of them, they carried those concepts into their daily lives, continuing to rehearse and experiment and fine-tune and apply. I expected it to take a lot of practice. I knew there would be a process.
The last decade of my life has been full of hook after hook after dirty rotten hook. I’m tired. I’ve tried hard to absorb the lessons I needed to learn along the way. Sometimes I simmered in them, but sometimes the hooks came so fast that life was more about survival than anything else. So now, as the pace settles and days feel the teeniest bit less gulpish, I see these lessons coming around again and I want to continue to rehearse them and experiment with the and fine-tune them and apply them while I work my way toward mastery. Just like I hoped for my students.
So here I go. Today I’m practicing waiting. And not very well, either, but I’m practicing. Tomorrow, I might need to practice choosing happiness or investing in relationships or cultivating playfulness or focusing on the present. Or maybe (NNnnooooo!!!) I’ll practice waiting some more. But what I won’t do is carry the red pen close, just waiting for the opportunity to slash a glaring “NI” it across my life’s paper as thought I’ve arrived and the opportunity for practice is over.
We’re not failures, friend, if we didn’t learn it all perfectly the first time around. We’re human. Still in progress, still practicing, still going. The process continues and we go with it, and I’m not sure I’ll ever reach mastery, but I am sure I can keep going.
(PS – I don’t mean to be too vague. I’m not waiting to find out about pregnancy or anything like that. Nothing catastrophic, either. I’m waiting for some things that affect other people even more than they affect me, and that’s why I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of other people’s details.)