The Waiting is the Hardest Part

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait. It’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” 

– Joyce Meyer

I have a complicated relationship with patience. My mom will tell you that I was born impatient. My dad repeated the old adage “Good things come to those who wait,” ad nauseum while I was growing up. My partners at Reboot will tell you I move unnervingly fast. Yet, it’s not speed that drives me (I avoid going for speed in most things, unless I’m driving my Mini Cooper). There’s something else that moves me, like a stirring call from within connecting with and towards some dream-beacon out there, and I don’t want to miss it.

Back in highschool and before good word processors, we had been assigned to write about the five biggest turning points in our life. I wrote a 20-page, single-spaced typed piece titled “I’ve Got a Date With a Dream,” complete with a clipart image of a girl in pigtails riding a galloping horse on the cover. The title and image alone say a lot. In the paper, all of the pivotal moments pointed me in the direction of my dream, you see, which was felt even then despite being a forthcoming thing.

Once I know what I want, and where I’m generally going, something ignites for me, and I can’t fathom waiting. Why wait when the possibilities ahead look clear and are palpable? At that point, I have a knowing in my bones that it feels right, and I start moving in that direction. This tendency gives me manifesting cred and is a penchant that unnerves my coworkers.

That impulse to get started and “go do” is mighty strong, and I try to keep on moving–even when I can’t really go anywhere necessarily. Being human, my phenomenal cosmic manifesting powers are not without a feeling of creative tension as I stand between point A and point B. That tension can be uncomfortable in a “the waiting is the hardest part” sort of way. And yet, that’s the space where stuff happens and things start coming into being as you stride out into the great unknown, following that dreamy-vision like a postcard from the horizon line.

It’s worth noting here is that I do have patience. It looks like paying attention to the moment-to-moment experience of life in front of me. (It comes in handy with the horses. I can remember one particularly bitter-cold Wisconsin winter day when I was 12 in which a friend had lent us their horse trailer to move my horse to a heated barn for part of the winter. After 20 minutes of attempts at loading the horse into said trailer, my mom and friend waited it out in the warmth of the house, watching intently. Two hours later, in a calm fashion and dropping temperatures, the horse walked into the trailer.)

Maybe it’s my relationship with time–or more specifically, how my imagination makes the future feel like a strong magnetic pull that I can’t shake, and how that messes with my sense of the present as if there’s an injustice that’s occurring because we’re not at point B yet. In those moments, I feel a sense of unrest. It’s as if I can feel the future calling me into it and can’t organize myself or my life fast enough to meet it. From out of nowhere, I hear these lines from Tom Petty, haunting me:

It’s time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

When it’s time to get going, I move right along like how the geese know when to migrate south for the winter. But, I have the patience to know that the horse will eventually get in the trailer.

Waiting is particularly hard when I feel “that future calling me into it” is my calling in life. I heed that call as if God is on the phone, showing me what my work is in this lifetime (you know– that sacred work that’s who you are, that makes a difference, and that brings you alive). When I get a sense of that, it’s as if a movement is swooping me up, a movement summoned from a much greater organizing force than I. When I catch that wave, it’s as if my soul locked on to the purpose track. Should I choose to ignore that sign or gesture, I would be saying ‘no’ to that possibility–and I’m more of a carpe diem kinda gal despite the fact that the ride I’m on is unknown, yet perceptible, and feels inevitable and thrilling.

Why wait any longer for something that feels so true and so imminent? When someone tells me to slow down, I shoot them a concerned look under a furrowed brow, as if questioning if they are threatening what I know in my bones, or what I need to do to manifest my destiny. In that space, to quote Pablo Neruda, “I am as all mortals are, unable to be patient.”

Mark Nepo, in his The Book of Awakening, writes:

“It is so difficult to wait, and yet nothing short of patience can give us access to the nature of wholeness. In part, this is because the mystery of life in its totality is incomprehensible, and what can be understood often speaks in a language so slow that we often don’t stick around long enough to hear it… patience is a gift that waits beneath our very human agitation.”

Somewhere wrapped in patience is our persistence. Somewhere in our patience is a greater gift to help us in the in between space of point A and point B. Coupled with the firm (or seemingly obstinate) continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition means that we persevere when waiting. In this podcast conversation, Bobby Brannigan, founder and CEO of Mercato, and Jerry talk about how patience and persistence married to fierce resolve is how to effect a large revolution–or, a movement if you will.

“Why is patience so important? Because it makes us pay attention,” writes Paulo Coelho.

When we hold our dream as a big question that we’re living into and turn our waiting into something fruitful, we don’t rush to the finish line that we think we’re running to. We show up, read the tea leaves, get our ducks in a row, be in conversation with life as it’s happening, sniff out the next bold move, find the opening, and know when the timing is right.

Henri Nouwen posits that “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

Sometimes, the waiting and all of that agitation we can feel in the process of the journey towards doesn’t lead us to the place we thought we set out to originally. That’s the beauty of the horizon line, it’s always there beckoning us onwards, leading us to the next viewpoint for clarity and direction. “Incremental progress that’s directionally correct,” as Jerry would say. The attention we pay between where we are and where we’d like to be is a fertile place. It’s where life happens and dreams come down to earth in the process, in ways we couldn’t have imagined. And yes–that kind of waiting is the hardest part.