Can waiting ever be an active experience?
Think of all the times in your life you’ve had to wait for something. Waiting in line. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for your number or name or table. Waiting for the world to change. What else did you do during the wait? How did waiting become so all-encompassing when it’s so…passive?
Waiting isn’t exactly something we do or seek out to do. It sort of just..happens to us. Nobody wants to wait. It’s the promised reward on the other end of that investment of time and energy that we seek. But often times the wait time feels like it’s longer and sometimes it may in fact be. So between ourselves and our goal there is this significant portion of time that we just let slip away. What can we do with that time?
You’re sitting in your dentist’s waiting room, as I happen to be right now while writing this, and you’re surrounded by wrinkled old copies of People magazine and Us and Time. Instrumental versions of pop songs play softly on hidden speakers. You open your phone’s app hoping that your dentist office is popular enough to be a Pokestop. It isn’t. You count your breaths but you become so aware of it that you lose your rhythm and fear you’ll pass out so you try and think of something else again. Your prophylaxis is going to take perhaps all of 45 minutes to an hour depending on how well you’ve been flossing but at least during that time your teeth are getting cleaned. You will spend an equal amount of time waiting in the lobby and in what way will your life have improved from it?
I have a problem with waiting. It’s not productive. It’s not conducive to anything. It’s painfully slow and passive and yet it’s such a big part of our daily lives. We often define our experiences based on how long we waited for something. ‘I waited forever to see this show!’ ‘We waited for an hour on the runway.’ ‘I’ve been waiting for half an hour for you to finally get here.’ (I’m so bad at timing dates, I’m so sorry.) It’s there and it’s inevitable despite all of our efforts to alleviate either the length or the strain of waiting. There are Fast Passes and advanced reservations and pre-orders to try and bypass the wait. We inundate ourselves with mobile games and trashy magazines and poor programming to distract us from the wait. How is Steve Harvey on five different programs at the same time in every single medical office? We add up those hours and half hours and forevers and eventually we’re going to have a very large amount of time with nothing to answer for it.
Trying to sidestep waiting by either trying to anticipate it or direct focus away from it is like digging a hole in the sand at the beach and thinking it’ll keep your feet dry. No matter what you do or how deep you dig, the tide is going to get you. So you’ve built your hole. The water seeped in. Why do we just jump out and then go right back to digging another hole? There’s got to be a way to use all of this waiting we all have to deal with. Is there a way to capitalize on the wait time not to distract ourselves but to better prepare for what it is we are in anticipation of?
I think of when I am waiting for a reservation at this restaurant I must be dying to get into. You know what I do while I wait for my name? I study the menu. I watch the food going by. I try to smell all the different ingredients in the air. I listen to orders. I slobber and froth in such rapturous anticipation that when it’s finally time to sit down I have invested wholly and completely in the experience. I wasn’t distracting myself. I mean I did minimize it a bit by calling in a reservation but I knew the wait would be inevitable in whatever scope it ended up being. But I used it as the beginning of the experience, not just the huge void before it.
So there’s the rub. I realize now that what I really have before me is a 365 waiting period before even considering my next relationship. The anticipation and the desire is there. It’s not unbearable like I’m going to jump on the first person who says hello to me, but I know it’s something I want and there it stands on the other end of the gap and I need to figure out the best way to fill in the void.
I’ve enjoyed all of my little mini excursions and my new hobbies. I still will definitely dedicate time and energy to those. But without taking away from their value or new significance in life, can I say that they are in any way improving what I am looking at from the other side of the waiting line? How does a single person not in a relationship, not seeking one, yet still wanting one in the future, prepare himself as best as he can for what he eagerly awaits? Am I using the most of this time for that purpose? There are a lot of things I can do and accomplish in a year. I have set goals of improvement and achievement personally, professionally, and in relationships with friends and family. But at the end of the year I’ll be kicked out of this world and into a different one, one I wanted to be a part of to begin with, but will I be more or less prepared than I was to begin with.
There are plenty of articles and videos on how those in relationships can improve them in the moment and that’s wonderful but they don’t apply to those who are single. And then there are also plenty of articles and videos aimed at single people about ‘working on yourself’ and ‘loving those around you’ and ‘don’t worry about love’ and all those other exhausting ‘don’t rush it and enjoy life’ and the like. Yeah, I get it. I’m not feeling pressured, I’m not rushing, I don’t lament my current status, I know no one can complete my story but myself. I’m saying even as a single person I can recognize that this is an area I would like to improve in even if I have no reference point. And if I was at the stage when it was time to start looking I know there are plenty of apps and sites and even more articles and videos on what to do to increase your chances of finding someone and where and how and when. But what about a single person who wants to just focus on being a better partner.
I don’t know. It’s an interesting concept. One I’ll have to think about more and explore. How to make a single guy a better boyfriend. How to prepare for a relationship. Single person’s guide to being the best for your imaginary hypothetical future would be partner. Maybe there’s value in taking that dance class on your own. Rather than learning how to step together, you can already be prepared to sweep her off her feet.
Man: 85 Loneliness: 20