Close Connections: Waiting

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By Nancy Norman

“To stay in place in expectation of.” That’s what Webster says about “waiting.” Sounds simple enough. Just stay put and see what happens.

How do you react to waiting? These last few months have undoubtedly made that question more relevant. And the answers more clear, maybe?

Some folks take it in stride. They hit every red light. They wait in line to get into Sams. They are put on hold for a service call to their credit card company. They wait to see what the next restriction–or lifting thereof–will be. They make a hair appointment for a month from now.

And during all that waiting, they listen to music, read a book, look around, meditate, have a snack, make a to-do list. And they remain relatively unperturbed.

Others freeze, become immobilized. They can’t decide what needs doing, or even what their options are. They sit and stew. Anxiety often rules, and then depression.

Still others feel as if their cell door just slammed shut. They pace. They look for ways to make the waiting over. They talk to themselves. They tense up. They think of all the bad things that can happen in the next five minutes. They count the minutes. They get mad. They want answers now. They want this column to get to the point!

This isn’t a column about how to make waiting easier. It’s more about inviting you to look at how you wait and if you’re satisfied with it. Because in this time of uncertainty, we’re all having to wait for information, predictions and outcomes.

Really, Life’s always been like that—wait and see. Even if we push it, we still have some lag time where we’re caught in a moment or more of abeyance. But now waiting and how we do it are showcased.

What we’re waiting for makes a difference. If you’re out of money and waiting on the stimulus relief check, you may go from a person who isn’t bothered by waiting to one who’s agonizing. The more we give meaning—either positively or negatively—to waiting, the stronger the feelings we feel. Studies show that how we feel during the wait is really more vital than the duration of the wait.

The good news here is that we do have some choice in how we feel. What we think directly affects how we feel. In this time of uncertainty, when so little seems under our control, it’s vital to realize that. Other good news is that according to one study, self-esteem is not a factor in how well we deal with waiting.

A key to designing how we wait is communicating with ourselves. What meaning are we making of the waiting? We can – on purpose – prepare for troublesome outcomes, for example. That’s different than our minds running wild with possible catastrophes. In this scenario, we set out to list undesired outcomes and then figure some ways to handle each one.

It’s important to realize our perceptions of time itself vary and reassure ourselves this time of waiting isn’t really endless—it just feels that way.

Nancy Norman is a licensed clinical social worker, musician with The Storys duo and former “Intimacy” columnist for “The Wichita Eagle.” Email her at jmediaate@aol.com.

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