Monday, October 22, 2012

All the time in the world.

I used to be good at waiting. I enjoyed sitting in traffic on the way to work, because that meant I could listen to music longer. I didn't mind waiting in line at the grocery store, because I had more time to look at magazines or people watch (admit it - you enjoy that too). Waiting didn't bother me. Life came at its own pace, and I went along merrily, content to go with the flow. Or at least my laziness was so pervasive it appeared as patience. Either way.

Yet somehow within the past year, I have become very bad at waiting. Not bad as in, like I'll hit slow pokes with my shopping cart or flip the bird to the race car driver wannabes in Austin. I'm bad when I get in a long line at HEB, then hop lines, only to get stuck in the next one, and OH EM GEE, why does that lady have to have all produce that has to be manually typed in and then pay with all correct change that keeps falling ON THE FLOOR?! That's just an example. Insert other stores/characters/long waits/anything keeping me from my next activity, and you get the idea. Granted, my impatient thoughts stay safely in my head, and I just smile politely as if I have all the time in the world.

But I don't have all the time in the world. I'd like to think I have the future, since that's what I spend so much time worrying about and planning for. But the funny thing is, the future never comes, at least not in the way we expect or plan. The truth is, the only time we have is right now. This very moment. The one you're spending reading this sentence is the only time you currently possess (sorry, I can't give you a time refund on reading that sentence. Hope it was worth it!). We live minute to minute, or even second to second, but I'm finding that I'm so focused forward (or dwelling on what's behind me), that I don't even appreciate the moment that's in front of me. What's up with that?

I feel this impatience is more pronounced when I'm experiencing something unpleasant, and I'd venture to say that perhaps you experience this too. Most people don't enjoy pain or fear or anxiety or sadness - we run from it, avoid it, and try to soothe ourselves ASAP. I'm no different. Anxiety bothers me like no other. (Uh, so I'm supposed to just accept that there's this whole universe of unknown, not to mention a future of endless possibilities, most of which I can't prepare for, and not freak out? For serious? Because that does not sit well with me.) I like to know what's coming. I will read the last chapter of a book if I have to, and I've been known to ask people to tell me how a movie ends before I see it. Call me crazy (just not to my face), but I see nothing wrong with wanting the reassurance that comes from knowing what's going to happen.

Except there is a lot wrong with that attitude.

First of all, waiting for reassurance is like waiting for it to rain in central Texas. Most of the time it doesn't, and even when it does, it's unexpected and either too much or too little. Secondly, wanting to know the ending first, implies a basic lack of trust in people, in God, in our own abilities to cope, and so on. Trust is kind of important, it being the building block to any decent human relationship, and also the reason we can stand to leave our houses everyday. Thirdly, wanting to know the future causes me to waste a helluva lot of energy worrying about things I can't change (seriously, if worrying burned calories, I'd have to eat cheeseburgers for every meal just to stay supermodel size).

I would like to live for today without worrying about what may or may not bother me/scare me/hurt me tomorrow. I would like to embrace each moment as the gift it is, and recognize that each moment is precious and not necessarily guaranteed. Maybe if I could learn to live mindfully, to use each moment of my day to love in every way I can, then maybe I wouldn't be so worried about the future. Maybe I wouldn't be in such a hurry to get to the next thing.

And if I wasn't always in a hurry, maybe I could use my time in line to help the lady pick up her change off the floor, smiling as if to say, "Take your time. In this moment, I've got all the time in the world."

...This is gonna take some serious practice.

"Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today." - John Dryden


Marie said...

Well said! I've been reflecting on this lately as well. Every moment we have is a gift - how am I giving it back to God? If I'm not present in that moment, then I'm letting that gift go by me without any gratitude. What a loss.

Britt Holan said...

I love your reflection - every moment is a gift, and wasting it is a loss. Thanks for the comment!