I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. – T.S. Eliot
Worth the wait. It’s an expression I’ve heard frequently lately, and have been thinking a lot about: what does it mean? Can it provide needed solace? What, exactly, are we waiting for?
Many things can be described as worth waiting for: a job, a relationship, a day off, a car, a promotion, a reconciliation. When I was little, an afternoon at the pool was worth waiting out a morning storm, as much as dessert was worth waiting out grownup coffee and conversation.
As children, we’re taught that waiting is difficult, but often necessary. It’s akin to saying “that’s life”, or “that’s just the way it is.” I never understood these expressions, nor how a child’s mind is meant to make sense of them. They always felt more like skipping a few pages in a favorite picture book, and expecting not to be caught.
As adults, waiting doesn’t become easier, but we learn to expect it, perhaps even accept it more. There are statistics on how much of our lives are spent waiting. And we’ve become so skilled at devising distractions for ourselves, trivial ways of filling the time, that it becomes just another overlooked piece of a busy day.
Who, or what, determines whether something is worth waiting for? Is it the people by whom we’re told, echoing only what they themselves once heard? Is it the passage of time itself that determines the value of what we so long for once it arrives? Wait 6 months, but any longer, and it’s time to move on. Or maybe we ourselves, are the masters of the waiting game, and have sole discretion over what falls into the worth it pile and what doesn’t.
I don’t have the answers to any of these complex questions, and I imagine gaining them would only cause my mind to churn out more riddles. But if we’re waiting on the accumulation of months or years, passed-down wisdom, or an a-ha moment to deem something worth the wait, I suspect we’ll be waiting a long time.
In fact, when we do land in that job, relationship, or home we’ve wanted for so long, we readily brush off or even forget the time we spent in limbo, thereby making it all the easier to elect worthwhile.
Our minds have an incredible capacity for longing, and appraising what we cherish and hope for as prizes to one day be redeemed only feeds it. Imagine not getting the promotion for which you worked so tirelessly. Would your time spent still be of value to you? Or would its worth depend on reaching your next goal?
There are a number of areas in which I’m still growing, and building the life I envision for myself. That vision itself is a continuous work in progress, being molded, adapted, broken, and repaired by the unfolding of each new page.
I can say with confidence though, I don’t want my dreams, my journey, my acquisitions to inherit their value simply from having waited for them.
I don’t want to rely on the promise of the unknown future to carry me through the emerging present.
Sometimes there’s little we can do other than take small steps toward what we long for. Other times, we can take big steps, quantum leaps even, hurling us in the direction of our desires. In either case, we need not wait to make our days worthwhile.