Clare Saumell VanderWeele

word wrangler.

What exactly am I waiting for?

I don’t like to admit that much of my life these days is a fiery battle with a three year old. But that’s the truth.

And that’s how I ended up squeezed into his bed at 10pm one night, buried in Thomas the Tank Engine blankets, and reading yet another book.

Which is when I came across this most perfect verse:

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.

-from Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

Inevitably I find myself waiting.

I’m usually the early one to dinner at a restaurant, so I wait around awkwardly till the other person gets there 5 minutes late. And even though I love the work I do and the people I do it with, I find myself waiting for the weekend, even if I have no particularly exciting plans.

And I’m uselessly waiting till I have more time to start the book I always wanted to write. And of course I’m waiting to buy new jeans until my current ones fit a little better.

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I want to call the friend I miss talking to, but I’m waiting until we both have a free moment across the time zones.

I want to give time and money to the people and causes that need it, but I’m waiting until what I can give is enough to make a big difference.

I hate reading every news story about every refugee, starved orphan, trafficked kid, homeless mother, tornado victim… but I consume those headlines with the belief that I can’t do anything significant enough to help – in other words, I’m waiting to take action until I can do something significant.

I’m waiting for “enough.” But everything I’m waiting for is a fallacy.

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This Waiting Place is so stark, I don’t even realize I’m living there. It feels like the thing I’m waiting for is right around the corner. It never is. I know this. You know this. And yet.

So here’s a small truth: Waiting for these things will never change anything.

Here’s how I know –

When Chris died, my world ripped open. My life changed in an instant.

And 18 months before that, my world had changed when I first held my tiny newborn child.

But here’s the horrifying thing: In just three years, my life has changed in the biggest ways possible, and yet so many things are still the same.

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I still hit snooze in the morning. I’m still late out the door. I still wait too long to vacuum or to call the friend I miss talking to. I still spend too much time staring at my phone or into the empty fridge wondering what to make for dinner. I still have no self-control around chocolate and I still reach for a glass of wine after a stressful day. I still would rather read Harry Potter for the 18th time than write my own ambitious novel, and I still go to bed too late.

Yes, my outlook on life has shifted. My fears have changed and faith has been born. But my habits are the same. My personality, the same old.

So what in the heck am I waiting for?

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If I believe that waiting for the big things to happen will ever result in any kind of change, I’m deceiving myself.

It’s a truth that’s hard to swallow. But it also brings me to realize this:

What if changing the world looked like small acts of love instead of waiting around to make grand gestures? What if finding happiness looked like celebrating the small joys of everyday instead of waiting for better days? What if helping people looked like a homemade meal for a busy friend, a few dollars even when the bank account feels tight, or a friendly hello to a passing stranger?

“Whatever you do,” Gandhi said, “will not be enough, but it matters enormously that you do it.”

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What if that’s all it took? What if waiting for the things we think are significant is the best way to do nothing at all?

claresig

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1 Comment

  1. This was extremely right on target!

    Thanks for coming right out and saying it.

    It so needs to be said, heard, and responded to with action–instead of more waiting!

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