Don't Wait to be Present
Life is Now (Symptoms and All)
Some changes are in the works for Corona Café! I hope to send you an email early next week with the details. In the meantime, sit back with a mug of something delicious and enjoy this week’s newsletter . . .
It dawned on me earlier this week, as I was waiting for a family friend to drop by, how very bad I am at waiting. It’s not that I get especially impatient. It’s just that the fact of waiting dominates my state of mind. My friend’s arrival time was up in the air, and so I found myself in limbo, reluctant to engage in the things that I would have found most nourishing. No nap, because Pam might show up. No sense in writing, because I might get interrupted. No walk, because I might not make it back in time. I piddled about the house, never daring to immerse myself in anything. I was too busy waiting.
Just as it dawned on me what an absolute waste of the present moment this sort of waiting is, I got a text from Pam, saying that she would need to postpone by a day. And so, I sat down to write this.
We wait on friends and family. We wait in lines at the grocery store and post office. We wait for our long-haul symptoms to resolve, for doctors to have the answers, for a vaccine to be released, for the threat of wildfires to pass, for Election Day to come, and for the pandemic to end. It’s not that there is a problem with the act of waiting. We have to wait. We don’t have time machines, and sometimes waiting is good for us. Relationships, for example, are nourished by patience. Also, it is probably very wise to wait for your long-haul symptoms to wane before you begin training for a marathon.
Some sorts of waiting are necessary and useful. The trouble begins when waiting becomes a state of mind. That’s what happened for me as I anticipated my friend’s arrival. I was too busy waiting—too mentally preoccupied with the future—to experience and enjoy the present moment.
Do you ever find yourself so intently waiting for your symptoms to go away that you miss out on being present in your life? Do you ever find yourself so focused on what you will do after the pandemic ends that you miss out on opportunities for joy, growth, or connection right here and now? I do.
I love what Eckhart Tolle has to say about this sort of waiting:
Give up waiting as a state of mind. When you catch yourself slipping into waiting . . . snap out of it. Come into the present moment. Just be, and enjoy being. If you are present, there is never any need for you to wait for anything. So next time somebody says, “Sorry to have kept you waiting,” you can reply, “That’s all right, I wasn’t waiting. I was just standing here enjoying myself.”
Illness is painful, scary, and difficult. I don’t wish to downplay that. We are not just standing here enjoying ourselves. And still, six months into this, I realize that there is no sense in putting my life on hold. I am hopeful that I can navigate this long-haul journey in such a way that a year or two in the future, I will look back and say, “I wasn’t just waiting around for recovery. I was experiencing myself, my body, and the world in new ways.”
I don’t want to wait to be present. I don’t want you to get stuck waiting for a better time to be present either. Don’t wait for your headache to subside, your heart rate to slow, or your energy to return. Don’t wait for the economy to rebound or the pandemic to pass. You are alive right now. Air is brushing against your skin, sound waves vibrating your eardrums, light reaching your retinas right now. So wiggle your fingers and toes, or sing a song, or draw a picture, or call a friend, or make a goofy face in the mirror. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you also choose to be right there, experiencing.
Are there words, images, or actions that help you to feel alive to the present moment? How do you shake off waiting as a state of mind?