Waiting Isn’t Wasted

I just got off the phone with an *old* (not in age, but we’ve known each other awhile) friend. We haven’t talked in ages, but she called on me out of desperation because she was just diagnosed with breast cancer.

I both love and hate being the go-to person for my friends and acquaintances who are diagnosed. I love that they feel they can trust me. I love that they know there is someone out there who WILL support them. I hate that people are being diagnosed with cancer. I hate that I know so much about cancer to be that person in the first place.

The conversation we had reminded me of something – well, a lot of somethings. But as we were talking, I recalled something specific about the suckiest part of cancer: THE WAITING.

Notice something weird.  Just.  Wait.

Make a doctor’s appointment.  Wait.

See the doctor.  Wait.

Tests.  Wait.

Make an appointment for results. Wait.

Decide on treatment.  Wait.

Treatment.  Wait.

Will you have side effects or symptoms?  Wait.

Will I recover? Wait.

Will the cancer respond or come back?  Big.  Long.  Wait.

All the time spent waiting can be AGONIZING. Waiting was horrible. And when I was waiting, it’s not like the world just stopped and waited along with me. There were things that needed to be done. Things that should have filled my time.  Simple things like grocery shopping and doing laundry. Complicated things like getting blood work and preparing the kids for mommy being laid out again.

Simple or complicated — it didn’t really matter. Each time I found that I had trouble doing any of it.

The waiting left me paralyzed. If you talk to anyone that’s had a major crisis like cancer they’ll tell you the same thing: the waiting is Terrible.  With a capital T.

Part way through my experience, though, Craig and I learned something about waiting that we still talk about to this day. The lesson began, for us, in church. One of our pastors had prepared a whole sermon about waiting in the bible. I’m not well versed enough to tell which parts of the bible were relied upon. My chemo/turned-40/mommy/person brain prohibits me from remembering any specific examples. But I can tell you that Craig and I both walked away with this key idea:

Waiting Isn’t Wasted Time.

Despite my inability to remember details, this is now part of the advice I give to everyone that will listen, but especially to those facing down a crisis.  Now I’m going to do my best to explain it.

Here’s the thing: we’re programmed to believe that the times we’re waiting are wastelands. That waiting time is NOT the time to be “doing.” And even worst, we feel as if not “doing” means that we’re stuck. We believe that we should loathe that time when things aren’t “happening” for us or to us.

Interestingly enough, waiting is not a time of inaction, though. It’s just not action like we’ve come to worship.

Life can’t be all about GO! GO! GO! If all we do is go and move and do, then we never get a chance to sit back and appreciate all we’re working for. Waiting is an important part of any process (crisis or not). It’s the time we integrate all the happening that’s been happening around us. It’s the time we prepare for what is coming next. It’s the time that we gather our strength or replenish our reserves. In other words

Waiting is CRUCIAL.

This is especially true when you’re facing down something like a cancer diagnosis. The waiting can be agonizing when you know something is wrong with you but you don’t have confirmation. But, if you can step back, just for a second, and remember that the waiting is a time that everyone is gathering their time, energy, resources and knowledge to best serve you and your situation — it becomes a little less agonizing.

This knowledge helps me defeat the paralysis of waiting. It galvanizes me to do those tasks, both simple and complicated, that move me along to the next time of action. Waiting becomes less about sitting around in fear and more about moving slowly toward a goal that’s not quite clear — a haze on the horizon. Just because you don’t know where you’re headed doesn’t mean you can’t keep moving forward. Slowly. Deliberately. Waiting for signs. Waiting for clues. Waiting for cues. Gathering. Waiting. Anticipating. Waiting. Until eventually you’re not waiting any more.

Waiting still sucks. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ever going to love waiting. But I appreciate it now. I appreciate what it means. I appreciate what it brings.

Waiting isn’t wasted time. Flip your perspective on waiting; embrace that time instead of dreading it. Don’t let waiting be your wasteland. Turn it into your wilderness.

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