I am not a fan of patience. It doesn’t matter if I’m standing in line at the grocery store or figuring out my next career move. It borders on skin-crawlingly-uncomfortable to wait. I live with anxiety, though it’s treated with medication. Still, to breathe deeply and be with myself, in the tumultuous times, in all my uncertainty and confusion can almost cause a riot in my brain. I know I’m not alone in this but it’s a solitary feeling.
The last three years have been filled with the fight of my life, as my husband, two teenage children, and I lived in deep trauma. It was and is a trauma we must keep private and so there are very few who know or understand what we’ve been through. Last year, we climbed out of the trenches, after a long war, dazed and dirty. Like a less funny (though sometimes equally as weird) “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” I am a part of a new and unfamiliar world, post-crisis, that I am scared of and fascinated by. I’m wondering what the hell to do next. I have no idea. I hate the waiting. But I am raw enough and maybe finally wise enough to know that waiting may be the best thing I can do right now.
The crisis my family faced fueled both a manic energy and a frustrating stasis all at once. On the one hand, our lives were filled with a never-ending stream of actions: of exacting plans and mapped out lives down to the minute, of needing to always be ready for another phone call with bad news on the other end; of attending to our children’s individual appointments, states-of-mind, and activities constantly. My husband and I had no spare time, no chance for boredom, and no opportunity to sit and think, to contemplate the world, or breathe deeply. We barely had time to breathe at all. On the other hand, we found ourselves being forced to wait. We couldn’t engage in anything sustained because our energy and time were predetermined, already promised off to the days, weeks, months and years that it took to get us through the depths of the crisis.
Now, we do have time. Now, I do. We survived. But what remains of my blood and bones and heart is ghost-like. Physically, I’m exhausted. Spiritually, I’m rootless. I have a hard time concentrating. I feel the need to be lighter than air. To float above. The slightest hint of stress and I want to run. Yet.
I motor on. I feel moments, where my chest is not heavy and my breath is not shallow. These are the times I want to jump into something else. I think I’m ready. I want to shed my skin and birth a new self. But I hold myself back, maybe for the first time in my life. I’m sitting still and waiting.
Days become weeks, and then months that stretch behind and in front of me, bare and wanting. I consider what I’ve done with my life so far, in my 46th year of living. I think about what I want to do for the time I have left.
I work full-time from home yet spend my days scrolling through Facebook getting hooked into punitive comment threads. I read articles about religious freedom, Hillary Clinton, and how to make tender shredded chicken in a slow cooker. I write essays like this one. I search for new jobs multiple times a day. I take my dog for a walk, while listening to music and drowning out the world around and inside me. I make plans and I break them. I listen to Pharrell’s “Happy” on repeat. I read Anne Sexton poems because I think she understands even when I don’t. I make plans and I go because I know it’s good for me. Sometimes it is. I obsess over the activities in my teenagers’ lives because it’s a distraction. I dream of what’s next.
My passions — for activism, words, and social justice — that have grown inside me over a lifetime are still there, pooling in wait. Sometimes I feel them rising like a gorgeous wave and I want to grab a surfboard and ride them to wherever I’m meant to be next. Other times I cower and cry, chest tight, and I feel like I’d drown with just one toe in the ocean. I am trying my best not to crest the wave. I’m not jumping in head first to anoint myself in the sacred waters of A New Life. I’m known to get myself soaking wet only to run out freezing and shivering, and take off, never looking back. I’m not devouring anything or maybe more accurately I’m not being devoured by anything just yet. There are minutes and hours where I am holding myself — not holding myself back but grounding myself to take root, to give myself the physical space to grow in place.
The beauty of the waiting is in these moments, however painful. In between the discomfort and frustration are pinpricks of light, where I see myself as I truly am. I notice my soul and heart as they are: not the sum of my actions. I am not my resume. I am not my Facebook feed or LinkedIn profile, however much it feels as if I need to be. I am the cellular strands and complicated mess of a human giving myself time to breathe. I am a person like any other; no better or worse or more or less deserving. I am free to be wherever I am, for however long I need to be as long as I am not hurting my loved ones or myself. There is no guarantee of another breath. I would rather sit in wait, impatient and agitated, filling my body with the strength of stillness than continue to believe I can be rid of the anguish if I simply keep moving.