Waiting

One of my chosen three words for 2020 is ‘waiting’.  

From here, a quarter of the way through the year, the time of its choosing feels like a different world.  ‘Waiting’ brought with it a promise of expectancy and fullness, of calm.  Waiting is not something I’ve practised much; it’s not something I’m good at (I wasn’t great at stillness, which was one of my words for 2019, either). My partner challenged me to begin a new practice, a ‘just waiting’ meditation, which involved simply that: waiting, in any one given moment.  

Photo: Sandro Figliozzi

Then we were tipped into the chaos of a global pandemic.

Waiting, now, takes on a whole new import for all of us. There’s a collective holding of breath. We wait in queues for the pharmacy and the supermarket.  Life is on pause while we wait for the lockdown to be over, for the peak of the disease to pass. And we wait to see what emerges in the wake of this new coronavirus: perhaps a different way of relating to each other, a greater sense of kindness, a renewed sense of community. But we will also come out of this — as individuals and as a society — with a bruised kind of vulnerability, with first-hand and painful experience of grief, loss and fear. 

Writing in this moment, I must acknowledge my own good fortune and privilege. I still (for the moment, at least) have an income; I have a safe, warm place to live and enough food. I am tearfully, immensely grateful for these things.  These past weeks have renewed my relationship with gratitude, again and again, for small things that —just a month ago —I might scarcely have noticed.  

I have seen that there can be a grace in this waiting; that ‘being good at it’ is inconsequential.  The slowing down has enabled me to turn inwards.  In this time of in-between, there is an extension backwards and forwards, into past and future.  This waiting dredges up memories of happy times; it forces me to sit uncomfortably with things I fear.  At the same time, I am wrenched into the present, where things are distilled into essence, where there is joy in a new experience of stillness, more time to read, to cook and simply to be.  And where there is also fear of losing those I love, the acute ache of longing to see them again.  To hold and be held.  

Photo: Victor M Gamero

My prayer is that I can embrace what this in-between can teach me.  I sense I will learn things I can’t yet imagine.  Then there are the things we will all need: acceptance and courage. Acceptance of loss – of those I know, love and live alongside; and a loss of the way things have been in my lifetime.  Courage to face uncertainty, to step into the future with determination and a renewed sense of the spirit of creativity that illuminates the dark times, and allow us to make sense of them. 

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