Why Does Waiting Hurt?
I found myself waiting a lot this December. In fact, a number of people, classes, and events I had been in the process of scheduling got put on hold until the new year.
The result: I found myself waiting for January.
So I waited.
I went on hiatus for the first time in almost three years.
And being on vacation with loose ends was weird. I had to be patient.
It was painful, in some ways, because I found myself wanting resolution, and feeling as though I had no control over the course of my life.
Let me tell you what happened next.
This summer, my partner, Corey, hired two strong men to fell a very large clump of 40' tall bamboo. The clump was over 30' in diameter and taking over our property.
The two young men that fell the lumber left the cleaned lumber in a neat pile. Next to it, they left the refuse- an enormous pile- over 40'x 40' of smaller branches of bamboo that had been trimmed off the larger stalks. They were laid on top of one another but branches and leaves and muck all mixed together: not a pretty sight.
Corey and I were busy this summer- both of us working full time- myself traveling, so we let the pile sit to dry out. We knew we were going to burn the bamboo and compost a lot of it, but we had to let it dry out first.
We had to let the bamboo wait until it was ready.
While the bamboo "dried out" over what has been dubbed the wettest autumn/ winter on the Big Island in over 15 years (even the desert is green!) a creeping vine called Spiderwort, more commonly referred to as "the Wandering Jew," began to grow- QUICKLY- up, through and over the pile of bamboo until finally, by this December, the pile had not only grown in size and weight, but also in breadth, spanning even more of our yard that we originally intended.
The monster had taken over my yard. I was at its mercy.
We spent the holiday season cleaning this bamboo pile up, and it took hours and days. We had to weed whack the vines off the pile first; then we had to pull each bamboo piece from a knotted mess.
It was not pretty.
My legs and arms got cut up; my legs got whipped by bamboo and have some pretty impressive bruises; I got a fat lip one day, and had to learn how to keep my mouth shut when pulling heavy loads of composty bamboo, in the off chance a bit of compost muck from the bamboo landed in my mouth... Trust me, you do not want to have this happen.
I cannot tell you how many showers we took.
The work was hard labor; so we did not speak to eachother much. We just worked side by side. In silence. We could not tell the progress we were making unless we went up onto the porch and gazed down below. From up close, it was just: mud, bamboo, wet.
Then we built small brush fires amidst the intermittent moments of sun, to burn some of the bamboo to generate fertilizer for our orchard. Some how... MIRACULOUSLY this was the easy part.
The bamboo caught aflame so easily; it had begun to ferment and decompose, and bacteria and gases created, lent themselves to being awesome fire starters.
It had spent five months drying out. Waiting for the right moment to burn.
Day by day, as my business was on hold, I focused all my energy on clearing this bamboo.
And burning it.
I realized as we opened up space in our yard, and rediscovered the openness that was actually always there that I had a lot to learn about patience.
I realized that I had a lot more control over my inner and outer environment than I originally believed. I realized I could do multiple things at once; I could clear bamboo and remember that everything has its proper time. That I did not have to take any of it personally. That I could get quite a lot done in the "waiting," time.
I realized, we give "Waiting" a bad rep.
Waiting does not have to be painful. Waiting does not have to result in failure. Waiting, can actually build confidence. Waiting can be an opportunity... for waking up.
What is so funny about the word "wait" itself is that if you explore the roots of where this word comes from, you actually discover that the earliest meaning of this word has to do with being on guard for action against a potential threat.
It then evolved to mean "to be awake," and only much later, did it adopt a meaning of passive observation of something about to happen.
The first two etymologies of the word relate directly to the limbic system- a part of the brain that is responsible for emotions, memory, learning, spatial memory, social processing and motivation, to name a few. It operates by working through the endocrine system (hormones) and the autonomic nervous system (actions like heart beat, breathing etc..) This is the part of the brain that is connected to our animal "instincts," our intuition.
When there is danger, it is our limbic system that kicks into gear to engage the fight/flight/freeze response. When we are in the process of "waking up" spiritually, guess who gets activated?
Yup, you got it.
Our limbic system.
The limbic system is closely related to the prefrontal cortex; there is a special relationship they share.
The prefrontal cortex does some pretty amazing things.
It is the frontal part of your brain- relatively "newer" compared to the limbic system. It helps us make decisions.
When looking at you directly, it the part of the brain directly behind the forehead. It plays a role in EVERY part of planning, from the integration of stimuli to the decision to take action. EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. So, those worry lines on your forehead? Yeah, them's planning lines!
When we make a plan to do something, our prefontal cortex is engaged, but that is just it, we have to "actively" tell it to get started some times. Once it gets going, our limbic system that assists us. Our limbic system is seeking rewards for all that planning. When it doesn't get it instantly... it gets grumpy.
What if we challenge how we define waiting?
What if we revert back to the earlier definitions of waiting, and allow it to be more active time, a time when we allow ourselves to awaken, to observe, and to be with our thoughts more fully, so we may gain deeper awareness of the situation, of our surroundings, of the decisions we want to make?
So while I waited this holiday season, I explored my self-confidence. I began to feel better about my self, my business, and the things that seemed to previously be stressing me out, suddenly lacked potency and control over me. Sure enough, the arrival of the new year brought resolution and answers to the questions that had been raised before the holidays.
Because I remembered that I can take action to clear up the bamboo piles in my mind, the process became easier. I could grow my confidence by focusing some energy and attention on resolving some internal piles.
The result: I remembered that my faith in my self was stronger than I realized.
The result: I can more easily trust my self to give me discerning truth
The result: Patience is not a passive experience
The result: Waiting is a very active process. If you want it to be.