There is a verse in the book Oh The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss that I've been thinking a lot about lately. It's about what he describes as "The Waiting Place", a place...
"...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting."
Ever been in that place? I know I have been. Maybe you're in it right now. Maybe you're waiting to hear about an important decision being made about a job or a house. Maybe you're waiting to hear about a test or you're waiting for an answer to a question. Maybe you're waiting for your life to change. Or even to just begin.
We often find ourselves in The Waiting Place. Waiting to be successful, to get that amazing job, that number in that bank account, that house, that perfect partner. Waiting to look a certain way to start feeling better about ourselves, waiting to be seen, to be found, to be understood. Waiting for our luck to change. Waiting to be motivated or waiting for inspiration. Waiting for that perfect moment. Waiting to be happy. It seems we're always waiting.
It never feels good to wait. We feel that other horrible feeling: helpless. I know that feeling well. That helplessness in my frustration when I so badly wanted things in my life to change. Whether it was in my personal life, feeling completely lost in not knowing if I would ever find that person with whom I would would live 'happily ever after'. Or in my professional life where I was in a battle with myself where I didn't understand why I wasn't 100% happy. I felt like I was constantly in this purgatorial state between waiting for something to happen and knowing that time wasn't waiting with me.
Every day we are in this Waiting Place. On a simplistic level, well, it's because not everyone is on our schedule. It would be highly narcissistic to think so. On a more spiritual level, it's because that's not how life works. Timing, as we know, is everything and sometimes we have to humbly accept that actually, we don't know everything and we don't always know when things will play out in our favour. So how do we manage this highly emotional state when all we want to do is push through life's brick walls and get on with finding that Happy Place?
One thing I learned in therapy is to shift perspective. My therapist, when I attended my final session with her after many years of weekly appointments, presented me with a map of sorts. She had drawn out where I was when I started to see her to where I was headed when we were saying goodbye. My starting point was feeling stuck. Waiting and unsure how to proceed. Frustrated. Eventually, after many, many sessions and guidance from her, we noticed a pattern emerge--one that was illuminating, and highly effective.
When one thing wasn't happening quickly enough for me, I shifted focus onto something else. I didn't give up on my initial goal. I just put it on hold. I paused and worked on something else. And then you know what happened? Seemingly miraculously, that thing I had been waiting to happen initially, sorted itself out in my favour, sometimes better than I could have even imagined. I stopped focusing on the waiting and what wasn't supposedly moving and started focusing on other areas that were. Essentially, I got out of my own way and let Life do her thing.
I am not saying we give up or sit back and expect things to fall in our lap. Nor am I saying we pull back on our persistence. What I am saying is when we have done all the groundwork we need to, when we have put all the effort in to something, when we have been crystal clear in our vision for what it is we want and how we want to feel, we need to step away and allow the forces that govern our existence to take over and manifest for us that which is in our highest interest, an interest that perhaps we aren't even aware. Those forces are the energies that swirl around that guide us through wrong relationships to the right ones, through near accidents to safety, through coincidences to realisations that they were more than happenstance.
Perhaps two of the most destructive phrases in personal growth, two phrases that are residents of the Waiting Place are, “if only” or “i will be happy when...” I used to think if only I was thin enough I would be happy (whatever happiness meant back then). My husband says he will be happy and relaxed when our house is done up or when we secure a particular project. What I have come to realise is that even when we meet those 'wants' and targets, the yearning to be appeased and happy isn't sated. The list grows. The trick though, is to find contentment within the life we have—the gratitude for the present moment. And if you truly look, you’ll find it, and that gratitude list will grow. It doesn't mean we accept what we don't like and what we don't want and just be grateful for what we have. Once we have put in the work to make positive changes towards those things that we want, we shift focus. So instead of waiting in frustration for things to happen, we focus on what is already working so that those things that aren't working have an opportunity and space to change without our limited knowledge and intruding energy stifling it.
Here are some tips that have worked for me on how to shift focus and what to while you're "waiting":
1) start journaling. Writing down your plans for this future where you're "happy" is a great way to feel a a sense of control and feel like you're actually doing something productive in the process of waiting. Really focus on how you will feel when it all happens.
2) Think about what you can focus on now, today, in this moment, that will give you a sense of achievement and peace. This is where a gratitude list comes in. When we find contentment within the life we have--the gratitude for the present moment, the list will grow. It doesn't mean you're settling for this moment. What it means is that you recognise that in every moment there is an opportunity to expand your definition of happiness, there is an opportunity to see something good about this moment because the one certainty we have in life is that it is always changing.
3) If you're looking for a partner, maybe focus on what kind of a partner you will be and get to work preparing yourself for a relationship that is healthy and evolving. Get to know yourself first--what makes you laugh? What do you find fun? What do you want to share with that person when you've met them?
If you're looking for a change in your professional life and you're not entirely sure what it is you want to do, think about how you want to feel. Write it down. Shift focus from your current dissatisfaction or unhappiness to what you could feel like when you find your dream gig.
4) If you're waiting for anything--an answer, a decision, a change, step away from your physical space--be it your desk, your study, your office, your home and go outside for a walk or a coffee. Or work on those projects that are moving swimmingly.
5) Have faith in the fact that because you exist, you're here for a reason. That reason isn't because you're meant to live this life in pergutory or be miserable. That reason is to refine your vision, to get to know yourself, and to trust the inherent wisdom of the Universe. This life isn't into those who are meant to be happy and those who aren't. That's more a conversation about circumstances and decisions. It is about knowing you deserve to be happy, however you define it, and that comes from really understanding and knowing yourself. And having faith in who you are.
The truth is there is only so much in life over which we have control. We can't control how others think. We can't control decisions. We can't control how our time on this planet will unfold. Yet Life is about timing. Not our timing but life’s own timing. I’ve come to learn, humbly, that the Universe is smarter than I am. I will do what I can to make my goals and dreams come true and then I will step out of my way.And as Dr. Seuss wrote,
"Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)