I recently watched an interview with Elaine Stritch that the New York Times released (re-released?) after she passed away a couple of weeks ago. There’s this moment where she says, quite intensely, like she really, really means it: Live expectantly.
Ms. Stritch didn’t want to know what was coming her way. She wanted it all to be a big surprise, one day to the next. I guess that’s the life of an actor. Living expectantly sounds romantic. But life doesn’t just happen to us. Most of us, I have found, are doing the best we can, which means we’re working really hard toward something or other. So while we might be ready for all the wonderful or terrible things that may come to pass, and while we might live our lives anticipating the unknown with a sense of joy, if that unknown is going to go anywhere near the direction we’re hoping, we’ve got to put in some good old fashioned graft. We’ve got to plan, follow through, figure out what works and what doesn’t and quite often start all over again. And that’s not even the worst of it.
Because sometimes, the only thing we can possibly do is wait.
Listen: waiting is not romantic. It is not sexy. It may be expectant, but it’s not the ooh-ooh-what-happens-next-I-can’t-wait sort of expectant. It’s more the ulcer-producing, nail-biting, chocolate-hunting, anxious sort of expectant.
Right now I’m in that space. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks, but I know that I have to wait. What’s going to happen may be a very big, very serious, very positive life-change. It might also be absolutely nothing at all. I haven’t put all my eggs in one basket, but there aren’t a lot of baskets making themselves visible to me, and I am not going about this basket hunting business passively, either. Suffice it to say I’ve ensured my eggs are in as many baskets as I could spy. Enough. This metaphor has gone too far.
Truth is, I’m rubbish at waiting. It’s one of the many chinks in my armor. Forced to wait, I feel drained of direction and creativity. I feel incapable of being present because I get absolutely swallowed up by what-if’s and then-what’s and when’s and where’s and whyfor’s. I knew this period was coming, or at least I hoped it would, because it’s a necessary step in the direction of that afore-mentioned potentially very positive change. The school year ended, and so did 80% of my day job. So I enrolled in a MOOC on Coursera. And I found a couple other things I wanted to study and started that (though without the deadlines like I’ve got on Coursera, it’s a little harder to keep focused…chocolate?). I started reading a good non-fiction book (because I’m prone to hiding from the world in a good novel when the world gets scary), and I am, as ever, as we all are, doing the best I can.
As a humble humanist I know always used to write, that’s all I have for now. I told you there was nothing sexy about waiting. Hopefully more soon.