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Adulting: How I Wait Well...

A typical day has me waiting to hear back from an email or text I sent. I will check my phone periodically, even while I’m waiting in, say, the dentist’s waiting room. I may also be waiting to hear back from my friend on our plans for the night. Oh, and to hear how my cousin’s first day at work is going. Needless to say, lots of waiting.

And that’s just the short-term goals that exercise my patience. I know I’m not alone when I say that I’m waiting on bigger life goals to occur that concern my job, my health, and where I might retire one day.

Even at almost 40, I struggle with waiting. I prefer to live in “conquer the day” mode. Let’s get stuff done…yesterday! But no matter how much I dislike it, life requires me to continually wait and often on many things simultaneously. Are you in that same boat with me? If so, let’s be boat buddies for a minute.

I have not by any means conquered waiting, but I have found four activities that help me wait well.

1. Read Fiction

I started indulging in more fiction during our COVID lockdowns here in England. Immersing myself in a good story adds an adventurous element to my day. I’m dipped into another world. I’m focused on the characters’ struggles. I’m feeling their frustrations right along with them, but also their victories.

It’s incredibly satisfying.

I typically read on my digital Kindle app installed on my phone, but I cannot discount how wonderful a book in the hand feels. The tactile comfort of turning the pages and holding the beautiful cover is not without its own merit. But no matter the format, I look forward to diving into my book each day, and I even feel a little sad when I reach the last page. That’s how I know I’ve truly enjoyed myself.

2. Exercise

Often when I’m waiting, I’m super antsy. (You know, crossing the legs, uncrossing the legs. Fiddling with the lid on my water bottle. Drumming my hands on the surface in front of me.) Despite such nervous energy, the thought of exercise is a turn off. But once I start moving my body, even just a fast-paced walk, I have no regrets, and the endorphins typically kick in. And as most of us know, endorphins are delightful companions for our waiting times.

If I’m waiting in a public place, I probably don’t want to start doing lunges or intense Pilates moves. (Can you imagine?) But I can exercise my self-control with deep breathing exercises. I admit, focused breathing was not effective for me on my first try; it took time to understand my body and how the rhythm of my breath can benefit me. Practicing techniques (especially the 4-7-8 breathing) while waiting has been a great way to improve my skills in this area.

3. Encourage Others

I enjoy browsing for memes or cute gifs and texting them to friends; it’s such a fun way to give encouragement to loved ones and family! I get deep satisfaction in letting my eyes wander through images and videos until I spot the perfect one to make a dear friend laugh or inspire another who has hit a rough spot.

A rich quote by Winston Churchill reminds me of what happens when we give, even if it’s just that bit of encouragement:

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

What a great way to spend our time waiting: making our life and making it through encouraging others. Of course, we will benefit too. While I’m looking through countless images and gifs online, I continually laugh or smile. Our world is incredibly creative and witty; it’s uplifting to be reminded of this.

4. Research

I am guilty of mindlessly scrolling my Instagram account or Pinterest while I’m waiting. A friend challenged me to take a moment to ask myself why I’m even scrolling. She gently reminded me: if you have no good reason for it, you should stop.

By questioning myself, I learn if I’m being intentional with the device in my hand or if I’m wasting time. When I have no distinct purpose, I make myself stop. Instead, I think about a topic I’ve wanted to research. It doesn’t have to be incredibly serious research (but it can be.) I might want to look up shampoos for fine hair. Or learn from a DIY video on YouTube.

None of these four strategies make the waiting time go away or even shorten it. But they make the time enjoyable. Transforming my waiting time into something more productive and intentional has made such a huge difference in my attitude.

And I’m not content with just having four strategies. I’m always on the alert for more. But honestly, these four encompass so many options and possibilities they are worth passing on to you. Even if I’m just reminding you of techniques you’ve already heard.

We all should strive to wait well.


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