Collectively, we humans are not a patient bunch. (Don’t agree? Just scope out the host stand at a Cheesecake Factory 19 minutes after the hostess told Chad that his party of six would have to wait 20 minutes for a table.) And who can blame us!? Every technological advance from the hot air balloon to the Airdrop feature on my Mac device is intended to address our impatience. We have been conditioned to demand faster answers to our questions and more immediate solutions to our problems.
But it looks like this week is going to test what little patience Americans have left. We’re already stretched thin – we’ve spent this year waiting for Covid to exit stage right. We’ve waited for election day and for those god-awful political ads to end. And now that election day is here, we’ll have to wait an unprecedentedly long time for the results.
THE WAITING GAME
So how do we wisely spend this time? We know that the clock seems to tick more slowly and painfully when we’re anticipating something. So how can we productively use our time and energy over the next few days, in a way that is distracting but not numbing?
Turns out there are people who are professional wait-ers. Not food service professionals …. I mean People Who Wait. Although we can’t exactly equate election week with the release of the next iPhone or Playstation, we can take some hints from these folks who practice patience for a living:
- Find a game to play to pass the time. At home, this could look like working on a jigsaw puzzle or challenging your roommate to a situp contest.
- Don’t get sucked into screen time, but focus instead on personal relationship development. (For great conversation starters get a pack of UnCurated cards!!)
- Do you don’t usually find you have the time to do – cleaning out that closet, or starting the mood board for your new website. Channel the nervous energy into a new project (even if you don’t have time to finish it).
TAME THE LIZARD
When we’re waiting, our brains are constantly trying to get rid of the unknown. The unknown is incredibly neurologically uncomfortable. We don’t feel safe or stable. Our “lizard brain” or our amygdala tends to fire up at this point. That, in turn, triggers fight or flight mode. (Read: anger, lashing out, getting defensive, or avoiding others, curling up the fetal position, ignoring our basic responsibilities. Not productive).
Take a moment (or as many moments as you need) this week to slow down and breathe deeply. By overcoming our lizard brain we can be kinder, more empathetic, and more mature in our emotional reactions. We can operate as our “best selves” instead of acting in a way that we may regret.
Regardless of the results of the election, or if there are no results this week at all, set a plan: who will be your support system and how you will respond to triggering situations? Also, acknowledge that each individual around you will be navigating their own plan and taming their own lizard brain in their own way. Let’s practice giving grace and kindness wherever we can – assuming best intent, as the great Brene Brown recommends.
FROM THE HEART
On a deeper, more emotional level, I spoke with colleagues and friends who have dealt with some of the worst kind of waiting – the kind most of us never have to experience. These quotes certainly put things into perspective as well:
LAURA B – GRAPHIC DESIGNER, BUSINESS OWNER, AND MILITARY WIFE/MOM
“Before Trey’s deployment in 2014, a really dear friend of mine reminded me during my own panic-driven season, dreading the looming deployment ahead, that I could not carry the weight of the next 9-month deployment all at once like I was trying to do. She lovingly reminded me that I can carry today. I leaned on that truth through that deployment 6 years ago and again through the deployment we went through this year. Actually, I’ve found that I am better when I apply it to COVID, work, parenting regrets/stress, marriage woes, etc…. There’s a notable difference between waiting and anxiousness in trying to hurry something along to get to the ‘end.’ “
MATTHEW C – PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN, BAR MANAGER, AND GRIEVING SON
“The hardest experience of waiting I have dealt with in my life is family members who are nearing the end of theirs. Not only with the situation itself but with the people I love. It takes a toll on the sick family member and everyone around them who chooses to be by their side. You wait for a day you don’t want to come, but at the same time you wait for peace for the one who is suffering. Once that day comes you wait AGAIN – for days or months or years – to have a moment of understanding of why this all happened. It helped me to practice patience, empathy, respect, and understanding for those who have similar situations. And just an appreciation for life. The ones I lost wouldn’t want me to dwell on the whys and why-nots.”
I am so deeply touched by these sentiments. Take from Matt and Laura’s stories whatever makes sense for you in these times. I see a theme of one day at a time and staying fully present in the moment. The Fiery Feather’s mantra is “Get Things Done. Enjoy The Journey.” It’s always easy for me to distract myself with tasks, errands and getting things done during periods of anxiety, but the spiritual element that both Laura and Matt touch on here is truly the way to find joy in the journey.
After we vote, contributing and controlling what we can, there may be productive value in surrendering that control to something beyond ourselves.
Whether it’s finding a distracting game to play, kicking off a new project, or re-igniting your connection with the universe, I can’t WAIT ???? to hear which techniques work best for you.
Theresa M. Ward
I love leading workshops about everything from time management hacks to mindful goal setting. And I thrive on propelling projects towards a successful finish line with an artillery of cohesive tips & tools. Read more…