May 9, 2016

Embracing the Waiting Space.

Rachel Crowe/ Unsplash

Patience is not one of my strong points.

I’ve never been good at waiting for things—I’m the kind of person who burns their mouth on their morning coffee because they can’t wait for it to get cold enough to drink painlessly.

I feel as if I have spent most of my adult life rushing from one thing to the next, never waiting for the door to close fully before hurling myself through the next open one. Forcing things. Making things fit. All in a desperate bid to avoid the growing pain that comes with uncertainty—to avoid the crushing vulnerability of not knowing what comes next.

The reason this is such an issue for me is because I have been so very unsure, so very vulnerable, that I will do almost anything to avoid actually feeling and appearing this way. I have never trusted myself or believed in myself long enough to sit comfortably in the not-knowing that comes with waiting for things—that comes with change. I just bulldoze through it like a coked-up demolition man. And because of this, I have made some brash and unwise decisions and done things that my heart wasn’t engaged in.

I had to know what was next. I had to have a “Plan B” ready—and when you don’t know what’s next, but you can’t stand the space—well, then you shove the first thing in there that looks vaguely like it could possibly be a good plan, and you force it to work for you. But we all know how that’s gonna end.

My mum used to tell me how impatient I was, and it’s taken me a long time to realise that she’s right. With most things in my life, I have about as much patience as an 8-year-old bursting for a piss on a car journey to Disneyland.

Patience is something I really need to work on.

I guess a lot of my previous denial about the fact that I’m severely lacking in this trait is because “patience is a virtue” and all that—so freely admitting you suck at it doesn’t feel great.

But lately I have been learning a lot about patience. About waiting for things. About transitioning. I’ve been learning how to be in the waiting space.

The waiting space.

“Out with the old, in with the new.” I like this saying a lot, but jeez—do you really think it’s that easy? (Hint: it’s not.) There’s a whole chunk in between that feels totally left out, and it wants to punch whoever came up with this saying right in the face. You see, change is a three-part process, and it involves three “spaces.”

1. Letting go of the old—the old space.

2. Waiting—the waiting space.

3. Embracing the new—the new space.

The waiting space is that uncomfortable bit between the closed door and the one we will open. It isn’t a place that we like to spend much time in. We desperately want to skip straight from point A to point B, with nothing in between, and we will do all manners of things to avoid being in the waiting space. To avoid being with uncertainty.

In times of change, when we have said goodbye to one thing and we don’t know what’s coming next, we so often rush to fill the waiting space. Not realizing that this space—the corridor between letting go and the arrival of something new—is a space to be respected. It is a vital place—a place of healing, full of potential and creativity. It is here that we can learn so much about ourselves.

In the waiting space, there isn’t really anything. It’s an empty space—a place of nothingness—and that scares the sh*t out of us. So we end up half closing doors, sticking a blindfold on and blazing down the corridor with our arms mindlessly flailing in front of us, silently screaming “ahhhh!” until we find the handle to the next available door.

Just a light mal-coordinated twist and we’re in! Fairly seamlessly, although we didn’t learn anything on the journey, and we looked pretty stupid, but at least it was easy. We have successfully managed to avoid spending any time in the waiting space with all the navigation skills of a drunk sailor. Nice one. But we’re in the new space now, and we don’t care.

But the thing about the waiting space is that although it is empty of things our eyes can see, it is also full. It is bursting with such fullness that your mind can only be boggled. Bursting with potential. Bursting with creativity. But it is like a seed under bare soil. If we look only with the eyes, we see nothing. But if we have trust and vision, and if we lean into the uncertainty, we see the potential for so much life. And it will reveal itself when in the fullness of time. You can’t beg the rose to open. Trust me, I’ve tried.

So why do we rush down the corridor?

The reason the waiting space scares us so much is precisely because it is empty. It forces us to be with ourselves. In this empty space, there are huge tides of vulnerability—of insecurity and uncertainty. In the waiting space, we can’t predict or control. We can’t yet see what the path ahead of us looks like. It’s not visible yet, and we struggle with this big time. (If there’s one thing we humans love to do, it is to control and predict. It’s a way we deny the uncertainty and fleetingness of our existence. It is a way of immortalizing ourselves.)

But as much as it terrifies us, it is also the place where we feel the most alive. Waiting spaces take us closer to the essence of life. Of what it means to be alive and human. Precisely because it is so uncertain. Precisely because it is full of vulnerability, and because we feel lost in the emptiness of it.

Confronting these things—learning to be with them—is one of the most important lessons we can learn. Because life is full of waiting spaces. In fact, most of life happens in these spaces.

Life is fragile, and it is uncertain—and yeah, we are so vulnerable it hurts. It should hurt. And the poignant yet much resisted truth is that when we allow ourselves to be lost—to not know what the f*ck is happening and to feel scared by the emptiness ahead—it is here that we gain so much power and wisdom. It is here, right in the artery of the waiting space, that we grow in courage and resilience. That we learn to listen to ourselves. It is here where life has so much to offer us.

The waiting space makes us grow. But it’s the kind of growth that we only see when, having left the waiting space behind, we look back on it. It’s the growth that happens when we can’t see any growth at all. The growth that happens when we feel lost and afraid and when life feels so insecure.

So how do we embrace the waiting space?

The first step to embracing the waiting space is to know that it exists. To change our understanding about the way we transition. To realise that transition necessarily involves the waiting space. Remember this—always honour it. Plan for it. Remind yourself again. For me this understanding has changed the way I think about and relate to change. It has shed so much light and helped me learn the beauty in patience.

Let’s question the expectation that we have about seamlessly moving from point A to B without having to go through that uncomfortable and empty corridor. Let’s take our blind-fold off and learn to dance through the uncertainty. Let’s understand that the waiting space is the place that connects the “I” of the past to the “I” of the now. It is vital in our ability to process our experiences, reflect and grow.

It is vital in owning the story of who we are—and in directing our life where we truly want to go.

Let’s make our new motto for change: “Out with the old—step into the waiting space—in with the new.”

Then step into it. Heart first.

And remember—patience is a virtue.


Author: Claire Rother

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Unsplash/Rachael Crowe

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