In defence of…waiting

Traffic light on red

Does this sight turn you red with rage?

I am not the world’s most patient woman so it stands to reason waiting for anything entails quite a lot of foot-fidgeting and finger-tapping. There’s a level crossing in my village that just knows when I’m coming, I’m sure. The sight of the gates lowering and the red lights flashing are enough to send me into an apoplectic rage – not to mention the agonising plod of the steam train as it shuffles into the station. It’s not easy for me to imagine waiting could be beneficial but according to Harvard Professor, Robert Epstein, I should embrace waiting.Whether we’re stuck in traffic or waiting for the right partner to rock up and fall in love with us, he says: “Long periods of inactivity are eventually followed by breakthroughs.” Okay but I’m already thinking: “How long is ‘long’ in this scenario?” Perhaps I’m a hopeless case.

Here I am having to wait though – and it’s a wait I have absolutely no control over. It’s baby’s due date today. She’s not officially late yet but I’m already eyeing the bump with suspicion…will she turn out to be one of those tardy people I can’t abide, I wonder? Let’s be clear, this would make bump her father’s daughter. Mr. N has the unique ability to turn ample time into disintegrating grains of sand with little drama in between. Inexplicable. His ‘short nap’ before his sister’s wedding meant I had been to the hairdresser, glammed up – precision cat eyes and all – tugged my dress over my huge bump and was at the door before he’d even suited-up. Eight months pregnant and in fashionably nude heels, I easily lapped him! Cue half an hour writing out the card, filling my envelope clutch with cereal bars ‘just in case’ and huffing and puffing whilst I waited for him. It’s definitely time for me to heed to advice of Professor Epstein. He’s a Harvard expert after all. Maybe I should give waiting a try…with a modicum of patience on the side.

According to Epstein, when we’re waiting: “We get to observe with far more concentration than usual.” So, what have I observed whilst waiting for the labour pains to kick in? Actually, many things. For one, I observed The Killing series 1 and 2 in two days…a series I’ve been trying to get through on and off for nearly a year. That’s the first tick in the box for waiting but I don’t think it’s quite what the good professor means. I’ve also observed the cleaner ‘fettling’ out my kitchen cupboards. To my great shame, my nesting instinct has mostly been ‘observed’ vicariously through her efforts. Don’t judge me: I don’t normally have a cleaner but, hey, all this time waiting provided me with the perfect clarity to realise I needed one. It’s certainly a breakthrough but I still don’t think it’s what Professor Epstein is getting at.

If I’ve had a breakthrough at all it’s that I’m happy going slowly. That might not sound like a miraculous revelation but, for me, it’s akin to finding out the Earth is flat after all. I’ve spent the last nine months juggling teaching English, flogging myself to death at my MA in journalism and waddling around a newspaper office to make absolutely sure I didn’t miss out on vital work experience. The Content Editor at the paper where I interned was agog every time I managed to sidle through the door. He seemed to think I would spontaneously combust at the abdomen and would eye me disapprovingly across the desk. Of course he never dared voice concern – every married man with children knows you don’t take on a determined pregnant woman – but there was always this quiet disbelief in the arch of his eyebrows. When one day I finally admitted defeat and went home early, I’m sure I caught a flash of gleeful relief rush across his face. He may have even mopped his brow (or that might be my imagination embellishing). At the time, it didn’t matter to me that I had nothing left to do that day, or that I’d accomplished a lot for an intern, or that I was absolutely knackered and potentially unsafe to drive home, I still felt a little shard of failure stabbing me as I climbed into my car and pushed the ignition!

When I started maternity leave, I wondered what on Earth I would do with all these eons of time. How would I sleep at night with such unfulfilling days? Yet I haven’t looked back. All this time has worked wonders on my impatience. I’ve baked cakes, cooked dinner (almost) every day, strolled out for lunch and met friends. I’ve loaded up my Kindle, enjoyed the buds on the trees whilst waiting for the previously pesky level crossing to guard its steam train through the tracks. I’ve even watched the smoke linger in the sky as the barrier was raised…and maybe got an angry beep from the driver behind when I didn’t notice the cue to carry on driving. In short, I may just have discovered the good life…and I’m not at all in a hurry to load up my plate again. My life from here is going to be balanced and wonderfully dawdling.

Professor Epstein thinks modern life has us all conned: “As a rule, we take our cues from the media, which generally glorifies wealth and speed.  It’s hard to find any public messages these days that extol the quiet, simple life.” Well, here’s one. This is one expectant mother that intends to take come over all Felicity Kendal, throw on some tatty old clothes, breathe the fresh air and appreciate the time on my hands today. Let’s face it…I won’t be free to do it for much longer anyway. Bump, take all the time you need.

Join the debate on Twitter – what do you want to defend today?

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