I’m well-versed in waiting.
I wait for the perfect moment, or until everybody else has already acted.
In elementary school I waited for people to stop tight-rolling their jeans before I followed suit. In high school I waited to ask a certain girl out until I had full assurance from her friends that her answer would be yes. She said no.
But I also wait because it feels safe and it offers a form of insulation and protection from the life that I want to live, but am afraid to live.
The initial pull of safety and security is eventually met with the sharp realization that this kind of waiting has a deadly outcome. Deadly to dreams. Deadly to relationships. Deadly to any hope you have of living with a sense of adventure.
I’ve used every excuse in my repertoire to convince myself I should stay hidden and safe. And to stay hidden and safe for me means I keep waiting.
In his book, The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield refers to our excuses as part of what makes up the ‘Resistance’. He says, “to yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.”
When confronted with that statement I am motivated to leave all my excuses behind as I run towards adventure; but that brief moment of unbridled ambition is fleeting. Soon I start thinking about my wife and my kids, the house and the mortgage, the bills and the debt.
I pull up lame and soon I’m nodding my head towards the ‘Resistance’ as if to say “I’m sorry, I’m done dreaming for today.” As I begin my retreat, I gather my deformed and stunted spirit into my arms and settle in to the all-too-familiar safety of waiting.
To wage war with resistance is far more complex and difficult than I could have ever anticipated. It demands a resoluteness that most days I doubt resides within me. It asks me to share that which I hold most sacred, my hopes and dreams. It forces me to face my most capable adversary, myself.
These are the things that keep me waiting.
I wait because it’s not perfect.
I had trouble with the cursive handwriting curriculum in 3rd grade, not because I was incapable, but because I demanded perfection. I can laugh about it now, but it usually went something like this: write, evaluate, erase, re-write, re-evaluate, erase with ferocity and frustration followed by asking for a new piece of paper that wasn’t ripped or smudged all to hell. By the time I was comfortable turning in my sheet full of upper and lowercase A’s my classmates were halfway through the alphabet.
I still find myself waiting for perfection. Before I move forward, before I take a step, before I put myself at risk, I listen to the resistance that says this isn’t perfect. So I wait. I wait until every detail is in order, every image captivating, every web page perfected, and every word written and re-written. I am still attempting to fully uncover where my delusion of achieving perfection as a pre-cursor to beginning comes from.
I wait because of my need for assurance and affirmation.
That’s just a fancy way of saying I’m afraid to fail and I want affirmation that I have what it takes before I begin.
I’ve been on hockey skates since I was 2 and I was a goalie from age 11 through high school. Ironically, the pressure of being a goalie makes it the most ridiculous place for someone who is afraid to fail. I can remember one particular tournament very well. I had led the team to the championship game. It was the night before the big game and my teammates and I were roughhousing in the hotel pool. Our juvenile fun consisted of playing football with a pop can (genius I know). The can eventually broke and the next time I threw it I cut my right index finger. It was a decent cut, but nothing a Band-Aid and some hockey tape couldn’t fix. The next day I convinced myself and our coach that the other goalie would need to play because of my injury.
That decision kept me safe. It assured me of not having to face the potential heartache, criticism and mess of failure. It also kept me on the bench for the championship game. Fear has a way of doing that; removing you from the places you really want to be and the things you really want to participate in.
I wait because I’d rather get lost than do more work.
Embracing the hard work of creating a meaningful story isn’t easy. We fill our social media feeds with “best of moments,” hoping we notice and grant each other significance. We don’t mention the in-between spaces that fill us with doubt or the hard work and sacrifices to move something from a dream to reality.
The work of pursuing dreams, although meaningful, can seem daunting and endless.
At the end of a long work day, followed by dinner and bedtime routines, there is this incredibly difficult decision to make; get lost or do more work. When faced with that decision I routinely escape to other worlds and adventures (Breaking Bad, The Americans, Parenthood) where I can lose myself in an intriguing story that requires very little of me. I continue in my waiting because I prefer getting lost to doing more work.
So what about you? Do you ever feel stuck in a season of waiting? If you had to identify some specific reasons why you keep waiting what would they be? What hopes and dreams have you put on hold?
Perhaps together we can begin the important work of sharing that which we hold most sacred.