It is slowly starting to feel like winter in Portsmouth. Mornings are frosty, and I have had to scrape my windshield a few times.. but really, it’s still pretty mild. Maybe, you are grateful for this slow lingering fall. Maybe you are waiting for snow.
This months theme of waiting is hand picked for the season. Particularly for the young or young at heart waiting for holidays and celebration. There is some waiting in lines, too, for related reasons. Waiting for cookies to bake, waiting for packages to arrive. Tis the season.
Some among us are waiting for more complicated things. Waiting for the return to normalcy following the death of a loved one. Waiting to heal from loss, waiting for love, waiting for health. This season can be extra hard in complicated moments, in part because there is so much pressure to feel joy.
If we zoom out, our nation is waiting for hard things, too. Waiting for progress on climate policy. Waiting for an end to polarized politics, gun violence, racism. Waiting for women’s rights and gay rights, and gender rights. As I write this, I am pausing to chat with members of our congregation on social media as we prepare to attend the peaceful protest at the Sheraton in Portsmouth. The community is buzzing as a presidential candidate who has decided to run on a platform of hatred is heading to our town to speak to our police union. Tension is high. We are waiting for an end to this destructive dialogue. There is another vigil (for gun violence) on Sunday. There is a vigil for Black Lives Matter on the 22nd. We are waiting.. with candles and tears.
It can all feel like too much. Impossibly heavy. It is interesting to think about waiting as an answer to this feeling of being overwhelmed. Waiting as a spiritual practice.
Here’s a few things I’ve tried over the last two weeks:
- Waiting is recurrent in many religious faiths. There is something powerful in the idea of submitting to a greater force, or having patience for the arrival of insight, inspiration, wholeness. Consider exploring the theme of waiting in your own faith practice, and see what you uncover.
- Ritualize waiting in this season’s moments. Using an advent calendar, making special desserts, planning a fun event and relishing in the anticipation. Waiting can be a sweet part of this month, particularly when you name it and appreciate how the extra time adds to the experience.
- Be intentional when you wait. Think about your loved ones when you are standing in line. Instead of pulling out your phone, or going over checklists in your mind, just picture people you love, reflect on what makes them wonderful. Think about some little thing you love about them. If you are with your children, ask them to do the same, and afterward, share what you thought about. Invite them to share too.
- When you are waiting for something that is taking longer than expected, stretch. Touch your toes (or try!). It’s ok if you’re going to be late to drop off at school because someone didn’t put their shoes on when you asked them to do so– they’ll get them tied, and you’ll be on your way. In the mean time, stretch. When you head out you’ll also be a little less tight in the hamstrings!
- If sadness is the tune of the hour, welcome it. Make a warm cup of tea and sit by a window and cry. Honor your heart and don’t punish it for being blue. I recently realized this is something our kids need to hear, too. They are not oblivious to the myth that the holidays are supposed to be joyous, and when their feelings don’t match, they can feel confused or even lash out. The movie Inside Out is a great way to explore the complexity of feelings.. if your child has seen it, use it as a reference. While it’s important that we keep a bit of a lid on our own feelings around our kids, but it can be a huge help for them to see us model sadness sometimes, especially this time of year.
- Recognize the impact that technology and social media have upon your family and yourself. Consider taking a break, or limiting the times of the day when you browse online. The constant stream of news and updates has a powerful effect on our state of mind, and all that stimulation at our fingertips causes us to forgo opportunities for quiet thought. Try to choose waiting, observing, simply breathing over updates on politics and social networks. That said- parents, be patient navigating technology and social media with your kids. Play a long game, plant seeds, give your teens lots of opportunities to come to their own conclusions about the good and the bad of this new (to us) world. Most important- model healthy habits, and be consistent about your policies around phones and devices. I find myself getting into a little panic about the ever present phone in my teenagers hand, but impulsive restrictions aren’t my best parenting moments. Waiting can be the best idea when we are struck with a flash of panic.
- Finally, Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” I will leave you with this idea, of which I was recently reminded while driving to Maine with our Senior youth. I was listening to my front seat companion as she laid out the clear plans of college, followed by career, and kids, and then work abroad after the kids are raised. I remembered how very certain I was about my own life path when I was 15 years old; My 5 year plan, and 10 year plan, and all of the details I had flushed out. I remember when I came to my first roadblock, and how resistant I was to that change in direction. The next one wasn’t much easier, but somehow along the way I began to give in to the truth. I am not in control, life will take me on whichever road it chooses, and I am just waiting to find out where we’re heading. I am happy to have your company while we wait.