When I was first married (many years ago, to my first wife), my bride and I travelled to visit her parents. They had a lovely place in the Colorado mountains and that morning we all agreed to go on a hike. As we gathered near the front door, my mother-in-law excused herself to go get something. We waited. It took a while. While we stood there, my wife’s father confided to me the secret to his happy marriage. “Always have a good book,” he said with a smile. His point: by having a good book to read while waiting for his wife, he never suffered from resentment or frustration when his wife took a few extra minutes to get ready to leave.
These days, I carry with me a small laminated piece of Scripture that I practice chanting. Each week it’s a different set of approximately 14 verses, and it travels with me throughout the day. On the passenger seat in my car, in my backpack, to the bank, the post office, wherever.
This means that whenever things slow down –a red light, a long line to wait in, my friend has to use the restroom at the last minute before we leave the restaurant– whenever I’m forced to wait, I have something to do. I have something I enjoy, something I find meaningful. Sometimes I’m actually happy that the traffic light turned red because it gives me another minute or two to study. Instead of getting angry, I make progress towards a spiritual goal.
I am convinced that this is a helpful practice for me, because whenever I am out and about without my little lamination, I find myself much more prone to irritation and grumpiness. I feel forced to “waste time” or “kill time” sitting or standing around, and I don’t know how much precious time I have here.
So I heartily suggest that you find a book (poetry?!) or a calendar of daily sayings, or audio lectures, or anything that interests you that you can turn on and off easily for a minute or two at a time, and carry it around with you. I’d guess something you find centering and calming is good, and something you won’t mind putting back down when the “enforced” wait is over. You might want to try things that you otherwise never make time for, but that you always wanted to do– perhaps practice that foreign language you always wanted to learn?
If you decide to try this practice, please let me know how it works for you.
If you have a similar practice that you already find helpful, what is it?
May you find yourself using the time you are given wisely, in ways that strengthen you in being the person you want to be.
Being the person who is frequently the cause of other people waiting, I never mind waiting. However, I do find myself in some interesting situations. I challenge myself to find meaning in something I might find meaningless at the moment. I search for uses for the (what I find) useless thing before me.
I had a marvelous opportunity to attend church services in Fiji. There had been a request to deliver the sermon in English (for the many visitors), and also to shorten it. It was a holiday (Veteran’s Day, actually), and the church had a visiting preacher. Who spoke Fijian. It was hot, and the benches were pretty hard. The group I was with had recently been taught what a tiny percentage of communication involves words. So I challenged myself to imagine that I could understand the speaker, and it suddenly became much more interesting. I had tons of context, it was church, it was a holiday, the voice raised and lowered, occasionally he thumped on the bible, or pointed at the ceiling. I remember that when I find myself bored (which is hardly ever).
Beautiful! What a lovely experiment. It’s true that intonation, physicality, facial expression and context can tell us so much about what a person is saying. But I like your larger point. Embracing the “boring” situation to find meaning can open us up to new experiences. I’ve noticed that if I really look at someone’s face while they’re talking, as if looking anew, I often see new dimensions to them that I had missed before.