A time to wait

The good news is that everything is proceeding well regarding the house we found and liked a couple of weeks ago – lucky number 29. We’ve agreed on the terms of the lease, and the owners have signed the contract. Now we’re waiting for the right people at headquarters down in Vientiane to review it, sign it, and issue payment.

So the bad news is that we’re still waiting to move in.

Mike’s been living out of a suitcase now since April when he left for Laos. Or, perhaps since March, when he was in Malawi? Or January, when he was in Australia? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, between his trips, my jaunts to London, Jakarta, and Phnom Penh, and our holiday in Alaska and Canada before coming here… there have been a lot of suitcases and a lot of living packed into the first half of this year.

You might think that in the midst of all this activity during the last six months I wouldn’t have had a lot of time to feel that I was waiting for anything. But I did. I often caught myself scouting the future for planned or hoped-for landmarks. Waiting to leave on the next plane, or to return. Waiting for Mike to leave on the next plane, or to return. Waiting.

Before we made the decision to move to Laos I often felt as if I were waiting and longing for our season of uncertainty about what to do next to just be over. Surely, I thought, once we know we’ll feel more grounded, more present.

And it’s true that in one sense, we did.

But when we decided to make the jump from California this sparked five months of preparing, of waiting, for the move. Surely, I thought, once we actually make the move we’ll feel more grounded, more present.

And it’s true that in one sense, we have.

But the thing is, this sense I have of “waiting” never seems to be completely assuaged.

Whether big or small, there always seem to be things to wait for. Now we’re here we’re waiting for Mike’s visa and the extra level of certainty and protection that it should bring. We’re waiting for our shipment – which has not even left California yet, and won’t until the visa is in hand. We often have to wait on an internet connection that’s not nearly as fast as I would like. Then there’s the daily temptation to wait to start writing until my genie shows up and gifts me inspiration.

And, of course, there’s waiting to move into a house that we will – at least temporarily – be able to call ours. There’s waiting to finally unpack some of those suitcases.

But I know that after we do, there will just be something else to wait for.

There’s a famous Bible passage in Ecclesiastes 3 that starts; “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…” It talks about times to be born and times to die, to plant and uproot, to weep and laugh. In fact, it lists twenty-eight different times.

Not one of them is a time to wait.

I’d guess that’s because, on some level, it’s always a time to wait. Right up until it’s time to die there is always going to be another coming season to anticipate, to dread, to hope and long for, to fear.

To wait for.

I don’t particularly like what this implies… That I can’t just ride out periodic seasons of waiting and enjoy perfect and peaceful times in between. That it’s less about whether I’m waiting, maybe even less about what I’m waiting for, and more about how I’m waiting. And that it is largely up to me whether I marry the word “waiting” to the word “worry” or, conversely, miss the complex beauty of the present because I am living in a haze of anticipation.

No, I don’t like waiting. I don’t like the pre-eminence I can sometimes grant it. And I resent how focusing too much on an illusion of the future can rob me of the full experience of now.

Except when I’m at the dentist. Then I’ll pretty much take the future, any version of the future, over the present.

I count myself lucky that there are no dentists in Luang Prabang.

There are, however, plenty of things I’m waiting on at the moment. But while I’m waiting I’m also enjoying the generosity of some new friends who have lent us their house while they are in Thailand for a month. I am enjoying their air conditioner, and the quiet of these back lanes. I am definitely enjoying the fact that right down the street is the Laos Red Cross.

I wandered in there yesterday. Signs inside the gate direct you to go left to give blood, and right to reach the sauna and massage rooms. Five dollars bought me an hour of massage and a receipt thanking me for supporting the work of the Lao Red Cross. Thanking me. It was, hands down, the most fun I’ve ever had supporting the work of the Red Cross. I may just go back today and support them some more.

So there are far worse places in this world to practice waiting for a house to be ready. And, as for writerly inspiration, Jack London perhaps put it best…

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”


16 responses to “A time to wait

  1. Emma Thornett

    Hi Lisa,

    I often think of Abram and Sarai, and the 13 years between God promising them a son and God fulfilling that promise. 13 years is nothing in the grand scheme of eternity, but it’s quite a long time in one person’s life!

  2. Beautiful post, as always. Love your honesty, girl 🙂

    Love and hugs

  3. A Buddhist would probably tell you to live in the moment. There is no waiting in life because you’re always living. The misery you have is in wanting things you don’t have–your own home, unpacked suitcases, visas. Want what you have, and you will always have everything you want. Embrace this moment of your journey. Best of luck, Lisa.

    • Yes, that is indeed what the monks here would tell me, if I could speak Lao. Your wedding is soon!!! I was on your wedding website the other day just taking a peek and enjoying seeing a bit of your story. Hope you enjoy that moment of your journey!!

  4. Michelle Williams

    One of my favorite books to read to Tahlia is Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go!”…

    “The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

    Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

    Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.”

    • Maybe I should take up writing children’s books?? But then I probably wouldn’t be allowed to talk about the sex lives of buffaloes. We must skype soon. This week sometimes, if the net co-operates.

  5. How funny that the Red Cross provides massages for a price!

  6. Joy Montiford

    Waiting, waiting, waiting…. I can identify.
    Live life and bring on eternity

  7. I loved this – thank you for writing so clearly what many of us feel, the time spent living out of suitcases particularly and waiting for “real”/”settled” life to begin…WAIT…this is my life!

  8. Lisa! I so enjoyed reading your essay on waiting. I’m realizing how true this is for me right now as well. In a similar way, I feel like the last 6 years I’ve been saying “this is just a very busy season for me–there’s a lot going on”—when really that’s kind of the norm and not just a season. It’s SO hard to just be present. But yes, I think there’s a lot more peace in living moment to moment (in those rare cases when I actually manage to do this)—than planning/worrying/wondering about the future. What a seemingly small thing—with a huge amount of influence. I will be chewing on this for a while I think 🙂

    • I see you facebook status updates and they make me smile. Voice over and the like. Yes, I remember the conversation we had in the car before New Years up in Seattle a couple of years ago. Waiting. Wondering about next steps. I hope your moments are full of happiness at present.

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