The Waiting Game

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I am bad at waiting.

And there’s good reason for that, I think.  Indeed, there is a way in which my whole pre-parenting life was an exercise in gaining independence and then control over my life.  I followed my parents’ rules and my teachers’ directions.  I studied hard and got the job I wanted.  I lived on my own and ran my own classroom.  Boom.  Independence and control.  And in these settings, I grew accustomed to things happening at my own pace.  Yet I now find myself at a moment in life when I am playing the waiting game far more often than I’d like.

My inherent impatience reared its ugly head when I was first trying to get pregnant.  It was hard for me, conditioned as I was as an educated working woman to being in control, to surrender to the fact that there is no rushing pregnancy.  Either it happens or it doesn’t and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it (other than the obvious, ahem).  And if it doesn’t happen, you’ve  got to wait a month – a month!? – to try again.  You mean planning and effort and good intentions don’t seal the deal!?  How could this be!?

And the challenge of impatience has extended right into motherhood.  When the pace of my days is largely dictated by the health and whims of three very short people.  By the chronic cough of my four year old.  The snail’s pace at which my toddler eats.  Whether or not my daughter takes a good nap.  Sure, I can outline a skeleton schedule for each day, but my kids determine the ways that the skeleton breaks, its bones fractured by an early wake-up or a bad dream.

And now this impatience has surfaced again in my writing career.  I send my essays and query letters off into the ether and then I wait.  I check my e-mail every hour, then every half hour, then every five minutes and, somehow, the responses don’t come any faster.  Eventually they trickle in: a question, a no, a yes.  But in between the sound of crickets can grow deafening.

And I’m left wondering if this parental crash course in patience has really left me any better at playing the waiting game.

Are you a patient person?  How do you occupy yourself when waiting for someone or something?


53 responses to “The Waiting Game

  1. I am decidedly NOT a patient person. Does that surprise you? I suspect not. But indeed, parenthood has painted a stark portrait of my impatience, and it isn’t pretty. So I can imagine how it much all feel. But to borrow a cliché, I suppose anything worth having is worth waiting for. And I have to remember a blog post of Dani’s that says she misses the days when she was just a writer – not a published writer, but a writer, and the joy that came from the craft. I often think about that.

  2. It depends, for me – I can be very patient when it comes to people, but when it is things like waiting on a response back from an agent, or waiting for that company to call my husband back so we know if he’s heading out to Chicago for an interview this month or not …

    No. Not so much.

    • It seems that for you, as for me, there is sort of a hierarchy of patience. And the more important something is (or maybe the less in our control it is?), the harder it is to wait. That might be why the parenting analogy breaks down so easily. After all, how long it takes my two year old to eat his dinner isn’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things, but knowing whether your husband has an interview in Chicago? Potentially life changing.

      I think I need to do a better job of putting each query letter in perspective. Ultimately, there will be hundreds of them and it’s not worth it to waste so much worry on waiting for the response to each one.

  3. I am inherently impatient and like you, I was used to forging my own path. Life has taught me that I have very little control over most things. Choice has been an illusion for me. I am learning (trying) patience and grace because the alternative anger and resentment feel really bad. As for your writing, my mom told me something yesterday that I think applies to you: you can do it already, really well. That’s the hard part. Now the world just needs to know.

  4. Sometimes I think I’m too patient. That sounds so weird. Like I don’t rush things. I don’t try hard enough. I don’t lean in. I’m waiting for my life to come to me.

    There’s a great journal that I think would be good for some of what you write. I met the publisher this weekend at a conference. Give them a look and see if it feels like a fit.

    • Thank you for thinking of me, Rebecca. I will definitely check it out.

      It’s interesting that you say this about yourself. When I think about it, I guess I could say the same – “I’m waiting for my life to come to me” – about my approach to writing up until about a month ago. I figured that thinking about writing was enough and I was as patient as can be about sending it out into the world. Now that I’ve done it, all my impatience has crept up. Maybe I just used up all my patience without realizing it. 🙂

  5. I am the antithesis of patience. 🙂 I recently went through the process of querying lit agents, so I can definitely relate to the “sound of crickets” problem you speak of. Motherhood and writing have both forced me to dabble in patience, but I know that it will always be a struggle for me. On the flip side, people like us have a lot of drive, and that can be a very good thing, too!

  6. Kristen, I am not so great at waiting either. However, I know you are very talented and those offers will be rolling in very quickly.

  7. We are cheering for you Kristen.

    As to your question, the Mrs. and I are a perfect balance. Being raised in a military family, I learned to “hurry up and wait” at an early age. The Mrs. has zero patience–so together, we are just right.

  8. I am terrible at waiting! I thought motherhood would make me better in this area, but alas, I still suck.

  9. thank you for this post. I’m in the middle of “impatience” right now, waiting for my son to finish homework. The longer it takes, the longer it puts off my time and what I need to get done. I was impatient as a single girl but always felt that if I pushed hard I could get things done. Pushing hard now gets me resistance. I feel like a dog on a leash, yanked back with each burst of effort. AH! thanks for writing what is in my head.

  10. I was rambling on and on, leaving you a smallish book, rather than a comment. I deleted it. Instead, I’ll say: yes, I’m impatient. If fact, the reality of how long things will take sometimes makes me what to stop altogether. I don’t, but I do struggle with letting life (and career) unfold in their time.

  11. I relate to this on SO many levels. Actually, I relate to it on ALL levels. I have often thought about how my pre-parent life was an exercise in gaining more and more independence, and how now I feel like I’m moving backward, but that I’m learning a lot about patience along the way.

  12. My one-two punch came when I became a parent and LEARNED FOR THE FIRST TIME that I wasn’t really a patient person. Now that’s it all highlighted in yellow neon, I realize I was patient only when things fell into place, exactly as I wanted. Um, that’s not patient, Denise. Not at all.

    I am so proud of you for sending your query letters; I still struggle on the best way to do this and therefore I paralyze myself and send none. Sigh.


  13. Oh, how I love and know this. Really know it.

    Patience and I are not old friends.

    I’m better than I used to be- at least in some arenas. But in anything new and important and emotional to me? I go right back to my instincts.

    And they, as you might have guessed, are anything but patient.

    Oy. 🙂

  14. I’m with both you and Galit on this. I’m waiting for a response on something at this very moment and it has me in knots, unable to concentrate and out of sorts. I know the best thing to do is throw myself into my latest novel but it is hard. Today I am going to do better than yesterday! Great post. Thanks.

  15. I am probably the most impatient person that I have ever met. I don’t do good with waiting. To occupy myself, I usually just obsess over whatever it is I am waiting for. At the moment, I am being very impatient about when I will go into labor. Therefore, I am obsessing over the signs that labor is approaching, and reading up on birth stories and the likelihood that I will go into labor before my due date. *sigh*

    • I think you are entitled to your impatience when it comes to labor. I don’t remember thinking about much else myself when I was toward the end of my pregnancies. All the best to you for a healthy and happy delivery!

      Thanks for visiting Motherese!

  16. Sometimes the stupid little sentence, “patience comes to those who wait,” circles around in my head. I guess I’ve had a lot of time to wait, and over that time I’ve slowly gotten better at being present, which is the opposite of waiting, which is still not to say that I don’t anticipate all manner of things and their concomitant fantasies of how great it will feel when…

    What I really hope, for you and for the rest of us, is that we might architect the feelings that we want and somehow relinquish the imagined situation that we thought would bring a given feeling in favor of the feeling itself.

    Perhaps from that place of emotional presence and gratitude we will find we are better able to create, parent, live and love—loving even the sound of crickets.

    • Thank you for these words, especially these: “we might architect the feelings that we want and somehow relinquish the imagined situation that we thought would bring a given feeling in favor of the feeling itself.”


      Chirp, chirp.

  17. I have evolved into a much more patient person. But that’s all I can claim. I am more patient than I used to be. I’m not perfect. I can’t give any sage advice. I wish I could. I do find, and this may sound crazy, but if I’m living too much in the future (wishing, waiting, impatient) I try to bring myself into the present by chanting (inside my head because if I said it outloud I’d risk being mistaken for a crazy woman) “Be here now. Be here now. Be here now.” over and over. It helps. A little. Most of the time.

  18. Patience really is a virtue… that I don’t have much of. Unfortunately.

  19. I wouldn’t call myself a patient person but I think as I get older, the waiting becomes easier. Alas one of the blessings of being busy is all the wonderful things that fill the time and space in between your action and the universe’s response. I think I heard this first from my friend Meghan but it is one of may fav’s: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Nothing promotes patience better.

  20. I am impatient about the future. Always wanting to know what is going to come next.

    As far as my day to day life, I am patient in lines and traffic. I don’t mind waiting. Losing my father makes me appreciate what a gift it is to participate in life (even for pesky day to day things).

    • I really like the way you put it: “participating in life.” It reminds me of something Gretchen Rubin writes in The Happiness Project about her “waiting in line meditation.”

      Isn’t it interesting the perspective we gain after a loss? Thanks so much for sharing yours, my friend. xo

  21. No, not patient at all and motherhood has exasperated this, along with countless other insecurities, like no other. But I have been learning the past few days that there seems to be a direct correlation between my patience level and my daughters’ behavior. Guess that’s not rocket science, but am savoring the fun times.

    • This is true at our house too, absolutely: “there seems to be a direct correlation between my patience level and my daughter’s behavior.” Or at least between my patience level and my perception of their behavior. 🙂

  22. I used to be so impatient. Even my mother will now admit that, since motherhood, I have the patience of a saint!!!

  23. There are some areas in which I am patient. I think I am more patient with the children than my husband is, and he’s a pretty patient person. I can be patient in stores and in line. And then, there’s work. I am very impatient at work. I work hard, and try to get everything done within 24-48 hours. I never let an email sit longer than a day. I like to finish projects once I start them. As I bet you can guess, that doesn’t always work out according to plan! I’ve had to work on this skill set quite a bit in recent years!

  24. I don’t think anyone is really all that patient. I mean, that’s why it’s called patience and not easiness. I don’t like the idea of being out of control and that is what waiting feels like to me.

    I must say I am THRILLED you are sending your work out!!! Hooray!! xoxo

  25. I must think that checking my inbox makes replies come faster, because I do that too. Every five minutes even when I know, realistically, it’s going to be weeks. Thankfully I have more patience with the children than I have with my email, but I could use more there, as well.

  26. Patience is, quite simply, not my virtue. I too am stuck in a waiting game I don’t have the patience for. I find myself making up rules about not checking my email for four hours and then checking it five minutes later. It is ridiculous. I guess, in time, we will get used to it??

  27. I smiled at Bruce’s remark, but have found it to be true. Patience is learned, with time, like everything else. Harder on some dimensions, easier on others.

    It’s a contradiction really. You’d think we’d grow less patient as we get older, with less time in which to accomplish or experience what we want. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. Happily.

  28. ahhh, I could so relate to the poster waiting to hear back about a potential interview in Chicago. My family is living on thr edge right now as we are seeking new job opportunities in minneapolis and Austin, tx. And I am already an extremely impatient person who is very frustrated that I cannot analyze or control my way out of this…

    • “I cannot analyze or control my way out of this…”

      Wow, I relate to that feeling of helplessness on so many levels. What do you mean I can’t control my way out of something?! Impossible!

      Good luck to you, Karin, as you figure out where you’ll be heading, and thanks for stopping by!

  29. Having kids hasn’t taught me patience, it’s taught me that I don’t come first. Or maybe that is a type of patience! I remember how I’d have all these well-laid plans when I first became a mom, from work responsibilities to exercise plans, end up with a sick kid, and everything would suddenly change. I’d be fine yet I would be unable to do what I wanted.

    I took a great freelance writing class one time (from Gotham!) and the instructor said that we should consider ourselves story generators. Just to constantly have a lot of story ideas percolating and query letters out and know that some will come up empty but that some will make it. It was hard for me to do that successfully, which is probably why I’m not a freelance writer, but I certainly understand what it’s like to send a little piece of myself out to people and wait miserably for their response.

    Good luck, Kristen!

    • Lately I’ve been trying to combine the parenting and the story generating: driving to the library, for instance, I’ll be coming up with lists of essay topics in my head. As you point out, those best-laid plans don’t generally come to pass so I’m working on making the best of the snippets of time I do have.

      Thanks, Linda!

  30. Being a father has simultaneously perfected and wrecked my patience.

  31. I wondered if this was going to have to do with writing and didn’t think about the parenting aspect. I am terrible at being patient for things to come. And that’s all I can say. I’m not any better after being a parent.

  32. Bruce said something marvelous this week:

    “All failure, in essence, is a failure to love.”

    It’s like Renoir (the film director), who said he started out wanting to affect the world, but ended up just wanting to send love letters.

  33. I think we’re up to Reason #643 now why we’re soul mates. I could have written this word for word. Seriously. And you’re right – motherhood hasn’t improved my patience either. In fact, now there are just more ways to test it – meal time, potty time, bed time, anytime! You’d think that it would get better with practice. I’m not sure it has with me.

    Good luck with your writing endeavors. I know the waiting part can be unnerving but there’s this annoying saying, all good things come to those who wait. Yes, unfortunately, there’s just more waiting. But at least good things will come eventually. Especially to you.

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