“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 a No or waiting for their hair to grow.” –Dr Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go!
My kids’ school curriculum has pauses built into the day; the teachers talk about the rhythm of in-breathing and out-breathing. The space between the notes makes the music. Negative space balances the picture. The key points of a dialogue lie between the words.
I know these things. I know them, but I am not good with the pause, with the negative space, with waiting. I come from a long line of mostly Anglo-Saxon over-achievers. My method is less to serve by standing and waiting than it is to power through with a stiff upper lip or work around with cheery flexibility.
Sometimes the universe has other plans.
I recently hit not just a pause, but a full stop, in an interaction. No work-around. No fix. Not even much closure. Stopped. Over. Done.
Did I mention that I’m not comfortable with powerlessness?
Ok, I said to myself, this is obviously here for a reason, just like any other setback or stressor in my life. It’s here to show me how strong I am, to test me. We experience pain or loss in order to know who we are, right? I don’t pause. I reframe. Friendships, jobs, house, car, article or book rejection – it isn’t a loss; it’s an opportunity. There’s a phoenix tattooed on the back of my shoulder for a reason. I am an optimist; we pull glory from the flames and ashes.
So, in the last month or two, I have pulled out all of the stops in my attempt to show the world exactly how strong I can be. By “the world,” I mean myself, of course. Volunteering at the school? Absolutely. What do you need? I’m there. A co-worker needs something edited? Sure. I’ll put my project aside and do that right now. Half-marathon in the rain with a cold? No problem. Personal best time. A magazine client needs a feature article with a less-than two week deadline that overlaps with a conference? Piece of cake. I’m their girl. In the meantime, I’ll read articles on acceptance and fully experiencing the present.
Just let me make the present as busy as possible.
Somewhere between the rainy half marathon and Thanksgiving, things started to break down a little. The cold didn’t seem too bad, and it had mostly resolved by the week after Thanksgiving. The cold sores that erupted around the time of my rush-article writing could perhaps have been a clue, a warning flag on the track, if you will. The cough that kicked in the night before we needed to pack up the kids and car to head for Anaheim for a combined conference (me) and Disneyland (Mike and the kids) trip, should probably have told me to at least slow down.
I did slow down. We only went to Disneyland for a couple of hours the evening that we arrived. I only ran 2.5 miles on the treadmill the next morning. Oh, and lifted some weights. By midway through the conference, my cough was bad enough that I had to walk out of the middle of a talk on recurrent airway obstruction in horses – not ironic at all. I backed off to two miles on the treadmill that morning.
By the time we were heading home, Mike wound up driving both halves of the trip since I couldn’t do anything without coughing until I was blind. The holiday party for my job began two hours after we arrived home. We went.
I went to work the next day, but I’d begun to recognize a problem. I called my doctor’s office for an appointment, not because my chest hurt when I tried to breathe, or because I felt like crap. No, I called because I couldn’t run, and it was interfering with my marathon training schedule. Yes, somewhere in all of that rushing around the “waiting place,” I had registered for the San Francisco marathon in June.
I did take the weekend off. Well, except for the few hours spent helping my boss edit a speech and running errands on Sunday, that is.
By yesterday (Monday), I was feeling “better,” but I decided to work from home, to rest. That may have been the first intelligent choice I’ve made in weeks. But, my body decided that it was too little, too late. As I was chatting with a friend at the school between pick up times for Sierra and Aidan, it started. The bright sunlight began to waver between the bare branches of the trees. I looked toward the shaded buildings – circles shimmered on the yellow walls. I rummaged through my purse, but naturally, my pills were in my other bag.
Migraine. My body’s personal stop sign.
There is no multi-tasking through a migraine, at least not for me. There is nothing but a dark room, a pillow, and the wait. Waiting for sleep to come. Waiting for the pain to go. Waiting.
You can take medication to make the migraine go away sooner, to reduce the length of the inevitable hangover, but there is no escape. I can’t busy my way out of a migraine. I can’t read or write – light stabs through my retina and straight into my brain. Music or books on tape are out. Sound makes me want to vomit. A migraine leaves me alone in the dark, with only my own thoughts for company.
Guess what. That is where we really find ourselves. Where we learn who we are, how strong we are. We don’t learn what we can handle when we are rushing around, when we’re bursting with physical, mental, and emotional fitness. We find ourselves in the broken places, in the dark, with our heads splitting open and leaking tears into our pillows.
Yes, I have articles to write, and marathon training to do. But I also have healing to do. The universe only has to whack me over the head so many times before I finally get it. I’ll take today as a sick day, rest my body and mind, and embrace my time in the waiting place. I won’t be here forever. I have things to do.