“I don’t wait. I prepare.” -Mrs. Hapsteade in Ted Sanders’ The Box and the Dragonfly
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” -the Water Rat in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows
I wait a lot. I wait for the weekend to come around, and then I wait for the week, and work. I wait for my classes, and I wait for after my classes so I can write or read or sing embarrassingly. I wait for other people to start conversations. I wait, impatiently, for the microwave to finish it’s 90 seconds of BBBRRRRR-ing. (I wonder if there’s something wrong with my microwave). Over years and years I’ve built this habit of waiting. I’ve gotten angry when I was waiting, because it felt like wasting time. I’ve gotten frustrated with other people when they “kept” me waiting, and then, a bit BBBRRRRR-ish myself, I’ve been worse company when they showed up. And I wonder why I’ve done all that.
(A note: resting is wonderful. Resting leaves you recharged, reanimated, reimagined, perhaps even realized or revitalized. My questions are for waiting, not resting).
In wondering what else I could do, I’ve been looking at these two examples. First: Mrs. Hapsteade, who prepares. She aims from today to tomorrow. Earlier in the novel, Sanders comments, “Everything the future is made of is happening right now.” When I’m waiting, I’m usually preparing to keep on waiting. I’m setting myself into a holding pattern that stays a holding pattern. But I could be picking out a tree to climb, and looking to see how I’d climb it; I could be laying a foundation; I could be shifting my hips, and then when disco came back I’d be ready.
Second: I don’t think the Water Rat’s aiming for tomorrow, like Mrs. Hapsteade, but he’s definitely not a waiter. He’s (sorry) a wader. A swimmer. A splasher, diver, paddler, laugher, talker, mocker, meandering thought-er in the water. He’s doing something, even if it’s nothing much, even if it’s “just” messing around.
Maybe waiting is putting yourself on hold, and preparing is learning how to hold onto something. Maybe waiting is seeing the river as something that doesn’t have much to do with you, and boating is jumping in, because it does. Maybe the next time I’m waiting, I’ll prepare or mess around instead.