Those who are waiting are waiting very actively... If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun, it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, believing that this moment is the moment." - Henri Nouwen, The Path of Waiting
My friend sent me the above quote last week, when I was waiting.
Over the past couple of months I have been waiting for many things: waiting to decide on a graduate school, waiting for winter in New York to end, waiting to see my boyfriend, waiting for all the puzzle pieces of life to drop into place.
About three weeks ago, I was jolted from my passive waiting, as I visited Grad School A, and I thought: this is what is happening.
I didn't want Grad School A to be what was happening. But there it was.
And if that was what was happening, then I needed to fix my lack of want towards it. My emotions and desires were bucking and pulling away from the reality presented. When our emotions are jarring with reality we have two options: conform reality to fit our desires, or conform our desires to fit our reality. And the latter seemed like the more plausible option at this point.
The word "waiting" to me instantly signifies a suspension of movement. When I think of the word "waiting" I think of everything coming to a halt, a pause, a stagnation. You are simply stuck, you cannot move forward, as you sit and wait for the light to turn green.
Waiting, however, is actually where all the real work of living happens. The real journey is the story of what we do between now, when what we want is just a desire, and then, when we are united to it.
Over the past months, I discovered each moment of waiting was such a grace.
Seeing this waiting differently started on a run one very warm weekend day in February. I thought to myself: How embarrassing will it be if I don't get into Grad School C? That is what I thought.
Whoa, whoa, Renée, I responded (to myself). What does that even mean? What's that attitude all about?
Well, it means, if you don't get in, you were not smart enough, and not intelligent enough to get in. In short, not worthy.
Interesting, Renée, so conversely: if I do get in, it will prove that I did it, all on my lonesome. That I am the End-All-Be-All-of-Magnificent?
Or, rather, will it not be simply gift?
Is it not true that the only reason we have received the gifts we have is because of the goodness of others? We find the gifts we do because of the goodness of the men and women who have mentored us to where we are now; the goodness of our parents; the kindness of many thousand strangers.
Are not the good things we received simply gift upon gift?
When I was waitlisted at Notre Dame, my prayer of waiting became: Lord, help me to see what is happening. Help me to see things as they are, not as I would have them.
I have these desires: may they not blind me, but rather illuminate the path. Help me to see the deep reality of the present moment, and the movements occurring within it. Help me to see the present moment, because the present moment opens up into the future.
What is is the story. Not what might be.
We have to find the story to find reality. Finding the story means accepting our part in it: our denial is part of the story, our inaction, our actions, the things in our control, what is out of control, our despised emotions, our ignored emotions, and all the deep Mariana Trenches of mystery that slosh around inside of us that we explore painstakingly, with care, with only one small submarine light for guide.
But that is what waiting is for. Waiting is a search for the present moment, and trusting that what is truly present will guide us into the future.