Don’t Wish The Days Away—Yes, Even These Ones
What happens to life when we can’t wait until hard times are over?
by Steve Silvestro, MD @zendocsteve
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We’re all waiting with bated breath…
“I can’t wait until this is over.”
Back in March, we were looking optimistically toward May.
Then May came, and we held out hope for the summer.
Now here we are in August, and unless we take strong, unified action, we’re looking at next May before things have settled—and even then, life won’t be exactly how it was before.
“I can’t wait until this is over.”
But what does it do to us—as individuals? as a society?—when we “can’t wait” for a whole year to go by?
What happens to life in the meantime?
THE PROFESSOR’S SPIRAL
If you’ve felt like these past few months have both dragged on and flown past at the same time, you’re not alone.
In fact, that feeling is something many of us notice as we get older—and not just in times like these. Part of the problem? Our “can’t waits.”
Students of my Mindfulness for Parents Online Course know that I tell the story of one of my favorite professors in college, a guy named Joe Murphy. Like all great professors, he had a handful of unique traits that made his teaching special—I used to love how he would suddenly use his hands and talk in an almost-whispered voice when he was saying something truly meaningful.
But there was one lecture from Professor Murphy that struck such a powerful chord, it’s resonated in me for nearly twenty years—and it’s one that means so much more today.
He was talking about what it meant to truly be “in the moment” and why, more often than not, most of us really aren’t. To illustrate, he imagined what students might be thinking in his class right then and there—and how we’re often locked in a never-ending spiral of “can’t waits”:
I can’t wait until this professor is done talking.
I can’t wait until this class is over.
I can’t wait until dinner with my friends tonight.
I can’t wait until the weekend finally comes.
I can’t wait until finals are done.
I can’t wait until I go home on Winter Break.
I can’t wait until…
The problem with “I can’t wait until,” he pointed out, is that every moment that leads up to what we can’t wait for ends up being written off as second-rate. There’s nothing to enjoy or learn or appreciate in these moments because we’ve already decided that they’re not as important as what’s on the horizon. We let these moments go in anticipation of something better.
As a result, these in-between moments slip by, barely experienced and already half-faded from memory.
Waiting for the summer, then next summer…then just until things get better…in between all the worries and stresses, the questions about the present and the future, there have been plenty of in-between moments to either notice or lose in the fog.
These last few months I’ve seen my kids grow taller. I’ve seen them learn to confidently flip off the diving board. I’ve seen them work together creatively, making magic wands and selling them from a table at the end of the driveway. My wife and I have had more moments for deep conversation. These all are things I wouldn’t want wished away.
These times have also reminded us of what’s really important on a big-picture, communal scale. How much we mean to each other and rely on each other. How there’s still so much work to be done for voting rights, for civil rights, for human rights—right here in our own communities.
Now, we may wish that we didn’t have to have learned these lessons in the way that we did—that we didn’t have to witness or experience the hardships, the loss, or atrocities in our homes and on TV.
But those lessons—of what we cherish in our own families, what we value as a society, and how much we need to work to focus and move forward—those are lessons worth being present for.
‘SO DO ALL WHO SEE SUCH TIMES’
My mom owns a small used bookstore, so my house is always spilling over with books and literary quotes fill my Facebook feed.
Early on in these past months, she and others shared one passage by Tolkien that is so immensely appropriate for our moment:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
I think it’s safe to say that we all wish this hadn’t happened in our lifetimes. But all that we truly have power to control is how we handle it—what we do with the time that we have.
As we worry what our kids will miss by not having in-person school and activities, we have the opportunity to remember that our kids grow and flourish by what we build around them—that we can create an environment of love, support, and creativity right at home.
And while the world spins on headlines and issues that seem too overwhelming to conquer, we’ve lately had the opportunity to see the passion and the power of individuals banding together as communities, to make their voices heard as a force for good.
It may be hard work at times to find the good, or to muster the energy to move forward. These are hard days—but they’re still our days to do what we can with what we have. These still are days filled with moments to be appreciated, days worthy of the effort to make things better.
These are days that shouldn’t be wished away.