You know what I’m talking about, right? You’ve made the ask. You’ve set the intention. You’ve said yes to the calling.You’ve cracked yourself – your life – wide open. You’ve raised your hand and have said you’re ready. You’ve made the space, done the work, talked the talk and walked the walk. And then you pause, listen and look for a sign, a signal, a crumb of clarity or assurance that your courage will be rewarded – hoping you have finally arrived at that moment when the fruits of your labor finally ripen and drop effortlessly from the tree.
Inside, your mind is full of noise. But outside you only hear only crickets.
So you fill the void with some of your own assurances, making references to Noah building an arc when there is no flood, Henry Ford building a car when all people want are horses, or Kevin Costner building that crazy baseball field in the middle of nowhere. Because, like me, these are your people and they remind you you’re not alone. We are the believers. The faith-holders. The leap-and-the-cliff will appear people. And we want our fucking fruit. Preferably sooner than later.
But you know what no one talks about? The waiting. And how fucking messy it is.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’ve been navigating the month between sending my editor my finished manuscript and getting it back to make revisions. As I’ve listened to those fucking crickets, I realized I made dreadful mistake. When I printed and whole-punched and lovingly fit those 400 pages into a very funky three-ring binder and artfully wrapped up the bundle in a luscious piece of red fabric before sealing it up and mailing it to my editor to NYC, do you know what I did on purpose by accident?
I put all my power in that box. And mailed it to my editor. Oops.
Weeks later, as I came back from a blissfully unplugged family vacation I realized my mistake. I felt my face pinched and the constriction of worry set in. Even though I had just come back from an awesome vacation and felt rested, I could feel myself holding my breath – bracing for impact. This is what waiting without power feels like to me – pacing back and forth like a caged lion, seeing the juicy steak waiting for me on the other side of the bars, and telling myself I have no control. Reprimanding myself for not being more patient, relaxed and comfortable. “Shh!”, I said, “stop that!”
Which, of course, threw me into a fit of epic proportions.
Look no further than the title page of my book, and you’ll see evidence of my thrashing about. Not convincing enough? Check out the state of my closet. Complete and utter mayhem. Shit strewn everywhere. I could see and feel it happening with each new piece of clothing thrown on the floor or crumpled on a shelf, even joking with my husband, “if you want to know what the inside of my head looks like, look no further than our closet.” But wait there’s more! Check out my basement and the chaos that lives within that fetid hole in the ground. Ask me how many times I’ve talked about purging out this mess of nasty and how many weekends I’ve put it on our list to tackle. Honestly, I feel like that bee in Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie, flying into the pane of glass in the window again and again, saying “THIS TIME! THIS TIME! THIS TIME!”
All that’s gotten me is a sore head – and more mess. Just out of spite.
It’s not easy. It’s not fun. And sure, it’s often embarrassing (especially when posting pictures of it for the world to see…) But there are some surprising riches to be mined here if you’re willing to hang with the mess of the waiting thrash. Having recently navigated a particular thorny patch of it recently, here’s what I’ve come to appreciate about waiting:
It has you take stock – taking back what’s yours, and giving back what’s not.
Take my power, for instance. My editor didn’t ask for that to be sent – I’m sure she’s got enough of her own. But in writing my book, I had expanded myself in such a way that I was stepping into a more powerful version of myself – without fully realizing it. All I knew is that I was scared shitless and feeling vulnerable. So it makes sense that I tried to ship some of it to someone else for safe-keeping. Except she didn’t ask for it – and it was mine to keep. It wasn’t something that I’d borrowed and needed to give back, it was something I had tapped into in myself – like a deeper reservoir of power I didn’t know I had. Once I recognized this – saw what I had done – I took it back and began the process of acclimating to that expanded version of me. The same could be said of giving back stories you’ve been told about yourself, outdated goals, someone else’s dreams for you, beliefs that aren’t yours. Those can be packed up in the moments of waiting and sent back to whom they belong.
Have you ever put down something you had been carrying that you hadn’t realized was weighty – like a unwieldy bag or a stack of books under your arm? What about an expectation? Ever felt the relief of putting down a particularly heavy one of those? That’s what I mean by liberating. It inevitably lightens your load, buoys you up, and puts a spring in your step as a result. In the wildest of times, it also can leave you remarkably uninhabited, having your “give a shit meter” go way down as you find you start to care less about the things that don’t really matter, and give them up in favor of the things that do matter – like family, play, and presence.
It can be deeply nourishing.
When I find myself throwing a fit about something and have the ability to ask what I need in that moment, I inevitably find it’s something that is well within my control to give myself – like love, affirmation, permission, compassion and latitude. I marvel sometimes how this list, for me, goes on and on at times – approval, respect, acknowledgement, space to play, quiet time to connect, validation, encouragement to feel my feelings or authorization to cast out a half-baked plan, trusting I will figure it out as I go… In that way, these “hard” times are actually a boon for me, plugging me into resources I didn’t realize were within my power to supply.
It inspire others.
This is the one a lot of people miss. It’s also the one that made me write this deeply personal post and share not-so-flattering pictures. When people show themselves, when they have the courage to be publicly vulnerable – to share the real, raw and honest underbelly of their human experience – it has the power to connect us all. Our experiences and situations maybe be different, but the emotion of vulnerability is universally known and felt. It’s why its so hard to share at that level. But think of how refreshing it is when people do. You don’t see that very often posted on Facebook, but when you do, people rise up and connect as a result. Often all it takes is one. This post is my turn to be that one.
Being messy is ridiculously fun if you let it be.
I’m starting to see the degree to which we adults get all weird and hung up in our underwear about things being “neat and tidy.” Even as we know better and that life just isn’t like that. Kids get it – like when my son came in for dinner covered in pink chalk dust after having given a full-body hug to the drawing he had made in the driveway. Or how the kids’ place mats, faces and sleeves carry dinner on them long after the meal has been eaten. The same could be true for adults if we let it. For example, I’ve recently given myself FULL permission to get my closet as messy as possible, making it something of a contest in our house – to see just how “bad” I can let it get before I can’t take it any more and finally clean it up. And you know what!? It’s fun. It feels good to laugh at myself instead of berating a situation. It’s fun to embrace it as a game, instead of writing it off as a character flaw. What the fuck, right? When in Rome. Turns out it suits me well.
All of this isn’t rocket-science, and you know this as well as I do. It’s primal and ancient territory – that has us touch our need to belong and be seen and ultimately, to be loved. But last week, when I turned to my husband, who was just setting out to read my book for the fist time (gulp, wince, flinch…) I heard myself say with all the authority I could muster at the time, “You know what? I don’t need anyone to tell me this book is good. I know it is (gak. blink). I just need it to be edited, not approved.” It was in that moment I could start to feel the strength of a new muscle develop inside myself.
Call it self-authorizing. Call it being comfortable in my own skin. Call it confidence. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is it was born out of waiting. Which might be the hardest part, but it’s worthy of my respect.