I have the good fortune to be living with two exceptional roommates: Remi (my dog) and Sasha (my cat).
Remi is a rescue pup. I adopted her when she was just 2 months old. When I filled out the paperwork, the breed section read: chocolate lab and Aussie shepherd. What her paperwork SHOULD have said was “100% pure bred energy.” Because she is a bundle of itching-to-run-and-play fluff.
In other words…she’s basically my spirit animal. My fur-baby twin. My comrade.
BUT – there is one singular trait that differentiates us (other than the species divide, of course). I have a very healthy sense of self-preservation. She has none.
I don’t know if you know this about Salem, Oregon…but the sidewalks are eerily close to the streets. Many streets have no traditional bike lanes. So to walk on the sidewalk is to quite literally be within inches of the rearview mirror of cars driving upwards of 45 miles per hour beside you. My reaction to this is to be watchful, and to steer clear of the cars by walking as far from the edge as I can. Not Remi. Nooooo not her.
Every time a car whooshes by, she coils inward, rumbles a growl and readies herself to bound after the car coming in our direction. I can’t tell if she’s trying to protect us, trying to play with these cars as if they are toys…or simply contemplating suicide because she’s so damn bored with having to go around the SAME block in our neighborhood YET AGAIN during this pandemic. Regardless, it’s terrifying. When all 70 pounds of Remi readies herself to leap into oncoming traffic, it takes all whopping 120 pounds of me to restrain her. All the while, all I can think is “Seriously?!? What is WRONG with you, pup?!?”
To try and curb her car chasing instincts, I’ve begun a routine of watching for a car to come, and deliberately stopping her. I have her sit. I stare at her. All the while I command “waaaaaait. Waaaaaait.” I hold my hand just over her hips to signal “don’t even think about jumping.” If I feel her start to coil, I literally growl at her (I’m not kidding…It’s the one thing she listens to. A growl).
It works. Sometimes. What can I say – I’m a rookie at this whole dog training thing. I can get her to “waaaait” at home like a pro. But with the onslaught of traffic coming near us, I think it’s just too much for her to keep her cool. In commanding her to “wait,” I may as well be asking her to fly.
The Hardest Part is the Waiting…the Not Knowing
As much as it terrifies me and frustrates me that Remi wants to leap toward oncoming cars, I have to admit I kinda get it.
Who among us is good at waiting as the world threatens us with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Ask soldiers who have been in legitimate battles and many of them will tell you that the hardest part was the waiting. The not knowing. Once bullets fire and the enemy encroaches your territory – everything sort of goes quiet. You don’t worry about the past. You don’t fret about the future. You’re just trying to stay alive in the present. It’s horrifying…but in some ways STILL easier than the waiting.
And that is exactly what we are being tasked with right now. Waiting.
We are contending with a nasty virus. It’s true. But even in areas of the globe that have been hit hardest, the worst fatality rating doesn’t seem to go farther than 10 percent. Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying those are “good” numbers. It does mean, however, that 90 percent of people are either not getting the virus or are recovering from it so far.
But that is part of the reason for all the fear and fuss. We do not know who actually HAS this damn thing. Once they get it, it’s not clear who will walk away unscathed, who will walk away with glorified sniffles, and who will be among those seeking medical care. Some people exhibit symptoms. Others do not. Those who have only mild symptoms can still spread it. And even those who have been exposed may not start showing signs of the virus until as many as 14 days later. And it’s not a bacteria. It’s a virus. So there is no cure. There is no medicine we can reliably give that will make it all go away.
What is there left to do?
Go home. Sit still. Waaaaait.
Meanwhile, we all stare at the television screen as we get mixed messages about whether this is a real threat, or an overblown one. Some states are told to keep on keeping on. Others are told to sit tight and bunker down as if in a war.
What can we do?
As we wait, we watch as the ground holding our economy up begins to tremble as if in an earthquake. It hasn’t fallen, yet. But the quake has only just begun. And there is no telling how long the earthquake we are watching will continue. Our economic infrastructure hasn’t really been tested like this in our lifetime. No one knows what to expect. We all itch to go out and rally to keep it all standing. We itch to keep going to work. To buy food at restaurants and keep people employed. But we know to do that is to keep fueling the quake making the ground rumble
So we go home.
We are not used to being patient
It doesn’t help that a good many of us have developed a kind of addiction to instant gratification. We haven’t gotten much of a chance to flex our patience muscles. Only a hundred years ago, if I wanted to connect with a friend, I might well have done it with pen and paper. I would have needed to wait for it to reach my friend. Then I would have needed to wait for my friend to read it. Then, I would have to wait for my friend to write a response. Finally, I would wait for the post to send it back to me. There was no telling when or if that response would come.
Hell…half of the greatest love stories ever told are founded on misunderstandings that were further intensified by the expanse of time that it took to reconcile it. Imagine if Pride and Prejudice were written in the modern age. All it would have taken would have been a couple of text messages:
“Hey! WTF!?! You broke up my sister and your friend? WHY?!? She’s crushed!”
“Sorry…I didn’t think your sister was that into him. She seems kinda like a gold-digger. Bingly was super into her, but she seemed ….indifferent”
“No, you idiot! She’s just shy!”
“Oh. Sorry. My bad. I’ll tell Bingly.”
I am no exception…
I would love to tell you that I’m an exception. I would love to say that my other millennial peers are insufferable but I (in all my highly sensitive introverted and introspective glory) am perfectly capable of waiting patiently for the world to sort itself out.
But just a week ago or so, I went into a frenzy of applying to I don’t even know how many side-jobs. No one at my current job (at the hospital) is laying anyone off. Yet. But that isn’t to say they won’t. So what can I do to make myself better able to take a blow if layoffs come? I could diversify my income!
Nevermind that no one is hiring right now. Because they, too, are all waiting.
Nevermind that to have more than one job also means I will likely be going out into the world more often…and thus spreading the virus if I happen to have it, or increasing my chances of getting it if I’m currently Covid-Free (thus making me, potentially, another statistic for our doctors and nurses to contend with).
Apparently Remi and I have more in common than I realized. Maybe we both struggle with self-preservation when pitted against the unknown. I guess we both want to simply do SOMETHING. Even if that something means throwing ourselves into the oncoming traffic that is the chaos of this world.
I spoke with a client, today, about this very topic. Truth be told, it’s a topic that has been popping up in many of my conversations. We all seem to agree that we are fine. For now. But as soon as we look to the future….as soon as we find ourselves trying to guess what is coming next…as soon as we try and PLAN something…we get massively overwhelmed.
The ship that was our illusion of certainty has gone down. Fortunately, for now, we are bobbing along in fairly warm waters. We aren’t, yet, worried about freezing to death. But we don’t know what lurks below us. We don’t know which way the tide is pulling us. We don’t know what direction to swim toward. Or if we SHOULD swim at all – as we do not know how long we will need to conserve our energy. All we can do is wait and hope for another ship to pull us aboard. Or for land to appear in our vision.
This is not a time to sprint. This is a time to pace ourselves. This is a time to learn the art of treading water.
The Right Time…
When I ask Remi to “waaaaait” I’m trying to do a couple of things. I’m trying to assure that she doesn’t keep leaping toward cars like a fricken kamikaze, for one. But I’m also waiting for a pocket of time when there aren’t a parade of cars. Then…as soon as the pocket emerges, I say “lets go, Remi!” and we race for the end of the block where we can turn toward our apartment complex.
That is more or less what we need to do now. The waiting isn’t just waiting. It’s also about being strategic. The truth is, there is going to come a pocket of time when we will have to move. We will have to DO something. But that moment isn’t now. Making rash decisions at this point in the game is akin to jumping after cars. It’s dangerous. And futile. No…right now it’s about holding tight and waiting for the right moment. That pocket of time in between the cars.
And if you’re going stir crazy, right now…just keep in mind that this too shall pass. And maybe what is on the other side of all this waiting is going to be unpleasant. Maybe you will miss the waiting. Maybe what is on the other side will be delightfully anticlimactic. Things will go back to something recognizable to you. But either way, I promise you that life will come to you and tell you when you need to move.
For now, the best thing you can do is treat water.
And if it is at all possible…try and savor this moment. Look up and start appreciating all the little things around you that bring you joy. A field of flowers. A walk with your dog. A role of toilet paper. Whatever makes your heart sing.
Because while this might not be the right time for strategizing, it’s a perfect time to train yourself how to wait. It’s a perfect opportunity to dance with the unknown. It’s a chance to see how resilient you can be…how compassionate you can be…how generous you can be.
What things in life are you savoring most, right now?