April showers bring May flowers, they say. The rain comes, and after a while, the flowers lift their sleepy heads, give a satisfied yawn and stretch toward the sun. The axiom implies that it rains for a month – thirty whole days of cloudy and dark, of wet and mud, of crushing barometric pressure, of cabin fever, of hydroplaning.
Today, I am thinking about how well I personally weather storms of uncertainty. How good am I really at waiting in the space between knowing what I want and finding out if am able to be it, do it or have it? How gracefully do I accept things that are outside my control?
What happens for you when you’re waiting? What do you notice about your physical body? What do you feel? What kinds of choices do you make? How do you treat yourself and the people around you?
Honestly? My steps are usually sure. I am often bold and rooted in the words of my contract: powerful, intimate, committed and limitless. I step confidently into crucial conversations and trust myself in my vulnerability. I believe in my ability to create the kinds of relationships I want to have and affect the changes I want to see in my life. It’s my nature to be patient with myself and gracious, and when I am gentle with myself, it is easier to be gentle with others. I’m in the flow. Things feel easy.
But, what about when I’m not, you ask? Well. When I am not sure of things, I am restless. I am impatient. I allow myself to become increasingly anxious and depressed. I take care of myself with less love and attentiveness – I numb out, I don’t get enough sleep, I make food choices that don’t support my need for nutrition and energy, I am self-critical and, effectively, snappy with co-workers and friends.
And, then sure enough, the wait is over. I either have what I set out to have and the worry was for nothing, or I don’t, and I can make different choices or a new plan… and the worry was for nothing. Either way, the season of uncertainty is over.
So, let’s talk about some of the things we can do to take better care of ourselves while we wait.
Have a plan
Have a plan made up of SMART goals (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-bound) to keep you focused. To combat my restlessness, I need to know it’s just a matter of time between action steps; having measurable goals supports me in seeing empirically how far I’ve come. It may be a ways before I get where I want to be, but I’m not where I started. My vision about what I want is always supported by my goals and action steps, so if I find I’m not getting where I want to be, I can tweak and revise until I am.
A strong support system is mission critical for me. I need people around me who love me wildly, and to me that looks like celebrating victories together, being a hand up when I feel defeated, listening, encouraging, challenging and holding me accountable. They remind me how to be gentle with me, when I am being too hard on myself. Consider adding professionals to your support system – a doctor who knows when pharmaceutical intervention may be appropriate, a therapist who is dedicated to hearing you and asking tough questions to keep you moving forward, a spiritual advisor who can support you in a crisis of purpose. The people in my support network never let me quit on myself, because what’s important to me is important to them, and they can be an ear when I want to talk about how impatient or restless I’m growing and nudge me toward something more productive.
I know how easy it is to fall back into unhealthy patterns of behavior when I feel like I’m stalling out. So, it’s even more important to me to make choices directly in opposition to those behaviors. For example, I start becoming anxious, which impacts my sleep. I’ve begun meditating and taking a children’s melatonin before bed, and it helps calm my mind and get the rest I need to do my life well. I know that when I am feeling stressed out, I don’t make the best food choices. I go for convenience over nutrition. So, in this particular season of waiting that I’m in, I have literally plotted out a six week menu with a corresponding grocery list so that my family and I are taken care of. Be prepared. Equip yourself with what you need to get through this time – it’s a rainy season; if we leave home without an umbrella, we’re asking to get soaked.
Allow yourself to notice and experience whatever uncomfortable feelings you may have while you wait, without trying to turn them into something else. Be aware of what your numbing out tendencies are – drinking to excess, TV, gaming, getting lost in your phone, drugs, unhealthy sexual choices, spending too much money, shutting down emotionally, over or under eating… whatever it is for you – be aware of the uncomfortable feeling that triggered that habitual response and give yourself the opportunity to make a different choice, because you are important.
Being present for your life matters – you don’t want to miss the good stuff.
While I may be the world’s biggest proponent of kissing, in this case, I mean “keep it simple, silly.” When life feels hard and uncertain, let’s not heap more on our plates. Waiting to see if an offer is accepted on a house? Waiting to see if you’re accepted into a college? Waiting to see if a person will make a choice to enter into, stay in or leave a relationship? Waiting on some medical test results? Waiting to hear if you will be transferred or promoted at work? Maybe don’t take on three new projects at that moment. I totally understand the desire to keep your hands and your brain occupied, but it’s also distracting. In some ways, it’s numbing out. Create space to rest while you wait. Waiting is not the same thing as resting. Do what fills you up – snuggle your partner, love on your kids, write, paint, sing, dance, go out for dinner or see a movie, grab a game with a friend, read, exercise, meditate. When you’re standing at the base of a mountain to move or looking up at an elephant to eat, don’t go do something else because it feels easier. The only way through seasons of waiting is through, but we can do it gracefully, gently, lovingly.
I believe in seasons and in being present. The rain you experience today, will give way to flowers. …maybe not in thirty days, maybe not exactly how we expected them to show up when you first planted them, but there will be flowers. Things will be different soon enough. If we show up for our lives and lean into dark seasons instead of doing whatever we can to avoid the discomfort, uncertainty and fear these seasons bring, we will be doing important work and learning a thing or two about ourselves. Make a plan; make plan B if you need to. Be honest. Talk to your people. Let them in, let what you feel out, and let your people carry you when you can’t get your footing. Be intentional and mindful about the choices you make while in the uncomfortable season of waiting. And, keep it simple – if it’s raining, don’t start planning your next picnic. Get to work, trusting you can handle this rainy season, because you’ve packed your umbrella.