I sit in a black leather plushy chair of an oversized waiting room. I am not sure when I’ll be done but I imagine it will be soon. Until then I’ll pass the time writing you a letter.
I’m in a car dealership (for repairs, not car buying), but if I blink I could be back at my gate in O’Hare. Except here there is free coffee–arguably not as good as Starbucks–and there are cars instead of airplanes on display.
Three weeks ago, en route from Toronto, I sat on a leather stool next to a rain splattered window drinking Argo tea, pen and journal in hand, looking out at aircraft carriers. I wished the moment could last forever. Someday soon I hope to be waiting in an airport on my way to see you. I have not, however, always felt this way about delays or waiting itself.
I feel like I am always waiting –to find my next apartment, to pursue my dreams, for the workday to be over, for the weekend to come, and then for the next weekend. Waiting for the answers to my increasingly long list of questions about the meaning of life, and learning to be OK with the space in between. The space where I act out several possibilities to my question, or sit back and wonder what my next move should be.
Waiting in an airport has no clear starting or ending point. You just can’t predict when the delay will happen and you have to be prepared to change plans and be flexible. To remain undeterred by a detour and not waste energy being angry or frustrated. To become creative and spontaneous with your time and your new plan of action.
After a year of plane delays I have finally discovered the secret to not becoming discouraged by them–accepting them completely, and finding a pleasant way to wait it out. Sometimes it’s as simple as staying nourished with healthy food, finding a quiet place to rest, discovering a new perspective, and seizing the opportunity to work on cherished pastimes–like reading or writing. Always ready to pick up everything at a moment’s notice when the plane finally does depart, and practicing patience and fortitude when it doesn’t.
As I put my plans of graduate studies, and living abroad on hold, I am trying to apply the same lesson I learned here. To decide not to waste energy on discouragement or resisting reality. Instead accept it as a necessary part of the process, embody grace and peace, and be inventive and endlessly flexible.
Maybe this delay is reminding me that it’s the journey and not the destination that counts? Keatsway, how do you handle delays?
I can’t think of a better metaphor than navigating by starlight for describing how we move forward towards the future.
In August, I attended a faculty symposium to create ____ College’s 5 year plan. I remember leaving the meeting strongly impressed by this phrase:
There is no such thing as the future…there are only the futures, the alternative futures. –Alex McManus, WordPress blogger
That statement continues to make the future less daunting. It grants an incredible freedom. You are the determining factor in your future. You get to choose which future you want to live. It’s not static and determined. It’s open and moveable. It could change at any moment. It’s not a product of chance or fate; it’s an opportunity.
Two things immediately came to mind as I read your post. I couldn’t believe how much your last lines echoed Galadriel’s blessing to Frodo:
I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.
Galadriel presents Frodo with a type of solid starlight as he paddles away in his elf-made canoe from the safety of Lothlorien towards an uncertain future. A future that he hopes includes passing though Mordor to defeat the ring. Yet at that moment he still did not know the way, the method, or the outcome. He was plagued by self-doubt and had a task far larger than he was capable of accomplishing alone. Even with a fellowship of 12, a mountain had to be climbed, a dragon defeated, orcs and dark riders had to be outrun. Many of his companions perished or betrayed him, and at any moment he knew he could die and fail in his task. Yet something like starlight and hope compelled him onward.
Rilke writes in Letters to a Young Poet advice that well complements Galadriel’s:
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Love the questions. Live the uncertainty. Embrace the ricochet. It is an integral part of the journey of learning to navigate by starlight, become less afraid of the dark, and marvel like Van Gogh at the beauty of the stars.