Passengers waiting at Charles de Gaulle Airport, June 2008

Passengers waiting at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, June 2008

“Waiting is one of the great arts.”Margery Allingham

It’s fitting that this quote came from an author of detective stories, because the seemingly glamorous life of a private eye requires a great deal of tedious waiting.

For Jeff and me, it seems as if the past year has held well more than its share of waiting.  Countless hours, days and weeks we spent in hospitals and clinics involved mostly waiting.  Waiting to be called into the examination room, waiting for consults with other doctors, waiting for IV drips to finish, waiting as overbooked schedules were adjusted to allow another appointment.

We also waited in other locations, too, stuck in the traffic between Bethesda and northern Virginia, and then after we got back home, waiting for phone calls to physicians to be returned, for test results to be reported, for prescriptions to be ready for pickup at the pharmacy.

And of course, we waited for a grandson who, like his father before him, took his time arriving into our world!

I came across Allingham’s quote months ago, and I had to give it a bit of thought to understand what she meant.  I had never considered waiting to be an art; rather, it was a nuisance, a necessary evil of these rushed and impatient times.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that waiting is indeed an art in many respects.  It requires stillness coupled with action, the discipline of knowing when to be passive and when to move.  It’s not the same thing as procrastination; indeed, in some ways it’s the opposite.  Often, we have to wait because are on the receiving end of someone else’s procrastination, or their overly busy schedule.

As with any other art, there are skills that can be practiced to make waiting more bearable.  We can learn what activities we can accomplish while waiting, and note which habits of mind tend to lead us away from our agitation rather than increase it.  We can develop a literal or symbolic “tool kit” to redeem these potentially wasted hours, and put them to good use.

Are you good at waiting?  If so, share your secrets with us!  If not, try to brainstorm with us about ways to appreciate and utilize this unavoidable aspect of life.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you!  🙂


  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    As so often happens, your blog post of the day meshes with something else I’ve seen or felt that day. Just before I came here to read about “Waiting”, I read the Upper Room’s meditation on the very same theme https://www.upperroom.org/devotionals/en-2020-08-12.
    As we all wait and wait for the pandemic to go away or for a vaccine to be developed, waiting seems to be the word for the year 2020!

    • Judy, that’s so true. The entire world seems to be experiencing a different version of what I’ve been enduring for nearly four years now. Since Jeff died, I have been waiting to feel as if I’m doing something other than just marking time. I go through the motions every day, but other than the infinitely important work of helping Matt live his best life (which sometimes feels like equal parts reward and anxiety, and can be exhausting for someone my age) it’s hard for me to see much meaning in anything I do. Of course that’s not a rational way to feel, but it is somewhat logical when one’s life has been built around another person to the extent that mine was built around Jeff. I’ve survived by taking a day at a time, and realizing that on a really horrible day, it’s bound to get better. Maybe not great, but bearable.

  2. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    Waiting is certainly an intriguing concept. I never considered it more than a nuisance either, especially during my Army days. It was a lot of “hurry up and wait”. 😊 However, as life teaches, waiting, more often than not, is the better part of valor. It is in waiting that we encounter patience, self-control, and perseverance, among other things. In it’s simplest form, waiting necessitates ‘multi-tasking’. In a more profound way, waiting gives rise to hope.
    Ever notice how many Bible scriptures call us to “wait upon the Lord”? One of the most quoted is from Isaiah 40:31, but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Well, that’s worth waiting for!
    Lot’s of other ideas come to mind; we’ll have to discuss later. Sorry to keep you waiting! 😊

    • Chris, I have a lovely embroidered sampler with that very verse from Isaiah on it, hanging on my kitchen wall. It was made for Jeff by his dental assistant to give to him when he made Colonel (because of the Eagle on it, and also because she shared our Christian faith). She worked a long time to have it ready for him on his big day, but as she wrote on the back of it (where it can still be read) “I knew I would be able to give this to you.” (Meaning she had full confidence he would be promoted to O-6 – which is more than I can say for the two of us! 😀 ). It’s interesting that Romans 5:2-4 speaks of hope as the RESULT of perseverance (something akin to waiting, I think). I would have thought it was the other way around; that hope would have to come first. But our human logic can only take us so far. 😀

  3. Mike C

    I suppose watching endless reruns of Law and Order does not count. A favorite Covid pursuit. I think i mentioned the Rollheiser column where he likens this pandemic time to being in the Ark for an undetermined time–waiting and waiting for freedom. Verie is spending some time with Sudoku books now that time with the girls is limited and we are kind of self quarantining since our trip out West. But i agree that waiting is not necessarily just a passive endeavor.

    • Tell Verie that Sodoku is what I turn to for flying. If things get choppy or otherwise nerve-wracking, I find that Sodoku takes my mind to a very anxiety-free, irritation-free place. For that reason, I save it for airports and long distance trips. Our generation probably has the most diverse and well-developed set of recreational options of any other. The younger ones seem more limited to digital pursuits, and of course our parents never had much time for anything except maybe the occasional bridge or golf game, for the rare few who played those games. Our generation had all kinds of marvelous things to do. Did you ever play croquet? We had a perfect lawn for it in back of our house, and it was quite popular with the neighborhood kids. We also played checkers and chess a lot, and I used to love playing Mille Bournes.

  4. Mike C

    My grandparents had a great yard for croquet. He was a golfer and we could often play croquet during any summer gathering.

    • We need to start a revival of that game. Probably not too many private yards in metro areas are large and flat enough, but maybe there are locations in parks or other settings where it could be played. It’s fairly simple to set up and take down, as you know. Lots of fun and slow-paced enough for anyone.

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