Perhaps the timing is not so coincidental, Advent being almost over at this point, but it occurs to me today that I am not good at waiting. When I wait I tend to “piddle around,” “kill time,” and occupy myself with mindlessness like cruising social media or wandering through a department store. I’m not waiting, then, I’m anticipating; and that’s not the same thing.
When anticipating, my focus is on the future event and not on the present moment(s) between now and then. I fill the time with mental clutter, tasks or thoughts that can be easily picked up and dropped again without consequence, rather than being conscious and intentional about being where I am. Instead of mindfully occupying the space I’m in, I anticipate the place I want to be.
What I realize is that when I live in the present by (almost) always anticipating something that’s to come, I’m missing most of my own life. I’m allowing the time between now and the coming event to evaporate into a sea of lost opportunities. This could be a sad realization, inviting me to wallow in regret; but in this moment I know it’s a step that can take me where I want to be — here, now, in the waiting.
Which brings me back to Advent. Advent is a time of waiting that many of us turn into a time of anticipating. Rather than allowing ourselves to be in the uncomfortable (counter-cultural) silence of waiting for the Christ child, we shop and wrap and bake as we anticipate his birthday party. In the short time that remains before Christmas, how can you spend time each day quietly waiting?