When all you’re doing is waiting

My aunt died on Wednesday. Death is a mystifying thing, to move so quickly and irrevocably from being to not being. I spoke to her on the phone last weekend and she sounded bright although tired. It unravelled very quickly.

The chaos that surrounded her last weeks was nothing unusual – she thrived on drama and created it if none existed. She’d grown up in a very unhappy home with an alcoholic father and a violent mother, and escaped as soon as she was able. I expect that the instability and chaos of her young life was a state that she recreated as an adult in order to feel comfortable, in the way we do with things from our childhood. Even when the familiar is completely dysfunctional. My cousins are now left to sort through the wreckage and resolve things as best they can. It seems a heavy burden to lay on loved ones.

It’s been a pretty exhausting few weeks for them, and while nowhere near as close to it as them it’s taken its toll on me too. I’ve also been dealing with some health issues my father has been facing, and wondering where all that is headed while I ferry him to the doctor and the hospital for tests. The results are no different from what was expected, so there is relief in that – at least it’s no worse. It’s just the almost unavoidable consequence of getting older. But there is a lot that goes along with that.

Looking back on it, these past few weeks have been about waiting. Waiting to see when my aunt would die, what my father’s results would show, and what might or might not come next.

Waiting is a terrible way to spend a life. It’s possible to completely avoid living if we dedicate ourselves to waiting instead. We wait until we’re done with school, with university, until we get our first job, until we get a promotion, for our annual holiday, for the weekend, for a Sunday morning lie-in, for that text, that call. There is no limit to what we can wait for, and seemingly nothing is too trivial to hold the promise of ‘better’ once the waiting is over. I’ll be happy when… I’ll take up running when… I’ll eat better when…

The other week, I wrote about not optimising waiting time. I said then that attempting to ‘productivise’ (ergh) every waking moment was a terrible idea and we should spend our waiting time day dreaming. I still think daydreaming is a far better way to spend time standing in line than checking email is, but it’s not a good way to spend a life. If our entire life consists of waiting, we probably need to get on and do something.

And there you have my philosophy: when waiting, wait. When you’ve done too much waiting, do. Got that?!