Never been good at it. Like tying knots. Never been good at that either. Try as I might, I can’t seem to recall with sufficient force whether the rabbit goes into the hole or comes out. But I don’t need to worry about tying knots too much ever since I realized I wasn’t a good enough carpenter to charge people for mediocre work and I only own a truck in my mind. I do, however, need to practice waiting on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an aspect of this deal called Hollywood that doesn’t involve Olympic level patience. So, it’s an occupational hazard. Maybe that’s why I bite my nails. But only on my left hand. I need the ones on my right for fingerpicking the guitar. Which also eases the pain of waiting in a more constructive way. It’s a choice. Chew on myself or use my hands for good. So, I limit my anxiety to my left side.
Waiting brings out the worst in me. It’s like this existential Sartre baked endless foggy night where I end up doing prat falls and hat tricks to keep away the thought that Godot ain’t coming.
On set, you get the job and are asked to keep a spark lit in you because what you got hired to do involves you describing things of unspeakable horror (think any crime show whose guest stars report what can’t be shown because they lack the budget) And then you are asked to lend reality to some kind of tragedy and are forced to wait for eight hours and then deliver that truthfully in what really amounts to a fifteen minute window when everyone wants to go home or get a latte off the coffee cart.
The whole thing devolves into a downward spiral of tension. Staying loose is not half the battle, it’s the entire war.
Because waiting is the name of the game. How many times does a writer or actor or director or any of us on an interview feel confident only to watch it all wither and vanish as we wait in the room before our chance. Because it is there, while we wait past our ability to stomach it, that we begin to tell ourselves stories.
I used to tell myself that whoever walked into a casting room after me – right before I was to go in would be the guy to get the job. The door would open from the hall and I would endow the victor with qualities I lacked. His shoes were new. He had product in his hair. Even his backpack looks more successful than I. What am I doing?
All of these barnacles of ego arise when we wait.
Waiting also makes me construct an invisible prison cell where I can hold myself hostage. Call it the hole. Or solitary. You know. And the conditions I enforce as my own jailer are less than humane. Under the conditions of delayed gratification, my usually wonderful imagination finds new employment and whisks off into the future in some kind of deranged time machine where I end up the loser. It’s called catastrophizing. And it’s the logical result when I give my power away. And the nature of our work invites us to give our power away every day.
So what we do about it? If it is a fact of this deal. And baked into life itself. So much of what we do involves waiting in traffic, waiting in line, waiting on hold, on test results, on credit approval, on fertility tests, etc and on. It’s contained in the being part of us being human beings.
And part of being is being bored. Uninspired. Understimulated. Even empty. It’s contained in the being part of us being human beings. Yet we live in a culture that is result orientated and refreshes its feed every thirty seconds with the click of a button; and yet we wonder why we are anxious or empty – — because the precise intent of these manufactured illusions is to keep us from feeling bored. And so we get less patient. And more medicated. Etc.
But anything good takes time. That the understanding we all crave, that elusive thing that evaporates like a bubble every time we get our hands on it – requires us to wait. To wait and not know. And therefore trust.
The secret to waiting is not waiting. For me. I have learned that by staring at the phone to get it to ring has produced little to no results over a close to thirty year trial period. But does that stop me from still feeling like I could will it to ring by staring at it? If I were honest with you, at times, yes. I forget. I forget I’m not Neo. And I can’t bend the spoon.
There is no spoon.
Today, there are all these affirmation programs based on the laws of attraction. California has no shortage of guru psychopaths who will tell you about the power of positive reinforcement and how it will change our lives but no matter how much money we spend on self-improvement, we still can’t get the phone to ring. We lack the power.
Cause… there is no spoon. The Matrix taught us that. Like many of you maybe, my first foray into this realm of confronting my relationship with waiting and need for control began as an excursion into over correction. Stay busy. When life gets turned upside down, it is in those very moments when we scrub behind the sink and dust.
It’s the most wonderfully industrious way in which I deceive myself and slip into denial so I can procrastinate. By cleaning. But sometimes we have to just sit there. And feel it. Feel how finite and vain and unimportant it all is and we are. To laugh. And look at the ugly and resist all the urges to blame or inhale a king sized bag of Chips Ahoy soft batch or vent to a friend – just let it be a mess. Whatever it is.
The mean fact of this business has taught me that sometimes nobody wants what you’re selling. That maybe it is just not time.
And it doesn’t mean I need to go back to get a Master’s Degree or walk the Camino just accept that I’m being asked to wait. And if I pay attention, I may see clearly.
It’s what we do while we’re waiting that matters most. Where we lend our time. To me, that is where I found what was sacred. Most sacred to me. It’s in that unknown where all the wonder is. Where all my relationships are. And where I learned who I was and what I stood for.
Groundlessness reveals darkness in us. And not darkness as in a bad thing – but that which we were unable to see any other way. In fact, if we were not in a pickle, we would never have found what them Buddhists calls “the places that scare us.” Oh, how often we don’t ever let ourselves venture into the darker parts of those woods because of the fears we feel that maybe the whole world we built around ourselves might come down. The bravest people I know are familiar with these places. Have made friends with it. This mystery. It is the very essence of the hero’s adventure we spin out in our stories. And the reason why we like that story is because being human demands it of us. Constantly. It’s the calling of our heart to return home. It is baked into us as an essential ingredient of what it means to be alive and on this earth. We will wait. And when you wait in stillness in the woods, all that is left to be wild in this mad world comes alive. Things start to stir. At first, it may feel like only snakes and worms and we may get a chill, but soon, we will start to hear the song of the universe and feel what the Inuit people call “the great day that dawns,” and learn our proper orientation to all things and then our actions and our words will take on a whole new meaning. It’s either that or figure out how to move the phone with our brain power alone.
So, yeah, I try to practice the art of waiting. But I’m just a beginner.