I am expecting something that has not yet happened. I don’t know if- when- how – this something will happen.
I become the K*, the Tartar Desert*. Nothing on the horizon except these impassive hours, minutes, seconds stretching to infinity. A time over which I have no control. That I cannot deceive by some technique. If I try, I will end up deceiving myself. For Time catches up with me sooner or later.
In two words, I wait.
“I am the alpha and the omega, says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty”. Whereas I am the one who waits, waits and will wait. This is the extent of my power. Because to live is also to wait.
How many hours of our lives spent waiting?
• 653 hours waiting for the train, bus or metro, or 27 days on average in our lives
• 1 year and 3 months on a life spent in queueing
• 43 days on hold (call centers)
• 6 months waiting for the light to turn green (average waiting time: 75 s).
Waiting. For planes. Deals. Love. Apologies. Babies. Promotions. Godot. Answers. Better days. Dessert. Gratitude. Thousands and hundreds. Inspiration. Transplant. Explanations. Like(s).
Waiting. Like a wall erected between us and our desires. Impenetrable. No need to force it. You would break your teeth there. Same principle as in a queue: try not to wait for your turn and you find yourself directly back to square one, under the mocking eyes of the assembly. Do not fool yourself! If you have a golden pass, take advantage of it! It won’t work each time, you’ll have to wait next time. 😊
So why write about waiting?
Because we all have to deal with waiting. It often sits at the core of our most lasting achievements!
Because our lives are waiting rooms.
Because waiting, believe it or not, can be overcome or tamed, like the dragon of Saint-Georges.
But first, rule number 1 of the art of “dragonslaying”, you have to know what creature you are dealing with.
Shall we begin?
The beast in question.
Waiting is an intense physical feeling. Oppression, heaviness, feeling like sinking into an absent but very palpable matter, confinement. Vertigo. Immobility. Exhaustion. It all depends of course on the purpose of the wait. But whether it is waiting for a bus or the results of medical examinations, there is discomfort, a materiality of the wait, symptoms of the wait. Which can lead to real anxiety attacks. Can transform us into a vindictive and ferocious animal or a lethargic leek.
Yes perfectly, waiting is akin to pain and a form of silent violence when it imposes itself on us. As such, healthcare professionals are increasingly thinking about how to manage it. In Le Temps Vécu, Eugène Minkowski, psychiatrist and psychopathologist, underlines:
“Waiting is an attack to our vital forces by a foreign force. »
Laurie Hendren’s journey is a powerful illustration of this pain. Suffering from cancer, this highly respected Canadian computer scientist, who left us in 2019, described “the pain of waiting” as one of the most difficult she had to endure. In collaboration with her doctors, Laurie Hendren therefore created “Opal”, an award-winning application, allowing cancer patients to better manage the wait (notifications sent to patients when practitioners are ready to receive them) and to anticipate.
But the pain of waiting is not limited to health issues. Think -among other things- of the dynamics of waiting in love situations, magnificently decoded by Roland Barthes in A Lover’s discourse:
“In Act III, I attain (obtain?) pure anguish: that of abandonment; I have just passed in a second from absence to death. »
And what of the long wait of a missing person or that of the asylum seeker?
Waiting can torture us.
Waiting also has a formidable propensity to break the temporal continuum. With it, the physical time of clocks disappears to give way to psychological time. This is where the trouble begins 😊 The wait curiously abolishes all temporality, plunging me into a present-eternity to which I am riveted.
“Thus, the present of waiting is a time that never ceases to be prolonged, in which no future seems to want to introduce itself, and where consciousness has nothing else to grasp but a time which is pure and immobile, which does not pass”. Maxime Floriat, occupational therapist.
A present therefore so tangible and thick that it becomes a real space. An “intermediate space”. (a boundary between the inside world and the outside world which keeps them both connected and separated)
Yes, I maintain that waiting has a space of its own. Invasive!
More paradoxical. Waiting is an action verb. Seriously ? So frustrating!!!! The temporal suspension implied by waiting literally freezes us, like wax statues. It hinders our movements, chains us, shrinks us. Think of the figure of the Hanged Man in the Tarot de Marseille, hands tied, illustrating this immobility wonderfully.
Finally, this eternal present of which we are prisoners collides with the time of others. They don’t wait. They are immersed in the flow of action, in the second not to be lost, in the agenda that overflows and these minutes after which they run when you have some to spare.
Waiting excludes and isolates.
There is worse. What I am waiting for does not or no longer depend on me but on others. Help ! Here I am enslaved, submitted to an external will that goes beyond me and sends me back to my incapacity. Even my insignificance. Waiting nullifies me. In this respect, waiting can be a tool of domination and a sign of power. Nothing new under the sun: waiting before meeting someone “important” only establishes his/her status. Making others wait strengthens one’s hold on others. Remember the one-minute wait inflicted by Recep Erdogan on Vladimir Putin on July 19, 2022 in Iran? This was described by all analysts as a real humiliation. There is a “chronopolitics” of waiting.
“Who sets the pace, duration, tempo, sequence and timing of events and activities is the arena where conflicts of interest and power struggles are played out. Chronopolitics is therefore a central component of any form of sovereignty.” H. Rosa in Acceleration. A social critique of Time
This obviously goes for any negotiation tactics. You know the song.
And what about love strategies and unspoken power relations based on waiting? “I ‘ll have him/her wait“, “I won’t pick up the phone“, “I’m not answering his/her message/letter“, “I’m going to disappear for a while“, “Playing hard to get“… We all have been the executioner or the victim of waiting.
What is at stake.
Why is waiting a problem?
It places us in a permanent state of tension between uncertainty, hope and despair. Between an eternal present and a hypothetical future. Endlessly. Waiting might be useless. While this time spent waiting is very real. Waiting interrogates the way we relate to time.
Plus, it triggers our imagination: Maybe this or that. And what if this or that?
Roland Barthes has highlighted the scripting process at work in the waiting process. And at this game, I’m better than Ryan Murphy or Homer. A thousand scenarios are storming in my head. My imagination is running at full speed. Reason and unreason respond to each other in an internal choreography that nothing can stop. My whole being is engaged.
An intense mobilization of our energy with a very uncertain outcome. “An empty protentive* intention” sums up Binswanger perfectly.
Yes, that’s it, one of the stakes of waiting: to project oneself into the potentially nothing.
Erethism* and deprivation. How exhausting.
Turning waiting into art.
And there, you stop reading, revolted. I understand this rebellion. It was once mine, believe me. However, when I saw myself becoming this strange thing that I didn’t recognize (a thing that breaks its computer for example or slips into melancholy) I had to say stop!
Can waiting be considered as an art or/and a poetics? Please note that I am not talking here about waiting as an object of reflection and artistic representation (we owe magnificent works to waiting).
I am thinking of something else here.
What is an art? I refer to all the common definitions that can be found. I read this: “means of obtaining a result by natural aptitudes”, “set of knowledge and rules of action in a particular field”, “skill, art, know-how”.
There you go. I invite you to transform waiting into a means, a body of knowledge to acquire, a technique to master.
A means? A technique ? What for?
Let’s take a deep breath.
When waiting is imposed on us.
Small precision: I tried all the techniques below. 100% empirical knowledge. Disclaimer: It’s hard. It’s long. So we hang in there.
Tip number 1
It leads to chaos. Makes us lose control and make mistakes, while eating up our energy potential. Worse, it positions us as desperate. Fatal in the context of a negotiation, a dish that is eaten cold. Clumsy in love, a dish that is eaten (too) hot. Dangerous in front of a customs officer or any law representative. 😊
Tip number 2
As dangerous as impatience. Why ? Resignation feeds on an almost morbid fatalism and defeatism. It embitters us and, more seriously, deactivates us. Resignation marks the beginning of the end. So Va de retro Satanas!
Tip number 3
Which does not mean not to wait.
Emotionally disengage from what you are waiting for. How the hell do we do that ? By remembering good old Epictetus. The things that depend on us and the things that don’t depend on us, remember?
“Among the things that exist, some depend on us, others do not depend on us. Depend on us: judgment, impulse to act, desire, aversion, in a word, everything that has to do with us. Do not depend on us, the body, our possessions, the opinions that others have of us, (…) in a word, everything that is not our business. »
Our power and our freedom reside in what depends on us. And what depends on us, during this moment of waiting (long or not), is what we do with it. The importance we give it. The here and now that needs to be recharged in intensity. In short, you have done your part. Leave it to the universe! (even if it sounds like a gigantic cliché) . And you will decide how to proceed once the waiting time has passed. Stay in control of your game.
Tip number 4
We are not at the Sundance festival. Pause as soon as you catch yourself fantasizing. Fearing the worst. Or imagining the best.
Tip number 5
Beware of avoidance strategies.
Knowing what happened to Brenda or why Alex replied X to Z will not miraculously make what you are waiting for disappear. But it will mask it artificially or even unnecessarily: you will find it back, quite there in front of you, at the end of the 100 episodes of Reina Del Flow! See beyond Netflix!
Remember what Pascal teaches us about entertainment . It is a diversion so as to escape from ourselves. I’m not asking you to stop watching Netflix! (I love Netflix) But to beware of avoidance strategies. We don’t fool the wait. We stare at it.
Tip number 6
Accept the law of time.
Have you heard of progressive waiting techniques taught to young children? They should apply to adults! Yes, waiting can be learned. Relearnt.
Integrate: the fact that our desires will be delayed or even thwarted and that we will not be disintegrated for all that. No, we are not dying of waiting. We die of not knowing how to wait.
Learn: that we will have to reassess, postpone, abandon or accept that our desires have their own temporality. Complicated in our culture of immediacy, I grant you.
Forget: the “everything, immediately”, the “whatever the cost”. The quick resolution or immediate satisfaction of desire. Waiting is an integral part of the human experience. Actually of the animal experience too. The lioness waits a long time before splitting on her prey and Poppy also before being served 😊
Tip number 7
Understand what and why you are waiting.
(even if it is sometimes to understand that there is nothing to understand ☹)
Let’s face it. It can mess with our heads. Totally legit. What in God’s name have you done to deserve this? 15 years you’ve been waiting for true love. 5 the outcome of your trial. 1 year from the signing of this deal. 3 years healing. 1 week the internet provider. Etc.
Time has its own rhythm and pace. (that of the Greek deity Aion!) Germination too. You can’t do anything but integrate it. Question of ethylene (the plant hormone that ensures the flowering and ripening of fruits). An apple and a pineapple do not have the same ripening time. And why 40 minutes for a soufflé rather than 14 hours? Who knows ! In short, on a less anecdotal note, each of our desires, needs, projects has its internal cycle. Its season. Its sequence! That should be respected and not rushed or disturbed.
Basic example: the psychoanalyst must integrate the maturation time specific to each of his/her patients. Do not rush, in a kind of “furor sanandi” (rage to heal) decried by Freud, the healing process, non-linear by definition. Because we do not have the same story, we are not equal in the face of pain. Where Sally will take 2 years to recover from her divorce, it will take Leo 10…. Very caricatural I admit but… true.
Waiting has a role. A necessity in the philosophical sense of the term (quality of what cannot be otherwise). A finality. It is a school (yes I know). It is up to everyone to learn the appropriate lessons in order to move forward in their personal journey. In all humility. We cook ourselves, we work ourselves, we mature! Or not. (Up to you)
In this sense, waiting can be seen as a true moral practice guiding my action. A skill on which I can rely to better live the now and the after.
Is this a way of speaking of patience? There is something too placid in this term for me, 😊 I prefer to speak of “confident waiting“. ( now don’t tear your hair out.)
Tip number 8
Decide not to wait any longer.
If waiting stimulates desire at first, it ends up annihilating it. Do like the Mandarin of Roland Barthes:
“A mandarin was in love with a courtesan. “I will be yours,” she said, “when you have spent a hundred nights waiting for me, seated on a stool, in my garden, under my window. “But, on the ninety-ninth night, the Mandarin got up, took his stool under his arm, and went away.”
Finally tip 9. This will serve as a conclusion.
Tip number 9
Prepare for the next shot.
Because all waiting has an end, whatever it may be. I read somewhere that our life trajectories were less and less straight, linear. Sign of the times. They intertwine long/short pauses followed by vertiginous accelerations and so on and so forth.
Turn up the hands of your clock. Make waiting a moment of anticipation so as to polish your weapons. Be ready to seize the “kairos“, when it comes. What is Kairos? THE tipping point, of inflection, the opportune moment to act. Kind of like those top athletes before the starting gun launches them onto the track…
So what are you waiting for?
How do you defeat the dragon of waiting?
By looking at it straight in its eye. By signing a peace treaty.
When waiting is chosen: you can also choose to wait. (beware of procrastination) Let time flow within you in order to act at the right moment. It is the magical and fruitful time of gestation. I invite you to refer to the article available on our blog: Time for the Popess.
* Dino Buzzati
*protentive, of protention: desire and expectation of the future
*erethism: state of excitability of an organ
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