On Waiting

January 6, 2009

I have a lot of waiting to do right now.  I am waiting to hear back about five different books from three different presses.   I am waiting for some important phone calls and emails.   I am waiting to take pictures for and install another solo show and (yikes) talk about it on the radio.  I am waiting to get paid this week and waiting to pay my bills.  I am waiting to take my pills, I am waiting to go to bed, I am waiting to go back to work, I am waiting for my workday to be over with, I am waiting to meet up with the next guy I’m meeting up with, I am waiting for 2009 to actually start.   I am waiting.

I am waiting for people to get back to me, or to fail to do so.

I feel like I do a lot of this; a kind of internal plate-spinning heavily conflated with phone and email-checking. 

So I should stop waiting and do something, yes?  No.  Five books is a lot of books, and I don’t feel like writing #6 right now.  I should be applying for jobs, but it’s too early in the academic adjunct season to do that, so I am waiting, crouching and poised with CV in hand.  I am waiting to move back to Los Angeles and stay there.  I am waiting, figuratively and literally, for a room of my own.

I am waiting for my ship to come in, basically.  2009 had better be that ship.

And with so much waiting, I get to thinking about waiting, about what it means, about why it’s so incredibly difficult (for me, at least) and always has been.  (Surprise! I’m not a patient person.)  I think it ultimately maybe has less to do with my own impatience than with two things: 1) other people’s lack of impatience and 2) how contemporary culture has worn a groove into our collective society that is essentially schizoid when it comes to labor and waiting.

Thing 1: I seem to know a lot of very patient (i.e. lazy) people.  I seem to be surrounded by them.  I am at their mercy, more or less.  And these people would tell you they’re not superpatient they’re just busy, but this is a lie: when you are busy doing leisure activities or sleeping or eating you are not really busy you are just using up time.

Thing 2: Our culture teaches us both to expect everything NOW and that if we ever want anything we’re supposed to slowly work for it, very hard, over many years.  This is why we’re still fascinated with instant success and rags-to-riches and redemption stories and how we want to conflate those stories from months or years of effort into the span of a half hour.  We can be instantly gratified, but we need to be patient when it comes to important things.  Except our culture is not sure which things are important and which are not, and neither am I.  Mostly I am impatient when it comes to work; work should be a priority, yes?  And yet it’s the thing we’re supposed to be most patient and cautious about.  Meanwhile we can spend our time instantly gratified, eating ice cream and making small talk and staring at blank faces on TV.  Doing the busywork of leisure.


One Response to “On Waiting”

  1. Will Says:

    I share your hopes for 2009, having dragged myself wheezing
    and sooty through 2008. I am Very Hopeful and Optimistic. (really).
    I seriously, seriously recommend Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest
    of Happiness, as it’s been a great bullshit-be-gone tool for my
    thinking. I’m trying to appreciate what’s around to be appreciated,
    and generally enjoy what I’m doing and be less grouchy (within
    reason), and far less of an anxiety sponge. So far, so good.

    I also recommend one of my favorite films ever, Antonia’s Line,
    as it’s one of the better How to Live guides I’ve ever come across.
    The main characters have a great balance of passion and resolve,
    able to take life as it is, while still finding happiness for themselves.
    I’m planning to do my first submitting for publication soon, and
    I am humbled and awed (again) at 5 books at a time from you.
    Even by your standards, that’s a lot. (please spare us the ‘oh gosh,
    I had this one sitting around for weeks and wrote that one
    in the shower’ business. You are an ad for damn-it-all

    Doing small things that are meaningful in themselves, so you
    can be satisfied with each day, is the best way to avoid banging
    on the culture’s windows, screaming for people to move faster.
    Besides, you’re already in the process of moving on. Mentally,
    you’ve already left.

    And congratulations on the radio interview!

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