Active Waiting

Navigating through a life transition usually means a lot of waiting. Waiting for answers to questions or resolution of difficulties. Waiting for whatever it is that will help you discover your personal path through the thicket of transition. Waiting to shift from whatever has ended to the new beginning.

One way to wait: just sit tight and hope things will go back to the way they were. Won’t happen.

Or sit tight and hope a solution will fall into your lap. That’s a good way to wait — if you want to stay stuck or locked in the box of the old way. And then when you get impatient, you leap way too soon into a possible solution before you have given yourself, your heart, time to know if it’s really the right one. And then find it going wrong, sometimes horribly.

And then there is active waiting. When you actively wait, your main task is to simply pay attention. You don’t have to do anything else just then. Simply notice what is happening around you as well as inside you. Be alert to what appears, and to your responses, as you live your daily life. Be receptive to suddenly appearing synchronicities, nudges from your intuition, or new things or ideas that may startle you with their rightness. Because ideas, insights, and discoveries will show up, but if you are frantically scrambling and scrabbling around in your haste to just get through this time, you could easily miss them.

For a year or two in the late 1990s, I knew I needed a big change, but I had no idea what that change would or could be. It was just a quiet, intuitive feeling that sat gently in my the back of my awareness. My life at the time was good, yet something else was calling to me. I knew from painful past experience that forcing a change, especially one still unclear, could be disastrous. So, instead of leaping into anything, I simply waited for answers to appear. I did not know about “active waiting” at the time, but in retrospect, that’s exactly how it felt.

One summer afternoon, two girlfriends and I, freelancers all, got together for some wine and conversation. I don’t recall what we said, but we were all searching for something. After a while, we did something pretty goofy: We went out to the driveway, put one of each of our business cards on the concrete, created an elf-sized bonfire, and danced around it while invoking answers. Silly, right?

Maybe not, at least for me.

That night before sleep, I asked my intuition to reveal what it was trying to tell me. When I woke up, I had the answer. It was clear and firm, and I knew it was right. I knew it in my heart and in my bones, just as I had years ago when I understood I would be liberating myself from corporate life to become a freelance writer: I was moving from Evansville, Indiana, to Tucson, Arizona.

The Universe had my back. Everything fell miraculously into place. I was a renter, so no house to sell. No kids or partner to consider. As a freelance writer, I could work from anywhere. I had recently met some good people on a work trip to Tucson, so I had some friends. And the moving company, for which I had recently written a business profile, gave me a 50 percent discount on my moving expenses! By late October 1999, I was situated in a lovely apartment in the Mission Palms apartment complex in Tucson.

Of course, with a transition that momentous, there were a few bumps once I got there. But they eventually settled down, and that move changed my life in so many positive ways, it’s hard to list them. The best one was meeting and marrying Ken, of course, which in a very surprising way brought me to this journaling work I love so much.

It all came about because I paid attention, noticed, and stayed alert. I had already learned to trust my inner knowing to reveal the big answers, so I was able to accept this new message. I certainly don’t recommend that anyone else pull up stakes and move across the country on the spur of the moment. Yet I do recommend active waiting during times of transition in your life. Active waiting takes practice; it definitely requires patience. But it will be worth it.

Recall a time when you sensed a change was coming but weren’t sure what it might be. Write for at least 10 minutes about that time: How did you become aware of the impending change? How did it make you feel? When it occurred, what happened in your life?

Have you ever practiced active waiting? What did it feel like? What happened as you waited? How did it feel when the event finally happened?

What about when you jumped too soon into a change, or a suspected change? Any regrets? What might you do differently next time, if anything?