When This Heart Waits

Acting. Solving. Accomplishing… Doing.


Thinking. Pondering. Listening… Waiting.

“Waiting.” This idea has been in the forefront of my mind recently. Waiting, not doing. Waiting, not acting or problem solving or accomplishing. Just waiting. Being open. Listening, feeling, being.

Over the past couple of weeks, my ritual here in Guanajuato has been the same. With the sun waking up and providing its first light, I head outside around 7:30 and walk down the small set of rust-colored stone steps and into the kitchen. I boil some water, mix up a cup of instant coffee in the beautiful black mug given to me by a dear Frankfurt friend, then head onto the terrace where I snuggle into a chair, a blanket on my lap, and the ever brightening hillsides of Guanajuato showing off in front of me. While sipping coffee from my new favorite mug, in my other hand has been Sue Monk Kidd’s, When the Heart Waits. This book the reason my thoughts of late have been drawn to this concept of “waiting.”

In life, I’ve always liked to think. I’ve liked to ponder, to meditate, to reflect. I like to go on long walks – to let my mind wander with my feet. The practice of yoga is one I enjoy. Yes, for the increased strength and flexibility but almost more so for the spiritual flow state it puts me in. At times, I’ve enjoyed the quiet practice of prayer. I like stillness and solitude. The tranquility of a morning paddle on a cool summer morning, a light fog rising up from the warm lake waters. Or the peace of a snow-covered ski trail, deep within the trees on a sparkling winter day. I like the quiet moments, and time with my thoughts.

But, do I like to wait? This is a question I’ve been asking myself recently, thanks to Kidd’s brilliant book, one that was written nearly 35 years ago but one I only recently discovered after listening to an interview with the author on Brené Brown’s, “Unlocking Us” podcast. I don’t really think I like to wait. Not all that much. Waiting is frustrating. It doesn’t get me anywhere. I’m a list maker and a planner. I’m thinking and planning my next vacation before the current one is over. So…waiting? What, afterall, is the point?

Prior to reading Kidd’s book, I’d never given much thought to the concept of waiting. I know about meditating and praying, and giving space for dreams, or stopping to appreciate the natural world of bird songs and flower-filled meadows and sunsets. I know these things, and I love these things. I love the emotions of awe and wonder and gratitude. These are emotions I’ve thought about often in life, and I love myself because I love these things. But waiting? Waiting for what, exactly? And how does one go about waiting? Is it an active process, or does one simply allow life to happen around them? And how long is the waiting supposed to last? How does one know they have completed the proper amount of waiting?

In her book Kidd finds herself in “midlife,” when, as she puts it, “one is summoned to an inner transformation.” She feels the change, the “new passage of the spiritual journey” in which we must confront “our true self.” The metaphor of a butterfly threads throughout the story – a perfect living symbol in nature for our own need to sometimes enter a new phase in life, and rather than “do”, we are obliged to “wait.” Kidd’s story is of her own spiritual journey, one in which she feels called to become truer to herself and closer to the perfect love of the Christian God. But her story is for all of us. All of us who are caught somewhere in life, feeling a sense of longing and a need for our own transformation to a place of greater awe, wonder, truth and love.

The more I’ve been thinking about “waiting,” the more the thought has given me comfort and peace during my days in Guanajuato. Because, here’s the thing. In many ways, I feel like I’ve been waiting all my life. Waiting for the right career to present itself, waiting to find the right path, waiting to discover that “thing” that gives me purpose, waiting to be truly inspired by my vocation, waiting to find a passion, a life’s work, so to speak. I’ve been a teacher most of my adult life. It’s given me happiness and contentment and pleasure, at times. But far too often, my work has left me wanting more. Wanting something different. My work as a teacher has rarely filled me with the feeling of purpose and meaning I’ve been searching for. This apathy is the reason I’m currently on a leave of absence. Work had become dull and lifeless. It was sucking something out of me, and I needed desperately to make a change.

So, after what has felt, in some ways, like a lifetime of waiting, you might think the last thing I wanted was the message from Kidd that perhaps what I needed most was to wait a little bit longer. Initially, that was correct. I didn’t want to hear it. In many ways, I’m tired of waiting. A big part of my grand plan in coming to Mexico this winter, after prematurely leaving Frankfurt, was not to wait. It was to plan. I wanted to use this time to figure shit out. Set a concrete, life path for myself that I could begin following sometime within the calendar year. I didn’t have time to wait! Not any longer. I had left another job, this time in Frankfurt, another job that had left me wanting more. Now was the time for action. Not for waiting.

Upon arriving in Guanajuato, and prior to beginning “When the Heart Waits,” I’d been fully in the “doing” mindset. Learn Spanish, meet people, explore the region, exercise, write, read, plan my potential summer biking adventure, teach English, research master degree programs, find new overseas opportunities, look for a new job. Do, do, do. And I was putting immense pressure on myself to do it. All of it. “Make a plan to make a plan,” I told myself. “Create a schedule to maximize my time here. Don’t waste this opportunity.” But I quickly became overwhelmed. It was too much. Some days I’d dive into Spanish, and feel good about that, but then feel guilty that I hadn’t yet begun looking into university programs or new job possibilities. Other days I’d read and write a ton but feel completely frustrated and uninterested in learning Spanish. And worst of all, I had the belief that I was accomplishing nothing on my list. I was already counting down the weeks of my remaining time here in Mexico and I feared I’d return to Minnesota in April with absolutely nothing to show for it. I was stressed. And sipping, once again, my favorite cocktail of anxiety and depression, with a twist of intense doubt.

My urge to figure out a new path – my urge toward action – is driven in large part to the fact that I just turned 54. While my body and mind absolutely do not feel old, the number is a big one. Not an enormous one, but a big one. Closer to the end of life, more than likely, than to the beginning of it. Most of my contemporaries are counting the years to retirement, many of the people I’m meeting in Guanajuato are on the downslopes of their careers, and a fact I think about a little too often these days is that my dad, Bill, died at 57. Wanting – feeling the need – to get started on something more meaningful in life – NOW – has a lot to do with this clock that I can hear quietly ticking in the back of my mind.

I kept reading Kidd’s book, sipping my coffee during chilly Guanajuato mornings, highlighting passage after passage, scribbling notes in the margins, painting corners of important pages in neon yellow. And the message started sinking in. The stress I’d been feeling from my giant list of “to-dos” began to slowly melt away. Stressing out in sunny, warm Mexico, while living on time I’d gifted myself through the courage to end a challenging life chapter, began to feel more and more ridiculous. Yes, my clock was ticking. But fuck, life was right in front of me. It wasn’t a new, future path. Life was now. And the waiting, I began to realize, could be fun. It could be just the thing I needed.

About 30 cups of coffee later, I eventually finished the book. And I feel happier. More content. Ironically, in many ways, more purposeful. I still don’t know, exactly, what “waiting” means for me, or the best way to do it, or for how long my waiting needs to last. But the waiting feels good. I’ve cut back to just one Spanish class per day, I’ve placed researching grad programs and looking for a new job on the shelf, and the deadline to begin down a defined, new, perfect path by January 2025 has been scratched from my theoretical calendar. I haven’t stopped “doing” altogether. But I’m doing the things that feel meaningful and joyful in the moment. Things that feel more like listening and feeling and processing and less those that feel like accomplishing or achieving. I’m not feverishly stressing to solve the monumental mystery of my inevitable future. I’m writing again. I’m reading. I’m embracing a possible epic bike ride across Germany this summer. I’m enjoying the sunny views from my terrace, my morning coffees, my walks across town, lunches from bustling street carts, shopping at the markets, conversations with friends, and most of all, the peace I feel from not trying to do it all.  I’m waiting. And I like it.

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