Waiting is an inevitable part of life, and yet it’s not part of life at all. You’re not partaking in life when you’re waiting.

I feel like I do a lot of waiting. I’m waiting for my husband to get home from deployment. I’m waiting to find out if I’ll get cast in the musical I auditioned for. I am waiting for the next season of The Bachelor to air. I’m waiting for these really slow Starbucks baristas to make my tall iced soy chai latte.

[WHAT is taking so long?? It’s literally 4 pumps of chai mix, then pour soy milk up to the line and add ice. Two seconds. What is happening.]

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I have mixed feelings about anticipation. Part of me thinks that anticipation creates some of the best moments. Waiting for my wedding day to arrive felt like forever, but also made the day that much more exciting. Waiting to hear back about a job or a part in a musical might not result in a great moment if the outcome isn’t preferable, but it shows that you care about something, which is special. Keep that passion. Waiting for your broken heart to heal is part of the self-growth process, despite how much it totally blows at the time. So yes, anticipation can be a good and necessary thing.

But then there’s waiting in line, waiting in traffic, or waiting for your iced soy chai. Those experiences feel pretty purposeless to me. And maybe they are, but they’re unavoidable.

The absolute worst kind of waiting, in my opinion, is waiting for a significant amount of time to pass. As in, wishing time away. Because this kind of waiting is avoidable– it simply takes a shift in perspective. Examples: Waiting for your husband to get home from deployment. Waiting for 9th grade to be over. Waiting for the last few weeks of your job to come to an end after you put in your notice. Waiting for the weight to finally fall off so you can wake up in three months feeling better about yourself.

I find myself wishing away time far too often. “I just want it to be October so that Aaron will be home!” “I just want it to be November because by then, I should be at my goal weight!” “I just want it to be summer.” (Said in winter.) “I just want it to be fall.” (Said in summer.) “I just want to wake up in two weeks when this head cold is completely gone!”

Obviously, the major waiting ordeal in my life at the moment revolves around my husband’s career in the Coast Guard, so that’s the example I’ll use throughout this post, but keep in mind that this can apply to just about any instance of wishing time would pass quickly.

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Given my mother’s death, I think I’m pretty good at seizing the moment and cherishing life. You can read my thoughts about why you shouldn’t save the good wine, and push yourself to make the most out of your existence. Still, I wrestle with balancing inevitable anticipation with appreciating every moment.

Do I really want time to go quickly during this deployement so that I can see my husband again? Well, yeah. I do. But I don’t want to wake up in 10 years and wish everything would just slow down. Heck, I already wake up once in a while and wish for the world to calm down with its aggressive timeline. I just attended my 10 year high school reunion, and I’m already dreading my 20th…not because I had a bad experience at the first reunion, but because I don’t want the next 10 years to come and go. Life is so wonderful. Can’t we just freeze time?

But not right now. No, only freeze time when Aaron is home, please.

You see, though, that’s the issue! We can’t pick and choose when we wish time would slow down or speed up. Time just keeps on keepin’ on, and either you can enjoy it or not. You can take advantage of it, or not. You can embrace it, feel it, acknowledge it, and appreciate it, or not. Either way, it’ll eventually come to an end, and you’ll probably wish there was more of it. (Heaven may be the ultimate goal, but us lil’ humans usually have a tough time letting go of what we know.)

I’ve talked with Aaron a lot about how much I dread the 50% of my life that will be spent without him over the next three years. And how scared I am that I’m going to waste that 50% living in a constant state of ungratefulness for the time that is given to me. It’s tough because I want him to be home so badly, but I also don’t want to wish my life away.

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There are ways to stay distracted and enjoy life while he’s gone, like visiting friends and focusing on my blog. But I don’t want to just “stay distracted.” I want to actively LOVE life. I want to actively be grateful for each moment. This requires not just a shift in my activity level, but a shift in my entire outlook. It’s not about my blog or my friends or great books. It’s about listening to the rain outside. It’s about being cognizant of how fun it is to laugh, while it’s actually happening. It’s about smelling the flowers Aaron sent me, deeply appreciating the people I love (not just as distractions), and putting God first whether Aaron is home or not, which will create that strand of consistency throughout my life no matter the circumstances.

If we’re constantly waiting– for grad school to end, for Friday, for vacation– we’re not letting the magnitude of life reach our cores. If we were, we’d be unwaveringly grateful for every second, amidst pain, longing, stress, or discontentment.

It’s not always easy, but I challenge you in joining me in not letting “waiting” be an active part of our lives! It will always be a part, but it doesn’t need to be an active part. It doesn’t need to define a single chapter of our lives, because each chapter, each phase, each day, and each second is worth SO much more than empty, unappreciated time. How lucky we are to experience every breath, so let’s act like it.