As I write this, I am sitting in the waiting room. Literally. My husband is having surgery today. While it is apparently a fairly common procedure in the surgical world, he has been nervous about it. I think the urgency with which his surgeon felt it needed to be done, was a bit alarming to him. More of a catastrophic thinker than I, he was reviewing possible scenarios and what ifs around things going badly on the table, as we readied ourselves for the drive to the surgery center this morning. “Babe, stop being so negative,” I soothed. “Everything will be fine. You’re going to be fine.” And then my attempt to ease his tension with laughter, “And if anything goes wrong, you’ll just get more time off out of it!” He laughed. My job, as I see it today, is to keep him relaxed and hopeful. I could see his shoulders visibly relax. Mission accomplished. Donning his Superman T-shirt, and most comfortable sweat pants, he put his fist on his hips, smiled his bravest smile and said, “Let’s do this.”
The waiting room can be a tense place. I divert to humor when I’m tense. (Forgive me in advance if this post is filled with bad jokes.) Since waiting rooms are filled with anxious people, many establishments thoughtfully decorate with soft, soothing colors, comfortable furniture, and even fish, which, according to research, can help calm anxiety. We walked into a waiting room with fish. “Look!” I exclaimed enthusiastically, pointing to the tank. “It’s a good sign.” Another smile.
He was soon whisked away by a nurse, and I was left sitting with my thoughts. I am a doer, not a sitter. When I get anxious about something, I start employing my healthy coping skills; taking a walk, prayer & meditation, going to the beach, hitting the gym, and taking a bubble bath. I used every single one of them yesterday. Today, all I can do is sit and wait. As difficult as this is for me, I am thankful for the opportunity to sit and reflect, because I know I don’t do it enough. Anything healthy can become unhealthy if it’s not balanced. Although being a doer has its perks – I get a lot accomplished – too much busyness is an unhealthy way to manage anxiety. I am working on balancing my doing with being. In the mental health world, busyness is known as a maladaptive coping skill because it assists in avoiding uncomfortable emotions. Many people will try to avoid feeling emotions they don’t like – anxiety, anger, sadness – thinking if they give way to them, those emotions will dominate them. The opposite is true: once we give ourselves permission to feel afraid, angry or sad, the power is taken out of them. They come and go, just like all emotions. Yesterday, I felt anxious about my husband’s surgery. I worked through it. I used my coping skills – to manage my anxiety, but not avoid it. I let myself explore my fears, and I talked to God about them as I walked, sat at the beach, worked out, and soaked in the bathtub. Prayer & meditation is a coping skill I use consistently to keep myself grounded in just about every situation. It works. Today, I feel peaceful.
As I sit and wait, I am reminded that I have been blessed with a great husband who balances me. While he is a hard worker, he is able to relax more readily than me, so he helps me slow down when I need to. He is kind, loyal, honest, committed to his faith and his family, fun to be with, and he makes me laugh until my sides hurt. He is my best friend. Friends…I am reminded of the wonderful friends and family we are blessed with, many of whom I know are praying for a successful surgery and speedy recovery, even as I type this. I am reminded that relationships are the only real lasting investment. When your life is over, you take nothing else with you but the memories that live in your soul. Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? (Sorry, I warned you about the bad jokes.)
Hope whispers, invest in relationships.
I am reminded that life does not hold a guarantee of tomorrow for any of us, so I want to live well every day. I want the people I love to know that I love them. So, I tell them often. I hug them often. I am reminded that God put us here to love. Him. One another. Ourselves. In the quietness of the waiting room, I am reminded of a quote by one of my favorite poets, Maya Angelou, “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
And love sits in waiting rooms.
Sometimes you find yourself in a relational waiting room, while you wait for a wounded relationship to heal. Perhaps you are waiting for someone to reach out to you, who has hurt you. Perhaps you are the one who offended the relationship, and you are reflecting, gathering the courage to be the one to reach out and ask for forgiveness. Maybe you are in a spiritual waiting room, waiting on God to do something in your life, to work some miracle, or simply reflecting on the meaning of life. Whatever waiting room you find yourself in, literally or figuratively, remember the waiting will eventually come to an end. Mine just did. Superman is awake, and he is asking for me.