Waiting and hoping. Hoping and waiting.

I’m at the airport while writing this. I’m waiting.

Waiting bothers me; I’m really bad at it. I’m slightly better at blogging than waiting, which isn’t much to say about my blogging prowess.

In what seems like a previous life, I used to work as a construction project manager. I told big burly men with power tools what to do and where to go. And because of my white hard hat said I was in charge, they listened to me. And if they weren’t working on the job, and it wasn’t break, they were waiting.

In construction, waiting is the enemy. Waiting was what holds up a project from completion. And that will get you fired. So everyone knows you need to look busy when the white hard hat is on the construction site.

I studied project management theories to talk about waiting as the enemy so I could sound smarter. In one theory, the critical path was the set of successive activities that must be completed in order for the project to be completed in the duration promised to the client. Another theory views that critical path as the primary constraint to the completion of the project – so when you apply more workers or resources to the critical path, the constraint was released and the burden of the critical path was no longer on that set of activities.

Sounds smart, doesn’t it?

It did to big burly men with power tools and executive clients in suits who signed my paycheck, so it was smart enough for me. To them, I was a smart, highly productive machine.

I believed them.

So I thought about more ways to make my waiting “more productive.” One summer I took the train because it was cheaper, better than sitting in Chicago construction traffic, and I could do more work on the train than I could in the car. I had a really cool organizer gadget that helped me do all my stuff and I needed to do. I had a laptop computer if I really wanted to open it and work on the train. And I could read books I liked on the train as well.

Then I was really productive because I conquered the enemy, waiting. I ruled.

But here in the airport, I’m on standby. I don’t rule anymore; I’m ruled by the airline people wearing cheesy uniforms. I’m subject to their authority. I hope they don’t make me one of them. I don’t know what flight I’ll be on, let alone when I’ll be arriving at my destination. Really, I’m blogging now because I can’t stand the waiting and being ruled by the cheesy uniformed people.

Now I’m hungry. Waiting makes me more aware of being hungry, because I’m not busy with anything else. Being on standby, I’m able to familiarize myself with the O’Hare Airport cuisine. I look at the menu prices. Maybe that I’m not that hungry.

The intercom system tells me that the terror threat level is orange. Should I be nervous? Hasn’t the threat level been orange since they introduced the system in 2002?

Cheese. Hungry. Orange. Mmmm…what are my favorite orange cheesy foods? Mmmm…cheetos. I love cheetos. But at overpriced O’Hare I think the orange fingers just aren’t worth it.

These are the kinds of thoughts I have while waiting. Do you see why I don’t like waiting?

A woman next to me is speaking in Spanish. I’m trying to hear what she is saying, but it’s been entirely too long since I sat in Spanish class in high school. The flight attendant tells us the flight is delayed in both Spanish and English. She speaks more slowly, and I can hear her say “lo siento, tienen esperar,” ‘I’m sorry, you have to wait.’

Esperar – to wait. Interestingly enough, “esperanza” means hope in Spanish.

What does waiting have to do with hoping? What does hoping have to do with waiting? Why are they nearly the same word in one of the most spoken languages on the planet?

Maybe waiting is like hunger. My craving for food reminds me that food does indeed exist. I’ve had food before – and it is good. And the hunger I feel reminds me of the times I’ve really enjoyed food – with my family and friends. And I hope I will have it again someday.

Waiting does something to me. It makes me realize that much of my life is filled with doing things that distract me from facing the all too difficult and sometimes shallow self that can be covered by my busyness.  Waiting is a furnace that burns off the chaff and allows a refiners fire to shape us.

At the same time, Proverbs tells us that hope differed makes the heart sick; waiting too long makes hope become dream, dream to become legend, legend to become myth, and myth to be forgotten.  When is it appropriate to give up hope for our dreams? Do we keep waiting in hope, or do we move on to something else?

How do I hope while I wait? How do I wait while I hope?


1 Response to “Waiting and hoping. Hoping and waiting.”

  1. 1 Rosalind June 25, 2008 at 3:36 am

    This is a really good entry. And I do believe that hope/wait have a lot do with each other. I think that hopeful waiting is joy (whether or not it is always happy); while discontent waiting is misery (whether or not it is always distracted).

    Anyway, another interesting word analogy you might like is essay. It comes from the French essai (which means a short paper); but this word comes from the word essayer–to try, to attempt. Blogging, like writing the 3-page paper, is an attempt at something bigger, the attempt to put words to thought. To capture the passings of paradigm shifts in the heart/mind.

    Keep on the essay to hope.

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March 2008

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