The Waiting Place

I used to write
I used to write letters
I used to sign my name
I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain
But by the time we met
By the time we met
The times had already changed
So I never wrote a letter
I never took my true heart
I never wrote it down
So when the lights cut out
I was lost standing in the wilderness downtown
Now our lives are changing fast
Now our lives are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last
Hope that something pure can last
It seems strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what’s stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive
We used to wait
We used to waste hours just walkin’ around
We used to wait
All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown
Ooooo we used to wait
Ooooo we used to wait
Ooooo we used to wait
Sometimes it never came (we used to wait)
Sometimes it never came (we used to wait)
Still moving through the pain
I’m gonna write a letter to my true love
I’m gonna sign my name
Like a patient on a table
I wanna walk again
Gonna move through the pain
Now our lives are changing fast
Now our lives are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last
Hope that something pure can last
Ooooo we used to wait
Ooooo we used to wait
Ooooo we used to wait
Sometimes it never came (we used to wait)
Sometimes it never came (we used to wait)
Still moving through the pain
We used to wait
We used to wait
We used to wait
We used to wait for it
We used to wait for it
Now we’re screaming
Sing the chorus again
We used to wait for it
We used to wait for it
Now we’re screaming
Sing the chorus again
I used to wait for it
I used to wait for it
Hear my voice screaming
Sing the chorus again

Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it

Arcade Fire “We Used to Wait”

I have always hated waiting. I found the inefficiency infuriating. Waiting for the car in front of me to go faster. Waiting for the drive thru or the checkout lane to go faster. Waiting for the website to load. So much time wasted. I needed the line to move. I needed the website to load. I needed that tiny rush of adrenaline to ping in my brain. I needed that sweet feeling of productivity.

I wanted the thrill of singing along with the chorus. But I missed the fact that the true meaning of the song was written in each verse.

Who doesn’t like to belt out “Born in USA” at the top of our lungs, expressing our pride to be an American? We all totally missed the fact that the verses were all about the failed myth of the American dream. How quintessentially American.

We, as an entire culture just cannot bear to wait. We must be productive! If time is passing and we aren’t being producing something then we have wasted it. We are failing. I bought into this belief as well. And as a result? I spent an awful lot of time being frustrated and angry. I was angry at the stupidity of the drivers in the car in front of me. I was frustrated by the slow programs and systems at work that only made our jobs harder. Sometimes for a few seconds. Sometimes for a few minutes. Sometimes the momentary frustration could be carried for hours.

Seconds, minutes, hours of life wasted. Seconds, minutes, and hours of life.

When we step back and look at this from a distance we realize huge chunks of our lives are in the waiting place. And if they are chunks of wasted time, it’s not because because we aren’t being productive. It’s because we waste that time being angry and frustrated.

While we were busy screaming for the next chorus, we completely missed the fact that life itself was in all of the verses between.

About this time last year, I was finally letting it sink through that I wasn’t going to get out of this diagnosis alive. I was processing that the generic median life expectancy after a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis is about 2 years. Just like that, I went from expecting 40+ years to hoping for 2, maybe more if I manage to finish in the top half of the class. And making it to 5 years will require finishing in the top 15%. Tall order. Especially with so many individual prognostic factors working against me.

That shift in perspective can best be described as an earthquake. Everything I knew about my life and my future was shaken to the core. After the big one, I was left shaking and disoriented. And there were still more aftershocks to come.

My entire foundation had been irreparably broken and those cracks would never be healed. Certain phrases- especially those associated with future events- disappeared permanently from my vernacular.

There was another phrase that I stopped uttering: I can’t wait.

All desire to jump ahead to future events disappeared. When your remaining lifespan moves from decades to, at best, years you begin to realize very quickly that you can wait. Because life, my friends, is in the waiting. It’s in the waiting for the next scan. It’s in the waiting for the drive to be over. It’s in the waiting for the next season. It’s in the waiting for the next vacation.

Right now I am in the waiting place. I am waiting for surgical consults that could literally decide whether I have months to go or years. I am waiting to leave for a week long trip to Hawaii to celebrate our 20th anniversary 8 months early.

We leave tomorrow. But I need to celebrate today. I can wait.

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