I have nothing new to report on Pakistan (the group is still waiting for the contract to be signed, it’s 99% done, we should hear any day, etc. etc.) so instead I’m taking a second to talk about how much I hate waiting.
When anyone asks me for the latest update on the job/contract process, I have been using the phrase “holding pattern.” (As in, “thanks for this morning’s article about Pakistan being volatile and dangerous for Americans, Dad; the group is still in a holding pattern until we get final word on the contract.”) It’s a quick way to describe waiting, that experience of being neither here-nor-there. I’m not afraid of flying, but two out of three of my most anxious moments in the air have been when my plane was circling low and nervously over a dark city, unable to land and at the slow mercy of waiting–on the weather, on the wind.
I don’t mind waiting for things if I have something good to do in the meantime. Just the other night I had to wait for a slice of pepperoni pizza at two o’clock in the morning. I didn’t mind this at all, because I had Ellen and Jenae there to provide entertaining conversation and the unruly crowd at Rednecks in Allston to provide great people-watching. (Rednecks has the best corndogs in the city and also had that stabbing a little while back. Take note, ye who are concerned about my safety: there are no stabbings in Islamabad).
Last Wednesday, I had to wait all day for the new Lost to come on. Luckily I was able to fill the time by bringing two bottles of champagne to drink at Lesley’s because there’s nothing sillier than letting all your champagne go flat while you’re in Pakistan. It goes without saying there was more entertaining conversation there as well that made the hours fly by. My girls are always good for it.
After turning in my dissertation in 2007, I had to wait two weeks before defending it to the board that would grant me the degree. It had taken me two years to write, including a grueling six-week stint at the end where I wrote 6-10 pages a day on the homeplace in Irish literature and ignored everything else in my life including the birthdays of good friends and basic hygiene. After all that, I was happy to spend two weeks “waiting,” if by waiting you mean mowing through all the Veronica Mars seasons on DVD and sleeping 14 hours a day.
So sometimes I like waiting. Sometimes it’s an excuse to go do something else and forget about your responsibilities. But other times it just feels like limbo, a place where you’re not sure exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. What I probably should be doing is conducting a massive springcleaning-like overhaul of all my clothes and possessions, cramming conversational Urdu on tape into my brain every night, and making meaningful, thoughtful decisions about how I want to spend my last few weeks in the U.S. But because I don’t have a departure date and there’s still that tiny little chance that I won’t be going, I can’t quite spring into action. Instead I’m feeling unmoored and lethargic, staring at my as-yet-unpacked suitcases (still!) from my last series of trips and feeling inordinately interested in cultivating the newest relationship in my life, with hulu.com. (They have all of Season 1 and 2 of Buffy on there! Free!)
I once had to recite a Seamus Heaney poem from memory in Ireland during my college semester abroad. I chose “Limbo,” a poem about the sad, scary place unbaptized babies go if you believe Catholic opinion on the subject. The poem used the sea as a metaphor, and brought perfectly alive its cold, salty nature to suggest the loneliness of the in-between and the isolation of being neither here nor there. I have nothing of this magnitude to complain about; I’m merely waiting for final confirmation on a job. But perhaps my reaction to this relatively short and benign time of waiting is heightened by my suspicion that a true period of limbo is about to begin–an American living overseas, resident of a place but not part of its culture. Those of you who have lived abroad may have something to say about this. Despite my dissertation being 300 long pages on the subject, I don’t know about this particular aspect of home.
I’ll snap out of it soon. In the meantime, indulge my transitional phase by weighing in on the “waiting” topic. Is it good to be in-between? What do you do when you have to wait for something, go crazy or get productive? What makes you feel in limbo and do you ever like it? Waiting minds want to know.