The quiet power of waiting

We gathered in rows on wooden benches, clutching hot cocoa in tin mugs, sitting in the winter chill for a few hours hearing tales of great valour and bravery – stories from battlefields old and new. Max Gimblett’s ‘The Art of Remembrance’ stared at me from the church wall and I sat in a state of remembrance – waiting can be truly powerful.

There are few options though, when it comes to waiting – accept or resist. I used to bemoan any delay or queue, making sure I was never anywhere early enough to sit around and wait. Living life at 100 miles an hour meant waiting was a waste of my time, uncomfortable and inconvenient. As a result, I was always running late. One day, my husband (God bless him) challenged me, suggesting that I ‘chose to be late’. After my initial resistance to the idea that I was late ‘on purpose’, I saw he had a point. It came like a revelation – I was acting out of habit, almost subconsciously choosing stress and mild chaos over being early, organised and prepared to wait.


The ‘always late’ reader will know the drill – buying birthday presents on the way to a kid’s party, never having enough time for traffic, leaving the bedroom looking like a bomb went off, packing your suitcase when the rest of the car is loaded, and constantly apologising for running late. I was the person always last to arrive, the person who kept everybody waiting. I remember driving to work one morning relieved a car had rear-ended me. My first thought was, “Phew, now I have the perfect excuse for being late.”

Change came when I decided I could be more strategic with my time, without losing my flexibility. One of my definitions of freedom is the ability to choose. And so, I chose to practise being early. It meant I could ‘breathe’ before my next appointment – I arrived with my head together instead of offering the usual truckload of excuses, apologies and tales of woe about what went wrong to ‘make’ me late. I came to realise that my lateness was affecting those around me significantly. A milestone on this process was making peace with ‘the wait’. I had to realise that I didn’t need to be constantly distracted and occupied. I also discovered that the waiting time could be a gift of space and peace. In learning that there were gems to be found in the waiting, I became happy to do it.

Waiting is a quiet joy I’m still making friends with. For me, it’s about seeing the value in being still, having space to think or recollect. I can pray or just be. I experienced the joy of waiting for the lunar eclipse earlier this year. I had been told it was happening at midnight, but found when I got to that time, there was still another hour to wait. I asked myself, “Would it be worth it?” I was uncomfortable and bored. I was tired, cold and couldn’t be bothered. Let’s face it, I thought, there wasn’t going to be any kind of triumphant horn blast at the end to say, “Yes! The moon is red!” But I decided to wait anyway.


I grabbed more blankets, my camera and my phone. I texted a friend in a cloudy part of New Zealand to give an update on the moon’s progress and then, I started to play. I made word-photos using the moon as my pencil – long exposures allowing me to draw with moonlight. I watched and created and waited. I wrote
down my thoughts about how the eclipse looked and felt.

At 12.57am I took a photo of the sky and was amazed that when the moon was dimmed to red, the camera captured the glory of the whole sky more fully. The stars were visibly more sparkly beside the moon because her light no longer dominated. It was beautiful. The journey of waiting and watching increased the value of what I saw. It was a mystery and it was magnificent, my appreciation of the eclipse increased by its gradual unfolding. I went to bed full.

So let’s return to the beginning of this story. ‘The Art of Remembrance’ by Max Gimblett – a significant project, a worthwhile fundraiser and a beautiful, affordable piece of modern New Zealand art ($100 per piece). Art that will adorn the walls of thousands of Kiwi homes – making their spaces a little more fabulous.

My invitation to the ‘always late’ reader of this story is to practise the art of waiting in a new way. Create space in your heart and head to breathe, or just be, for a few minutes or moments each day. And while you are practising, buy a Max Gimblett quatrefoil and remember the over 100,000 service men and women who have died to protect and serve our country. The art of waiting and remembering is good medicine in a busy world.