"Tout vient à point à qui sait attendre"
This line is in a book I'm reading. "Everything comes to those who know how to wait," it says. I've heard the expression before, particularly the one in English. It's about being patient, waiting in line, waiting your turn, learning to share, menial exercises in waiting.
But today it dawned on me that waiting, the act of waiting, is something much more than hanging in there. Waiting is an art... and when done well, it's the tool that brings about the change you most need in your life.
I don't know when this baby is coming. He's due on October 11 but one of the last mysteries of life, one not solved by technology or statistics or the like, is when your baby is ready to come out. Leaving aside scheduled operations or inductions, letting a baby come on his or her own time is an enormous mystery. When? How? Why?
You can read a thousand books and you still have no idea.
The other last mystery of life is finding a soul mate. How does one do it? You can prepare, sign up for online dating, put yourself out there, meet your friends' friends, but at the end of the day you have no idea when you're going to stumble on Mr. or Ms. Right. I know so many people waiting right now, holed up, weeping sometimes, because they just want an answer. Will they find their person? And if yes, when? And if yes, where? And if yes, can it hurry up?
Soul mates are like natural birth days. It is not up to you. The slowly twisting world, in all of its wisdom, will find you an answer. And until that happens, it seems there is not much you can do about it.
Except there is. This afternoon I had a coffee with my friend Sima, who is in town for a few days. We talked about where we might both end up. I admitted that I had no idea. I compared our city searching these past few years to online dating; I suppose I didn't REALLY believe I'd arrive in a city, snap my fingers and pack up our lives to move immediately. But visiting cities and having experiences has helped to bide the time.
Bide the time til when?
I have always believed that some external life force will guide us to our next place. Chris will get an amazing job opportunity or I will or our child will need to attend a specific school or President Obama will request our presence at the White House as the First Family of Technology. Even as we toured Charlottesville, VA earlier this year, I realized I was not ready to pull the trigger on a giant move just yet. It was a lovely place and yet... there was nothing specific that compelled us to move there.
I think something is coming. It's big and I don't know what it's called, but I believe it's out there. Something is coming that will decide our location fate for us and we will pack up our bags and make do, a process that I am well acquainted with. It's what we're doing right now, right this minute. Our jobs are too fantastic to leave right now, so we choose to stay. We make do in Brooklyn.
I did online dating a few years back. I didn't really believe I would meet someone on match.com, but going on those dates helped me bide the time while I waited to find Chris. It distracted me. It gave me great stories. Sometimes you have to help yourself through the long, winding roads towards an unknown place. That's what online dating was for me. That's what visiting cities and other locales is for me now.
But something is coming. I don't know how far away it is, but I know it is there.
And so what? How do we trust that natural labor happens? How do we trust that our soul mate is out there, or our soul city for that matter? I think it's not about making huge, sweeping, dramatic decisions. Sometimes it's about lining small details up and letting the weight of all the right small details push your iceberg towards your future.
If you are waiting to find love, make sure that you are good and happy. Make sure that you are grounded and laugh often and have a routine that you love. Learn to get good at the small pieces of life happiness... because it will make you healthy and strong and ready when love does come your way.
If you're waiting to find a city, make sure that you are good and happy. Love the hell out of your current neighborhood; appreciate its good parts and think through why you don't like the bad ones. Visit the library and learn to recognize the dogs that you pass. It will teach you what's important to you in a location, in a living space, in a home.
And if you're waiting to have a baby, make sure that you are good and happy. Read books to prepare yourself for the logistics of birth but also do some meditation. Think quietly, often. Indulge in ice cream. Be honest with people about the space you need (or don't). Make growing that baby one of your main priorities and then be proud of yourself while you're doing it. It will make you healthy and strong and ready to take whatever labor story awaits you at the end.
My sister got a job in Washington D.C. and is going to be living there as of this fall. For a while we believed she might move to New York, but she came across an opportunity that she couldn't turn down. When I read her email, I cried in the Cleveland airport on Friday night. I got upset because I had imagined us raising this baby together on my maternity leave, watching shit television on the weekends, finally living in the same city since High School.
I was self-involved and I allowed myself to have a pity party for a few hours.
Then I talked to Chris. I realized that life will go on, that I just needed to readjust the way I imagined things going. And I wrote her an email and told her that I was happy for her, that all those little babies in Washington DC are going to be lucky to be born under her care.
It occurs to me that the most generous thing a person can do is to support someone whose dreams are in direct conflict with their own desires. My sister's life is not about me; it's about her. However convenient or lovely it would have been to have her in New York next year does not compare to her finding her way.
And so I hope I can retain this wisdom as our baby grows. I know that he will make decisions about his life that are in direct conflict with what I would want him to do. But it's been useful to realize that my life is not his life. And Kate's life is not my life.
My life stands on its own. It will have its own structure, its own story arc. And whatever the details of that plot line will be, my job is to protect the integrity of the way we get there... wherever that may be.