So often we spend our time waiting for something to happen, something good. We go through a trauma, a difficulty, something that changes our lives…and not seemingly, at the moment, for the better.
So, in an effort to move on, we think, ‘ok, I’ve got this. I’m putting it behind me.’
But do we really move on? Joan talks about what it’s like to move forward from that sticking place: the waiting room.
Q. Tell me about ‘the waiting room’.
Joan: This morning I had a conversation with a colleague about the topic of loss and grief, and in it we shared intimate details about traumatic experiences that we each have survived. During the conversation, she made an interesting statement. She told me that there was a time when she knew she had to leave the “waiting room”. I have never heard the phrase “waiting room” used in relationship to grief so I asked her to explain. She told me that “waiting room” describes the space between the horrific pain of an experience, and the life of possibilities that can be lived. She added that many people spend their entire lives in the waiting room.
Q. Has this been a ‘place’ you’ve spent time in?
Joan: Well, my friend got me to thinking about all of the time I spent hanging out in the waiting room. Simply existing. Staying in my comfort zone longing for what will never be. Not truly living or thriving!
We all have visions of the life we believe we are supposed to live. But, even with the clearest vision, things don’t always go as planned. And, when that occurs, we can get stuck, waiting for a life that no longer exists.
Q. What do we do? How do we get away from being stuck?
Joan: If we are to thrive and find peace, we must accept a situation, let it go, surrender, and move on. And while this may be difficult decision, it will be the most self-loving.
Q. What do you mean by 'letting go'?
Joan: The let it go and move on cycle applies to many areas of life. We may have to let go of a relationship or significant person. Or, we may have to release a painful experience like losing a job, a financial setback, a sick child, or the death of a loved one. Beginning the cycle is difficult because we tend to hang on to what we know – what is comfortable – even if it is pain.
According to spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
But, holding on to the familiar, painful past keeps us stuck and creates an environment in which we can become physically and emotionally ill.
Q. So when can we let go?
Joan: Usually, we do not decide to release people or events until the pain of holding on is so unbearable that we feel we have no other choice. We are forced to accept the situation and mourn an important part of our life. And this acceptance and mourning is vital in order to thrive; we must let go of the past.
Q. Age old question…how do we let go?
Joan: Letting go is an act of will, a decision. It is the choice to move on.
To let go, we must surrender control and admit that we are powerless over other people and situations. Once this occurs, we can begin to embrace the change and get on with life.
Is it always what we want? Hell no!
Is it easy? No!
Is it worth it? More than you will ever know.
Q. Is it weak to seek help?
Joan: Don’t be afraid to seek help. Find a support group, spiritual director, therapist, coach, or trusted friend. And remember to have faith. I chose to relinquish my control and turn it over to God. Once I stopped begging for what I wanted and accepted what was my new reality, my entire perspective changed and I found peace. I now look forward to the next opportunity.
As Helen Keller so eloquently stated: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one, which has been opened for us.”
Don’t spend your life in the waiting room. Go through the wonderful door that is opened up for you.