The Waiting Game

Heather finally made it.

Those of you who have been following the adventures of my wife know that she’s repeatedly almost received an infusion for her multiple sclerosis, only to be rescheduled at the last minute due to a temperature. (I’ve always thought she was too hot for the room, but this is something else.) But a few days ago, we finally broke the cycle.


Her prize? To sit for more than seven hours with an IV in her arm, trying to keep it from popping out or giving her an allergic reaction.

Uh … yay?

By the time she got home, her back had joined the Rebellion. Her arms were sore. Her body was fatigued as only those who have spent a full day in the locked and upright position can be.

Did it work? It may be a couple of months before we know. And then, win or lose, we get to do this again six months from now. Once again, the latest round of the Waiting Game (trademark pending) is on us.

Thankfully, we’re good at waiting.

Well … not good in the sense of “I am impassive to the world; let me become one with the universe/the Force/the complete works of Bob Dylan until it is time for me to unexpectedly reach out and trap a moving fly in my chopsticks.” That would be kind of awesome, not least because we could count on getting a part in the next Karate Kid reboot.

No, when it comes to waiting, we’re like a lot of experienced pros: resigned at best and impatient at worst. We don’t really like it. We wish we didn’t have to. But we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again, because that’s the only way that progress gets made.

More often than not, you move forward fastest by learning to stand still.

I’m catching a few nods out there. Long-term change of any kind – pregnancy, surgical recovery, dedicated Rockies fan – tends to require patience most of all. It’s even true in the political realm. It’s a truism in history that most revolutions fail; the ones that make it have laid down years, sometimes decades, of groundwork and have a tenacity that goes beyond the moment of adrenaline.

But there’s a trap. Don’t mistake patience for passivity. Waiting is not just sitting back and letting the world happen to you; it’s anticipating for the moment and preparing for it.

In the musical Hamilton, Aaron Burr sings that “I am not standing still – I am lying in wait.” There is a difference. You endure, yes, but you don’t just endure.

Heather isn’t waiting for the MS to magically resolve itself, any more than political change or decent relief pitching just falls out of the sky. She’s a participant in her own healing, even if that participation consists of waiting for the right moment to take certain small, specific actions, and finding ways to hold together in the meantime.

It’s not easy, especially for someone who would rather step up and take control now. Especially when there’s so much going on that screams for immediate help. But in the long term, care and patience usually leads to an answer that lasts.

Patience. Not despair. Not giving up. Not zoning out.

The next move in the game will come.

Hopefully with a good book and an IV that knows how to hold still.


As I write this, a grand old man hovers at death’s door. By the time it appears in print, he may already be gone.

Godspeed, Nelson Mandela.

His is one of the amazing lives of the last century. Few men have made the transition from political prisoner to national leader; even fewer have done so without the intervention of civil war or other violence. To have done that and remain a respected, even beloved, figure years after leaving power – well, you get the idea.

But the end comes for all of us. Not always quickly or kindly. Though at least most of us don’t have the world’s press straining to be the first to announce our passing. An odd compliment, in a way.

Farewell, Mr. Mandela.

I can’t think of him without thinking of a moment in history. And I don’t just mean February 1990, the moment of his freedom from prison, the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa.

That’s a key part of this. But to everyone who was alive then – do you remember?

Do you remember what a remarkable time in history that was?

Think back to 1989 and 1990.

These were the years the Wall came down. That the Soviet Union began to break apart, like a calving iceberg. That the Velvet Revolution came to Czechoslovakia, setting off dominoes across Eastern Europe – and not the sort of dominoes once anticipated in the ‘50s and ‘60s. That even Beijing felt an attempt to “shake your windows and rattle your walls,” in the old words of Mr. Zimmerman.

Remember those days? When it seemed like the books were being rewritten every day, mostly for the better?

Heady times, indeed.

OK, I admit, putting it that way makes it sound like some kind of high school slide show, probably set to a rewritten version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” But looking back from now, when the headlines involve drones and wiretapping, wildfire and Middle Eastern war … well, it can make someone a little nostalgic.

But here’s the interesting thing about including Mandela in that parade of events. It gives a little perspective.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. Years during which he had little reason to believe that South Africa was ever going to change. Years during which it seemed the world would continue on the same old paths in the same old way, for as long as anyone could foresee.

Then, all at once – transformation. Release.


No, the world’s problems didn’t end. We didn’t magically enter the promised land. But so much that no one had even dared promise came to be.

No, it didn’t just happen to happen. It took work and endurance and even suffering on the part of many, with no promise of success. And that may be the most hopeful part of all.

If they could dream then, we can dream now. If they could labor then, not even daring to speak the fear that it might all be in vain, we can labor now.

And what they achieved, we can achieve. However dark the times may seem.

So thank you, Mr. Mandela. Thank you for what you ended and what you began.  For not just outfighting injustice, but outlasting it.

Thank you and farewell.

May you rest in peace.

And may we not rest until peace is here.