In “The Princess Bride,” there’s a moment where the beyond-master fencer Inigo Montoya stands at the top of a cliff, watching his opponent-to-be slowly climb the rock toward him. The cliff is steep. The climb is slow. And Inigo just wants the fight to begin.
“I hate waiting,” he mutters.
Lately, Heather and I have felt a certain kinship with Señor Montoya. Because waiting, it seems, is the most difficult battle of all.
Sometimes it’s the Parent/Guardian Standby, waiting for a Missy tantrum to blow out so that we can get back to what we’re supposed to be doing.
Sometimes it’s the Chronic Illness Blitz, where Heather is trying to outlast the pain of a sudden surge in her chronic conditions (lately the MS) and both of us have nothing to do but wait in anguish.
And of course, sometimes it’s waiting on a larger reality. Like the pandemic. Or the wildfires. Or the other thousand unnatural shocks that 2020 is heir to.
Which means, right now, we’re all Inigo. We want something visible to fight, something to do. But any progress made is almost invisible. And waiting – whether in pain, in endurance, in impatience or desperation – is exhausting business.
Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes there’s literally nothing you can do but bide your time and wait for a better change of season. All of us hate acknowledging that – we want to be not just the protagonist of our story, but the author – but it is a lesson that needs to be learned, over and over.
Sometimes … well, sometimes there is something to do. It may not be much. It may be completely ineffective. But if it doesn’t hurt someone else – or better yet HELPS someone else – then it may also be worth trying.
The small bit of comfort offered in a time of pain.
The attempt to redirect a tantrum-generator onto something else.
The basic courtesies and protections that make it possible to live life at all when viruses fly and the skies turn orange.
Here, too, we’ve got a role model. Inigo hates waiting … so he offers to throw his opponent a rope and swears on the soul of his father he will reach the top alive. In the short term, that leads to his defeat. (To be fair, he was the only one not wearing a mask). But in the long run – and after a VERY long period of waiting – he finds a new partnership and a greater goal, one that allows him to rise above being a petty clock-punching henchman and become the hero he was meant to be.
Consideration for others. Keeping commitments. Becoming aware of the bigger picture. No, those aren’t bad lessons to learn at all.
I still hate waiting. I still want something to draw my sword on, even if I know I’ll lose. But with an eye for kindness and a drive for compassion, it doesn’t have to be empty waiting. `We can be there for each other. And in being there, we make ourselves better.
Maybe that’s enough. I suppose it has to be.
If nothing else, it makes the wait of the world a little lighter.