I’m waiting to die. And so are you. It’s the truth we refuse to see. We don’t talk about it, or think about it. We believe the opposite is true. We say we are going too fast, rushing through time, unable to stop. But sometimes I feel like life is all about waiting. Filling in the gaps. Finding a reason. Using up the time. All ways to pretend you are not just waiting to die.
The only time you are not waiting is when you are first born, when you are tiny and new, and know no words or thoughts. Because like that, you exist in the moment and the moment is now, and does not move on, not in any way that you are able to fathom. As soon as you can talk, you know about time. Not now, later. Hurry up, move. In a minute, later on, tomorrow, next week, soon.
So you start waiting. When you are a child you are waiting to be an adult. Then when you are an adult you are waiting to retire and relax. Waiting to see the rewards of your labour. When you are a teenager you are waiting to be older, waiting to be in charge of your life, to be free.
We’re always waiting. Waiting to fall in love, to meet ‘the one’, to get married, to have kids, to buy a house and fill it with things, to go on holiday, to relax, to escape, to sleep, to wake up. Monday makes you wait for Friday. You wait for the working week to end…come on, come on, hurry up, come sooner. So it comes and you celebrate; Friday night and Saturday, but then already you are waiting for the new week to start, dreading, but waiting all the same.
You try to live in the moment, to appreciate now… but it’s hard when a moment is so small. How can you ignore time? Turn your back on it? Refuse to play the game? Sometimes I try. I close my eyes. Block out the time yet to come. There are small and glorious moments when I succeed. When I am just existing, not waiting, or dying. Simple things like a mug of coffee on the doorstep. The wind in my face, and just standing still somewhere, just motionless, barely breathing. I don’t want to be just dying, yet that is what life is. Like the leaves on the trees, fat and green one day, curling and drying the next. Their time is over. They lived, they waited patiently, they died.
It’s not that it’s boring. We don’t allow that. We try to fill it all up, don’t we? With noise and clutter and bright sparkling things. With work, and pleasure, and weekends, and Christmas, and children, and weariness, and walking, and driving in cars, and loving each other, and getting it all wrong and starting again. We stuff it all in, we pack so much in while we can. We dance through our lives, drinking fine wine and eating good food, and going abroad to become more cultured, and upgrading our phones, and upsizing our homes. We look forward, all of the time. We can’t wait to see what is around the corner. We are waiting for promises to come true and for dreams to be realised. We are waiting to prove ourselves to loved ones, for them to see us as we really are, for it all to be worth it.
No, we’re not stood still. But we are still waiting for it all to be over. We live in timid dread of it all being over. How much time do we spend waiting around? Standing in queues? Waiting for phone calls, for emails? For rejections? For answers? Waiting for things to get better, or for things to get worse. Waiting to be loved, waiting for pain to heal, waiting to be seen and heard and known. We say things will be better in the morning. We tell ourselves we will know the answers when we are older. We will understand things one day. One day, we will feel the one thing that constantly eludes us.
I watch the birds when they are busy in the morning. Unlike the leaves on the trees, they are not so patient. A busying whirlwind of activity and noise. What spurs them on? Simple instinct. The urge to survive. But they can’t look ahead, and they can’t know time. They dart across the lane, from one hedgerow to the next, sing-song spiralling, diving and chattering. They hop about on the grass. They swoop and surge up towards the sky. They know nothing of this afternoon, or tomorrow, or next time, or one day. They only know now. For a moment I watch them and forget to breathe. I focus on now, on being still, and I try to insist that I am not waiting for the day I die to arrive promptly and too soon upon me.
And then I walk on, down the lane, towards home, towards the things that chop up the time of my life into segments of making dinner, and helping with homework, and putting to bed, and rising again in the morning where the inevitable waiting is there, waiting for us.