AMERICANS HAVE A WAIT PROBLEM (and no, that’s not a typo)
Most of us have heard it. Many of us have said it. And sadly, the majority of Americans are still doing it. It is waiting. Waiting to live our lives until our scale hits the magic number. Waiting to live our lives until we finally wriggle into the coveted dress size or effortlessly slip into (or out of) the “perfect” pair of jeans.
I’ve written about it several times, my favorite renditions being Please Hold which gives a glimpse into my experience with learning to manage my wait. And again in Spare Change where I discuss a former a patient’s “aha” moment of leaving the waiting room and moving forward with her life.
But as a baby boomer, I have become acutely aware of my aging process. This has been a slow revelation because there seems to be a glitch in the time space continuum. I can’t explain it, but I know it is there. For some inexplicable reason, (where is Carl Sagan when you need him?) the generation ahead of me and the one behind me are all getting older. In my son’s case, like some real life version of the song Circle Game, the years have indeed flown by and now MY boy is twenty. My dad is firmly planted in his 80’s and I haven’t aged a day since college. Unfortunately my body doesn’t always agree with my perception and has ways of telling me that I am not getting or staying any younger and that time, indeed, waits for no one. Well, if time isn’t waiting for me, then I am no longer willing to squander this opportunity to live my life fully and without apology.
Clearly, I need to lose some wait.
I know I am not writing about anything ground breaking or especially profound but I feel compelled to remind people that it is time to take your wait problem seriously.
Frequently we establish these waiting patterns early in our lives when we are more impressionable to other’s feedback and more invested in pleasing those around us. If we get the message that we don’t look good enough or are too fat to go swimming, scuba dive, dance, date, and travel or express our sexuality then frequently we begin our “bucket” list of what we will do when we are acceptable and are given permission to dive into new experiences. Even if we were daring non-conformists in our youth, we may have been chastised for our audacity leaving us embarrassed and resulting in squelching any future attempts to try new things until we are certain no one will laugh at us or admonish us for crossing the line.
But as we grow older we tend to let go of some of our concerns about how others see us and we also suspect that even if we manage to attain that perfect size or number on the scale we will never look like the models in the magazines who by now are half our age. There is a freedom in aging that many people write about and that I didn’t believe until I turned 50 and my motto was , “f*#k you I’m 50!” I mean really, does someone have the power to dictate what I can or cannot do because of what I look like? More importantly, why do I give others that much power over what I do and how I feel about my body? I know this sounds easy, and it isn’t. It takes practice, it takes courage, and it takes WILL power.
Why not now? Seriously, when was the last time you took an inventory of your belief system? How much of the waiting is habitual at this point? What would happen if you took a quiet moment to reflect on the things you have wanted to do in your life that you wouldn’t let yourself do because of your negative body image and see if they still interest you? Some may be old and no longer seductive, others may be newer additions that just fell into the instinctual knee- (or no) jerk reaction. As you review your waiting list, consider whose voice it is telling you that those things are off-limits. Look at the situation from the present moment; in the here and now. Are the risks still as scary as they once were? Are you still willing to deprive yourself? I found that the voice telling me to wait had no real power over whether or not I chose to listen to the other voice that was beseeching me to stop waiting for a time that may never present itself.
It’s too bad in some ways that it took me as long as it did and I’m certainly not going to beat myself up for not having done this sooner. I wish things in our culture were less stigmatizing and shaming towards those who do not fit into the narrow definition of beauty. There would be so many juicier lives being led and fewer people obsessing about their weight and dieting. But whatever age you may be, I ask you to consider walking out of the waiting room and making arrangements to fulfill some of your dreams, wishes, and goals. If it’s too scary to go it alone, there may be someone who has been waiting to find someone else who was ready to stop waiting! You never know…the important point is that you get moving…now. Small mindful steps are better than no steps. And remember that you, not Jenny Craig or Jean Nidetch are in charge of your wait management.