I love setting up countdowns on my phone. I love the feeling of anticipation, of waiting for something exciting, something great. I like that feeling when it comes to Santa Claus bringing gifts on Christmas, or when I’m counting down the seconds until I get to see someone I love. I set up a countdown on my phone to the exact moment when I landed in California and got back to my sister-in-law last month. I even set alarms on my phone to go off at the exact moment Niall Horan’s Flicker and Taylor Swift’s reputation go live on Spotify.
But the problem is, I don’t like the feeling of anticipation when it comes to things like tests or deadlines or stressful situations, and lately it seems that I’m only counting down the days until these bad things. Waiting until the moment of taking the GRE yesterday was nothing but stressful and anxiety-inducing. Graduate school application deadlines are all over my bedroom, and while graduate school might be exciting, the stress of getting things done is not. The surgery to remove the tumor in my head is in seven days, and I’m not sure how anyone prepares for that or the aftermath.
I’ve been learning recently that feelings of dread and feelings of anticipation aren’t as polar as we imagine them to be. We have just as much to learn and glean from waiting for a good thing as we do in waiting for a bad thing. In fact, in the moments of preparing for something we might be dreading, God might just be planning on using that time to teach us something. I admit I’m not the best at listening for those moments. I suffer from an anxiety disorder, and so my nature is to avoid situations that make me anxious. My instinct is to run away from moments in which I feel trapped in my own anxiety and in the unknown, because they are scary and undesirable and simply aren’t fun.
In a culture of instant gratification and the encouragement to avoid things that are unpleasant or difficult, these feelings seem to be tossed out the window in favor of smaller joys and smaller happinesses. Why wait for something great, exciting, beautiful, and perfect in the distant future when you can have something good yet mediocre now? When put into words like that, I think we’d all agree we would choose the former, but all too often in real life, we choose the latter. If there’s anything I’ve been learning in the last few months of waiting and wishing and wondering, it’s that sometimes we have to hold out for the best thing, even seemingly good things cross our path along the way. It’s easy to excitedly anticipate things in the near future that are tangible and that we can see. It isn’t so easy to do the same for things in the undefinable or even the unforeseeable future, without a set day or time with which to set up a countdown. We have to learn how to wait for those things with the same eagerness.