On Tunnel Vision, the Pain of Waiting and the Gift of True Attention

Photo by Chad McDonald

I’m less patient than I used to be. Some of it has to do with personal growth. I know what I want, and who I want to spend my time with, and while I have compassion, there is more of an edge to me than before. My antennae are finely tuned. I am more likely than ever to call out nonsense or step away altogether.

Still, we’re all less patient on this side of the hemisphere, aren’t we? I’ve written before about how we want things more and more quickly. I get impatient waiting for the kettle to boil, and rarely wait, alone with my thoughts while it finishes. I tap my foot in the queue at the coffee shop. I prerecord programmes on the telly so I can fast forward through adverts. I get irritated if the internet takes more than a second or two to load. I ignore recipes if they tell me to stir continuously.

Photo by Patricio Maldonado

It’s why we all laughed at that scene with Flash, the sloth in a customer-facing role in Zootropolis. He was just so infuriating. But what’s wrong with slow? What’s wrong with deliberate? Maybe the opposite of action is not inaction. Maybe the opposite of action is waiting, that is, rejuvenating, preparing, being ready to receive. Maybe it’s about accepting that we cannot control everything.

There are events that turn the course of our lives, particularly with regard to health, mortality, livelihoods or divorce, that are hugely difficult to negotiate. But this blog isn’t about those labours, the millstones that weigh us down, that cause waves of anxiety and chase away the sun rays. This post is about forgetting the now, because we are so eager to reach the next part of our journey. It’s about remembering that convenience is only so satisfying. About how tunnel vision can stop you appreciating the joy of what is already there.

It’s normal to want. To have dreams, to strive for the next step. But who says that normal can’t be brilliant? Do you really need the extraordinary? Isn’t it brilliant laughing with family over the dinner table, waking up with your legs tangled with a loved one’s, walking through woods dampened by rain, going for an impromptu drink with friends, hearing the doorbell ring and knowing that someone cares? There is such grace to our pedestrian lives, should we choose to recognise it.

Photo by Tim Donnelly

There is merit in seeing the big picture, just as there is merit in being able to compartmentalise. But the skill I am still working on, is true attention to both the big and the small of our lives knitted together, in all their simplicity and nuance. Our journeys here are about balance and acceptance, just as much as they are about perseverance and progress. Extended periods of waiting amplify our sense of insecurity, but the sense that life is certain is an illusion anyway.

So, embrace the open plain, the twists and turns that make up your story. You’ve earned your scars, and each and every rung of that ladder, and some day, there will be more. Walk your walk, but remember, there’s no rush.

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