Max is decidedly not good at waiting. Even as I write this, he is impatiently staring at me to feed him, even though it is an hour before his normal dinner time.
When he thinks it is time to eat or go outside or come back inside, he will let me know in as many ways as possible. He whines, he paces, he starts running around, and sometimes he even jumps up on me.
I try my best to respond in reasonable ways, and only make him wait when it is really necessary. But unfortunately for him, he has to wait on me for many things central to his life. He cannot get the dog food himself or let himself outside. And in those moments when I am distracted or my hands are full, Max makes sure I know the time is ticking.
I can’t really blame him, because waiting is hard, whether you have control of how long you wait or not.
But I do hope that he can learn to wait with a greater stillness in his heart. When I see him getting more and more anxious in his impatience, I just want to assure him that it will be ok, that I am not ignoring him, and that everything will be remedied soon. His anxiety only increases the franticness of the situation and usually doesn’t bring things about any faster.
Max has taught me through his impatience that sometimes waiting with a little more stillness can make a big difference in how anxious the in-between time can be. I’m pretty good at waiting in stillness, and I wish that I could just give Max the peace I feel even when things are unresolved.
But Max is not wired that way, and so he is not good at waiting…
…at least if waiting is primarily seen as a time to be still and passive. Max is definitely not still and passive. But maybe what Max is teaching me is that waiting is not always about stillness. Maybe sometimes waiting is about moving and bringing awareness.
Waiting in stillness usually refreshes my perspective and helps me to see what is really important in a matter. But sometimes that waiting only increases the harm or injustice happening. And too often I sit in stillness when I should be more impatient about the wrongs happening around me.
In that sense, Max’s impatience reminds me of the value of waiting actively and loudly – the kind of waiting that characterized the civil rights movement and helped push forward the kinds of changes needed in society to ensure equal rights. And in a world where those equal rights are still not extended to all, maybe even more impetuous waiting is needed.
Max has taught me that waiting need not be somber and still. But it also goes beyond the “squeaky wheel gets the oil” mindset. It’s about tapping into a kind of waiting that is really attuned to justice and compassion for all – and then insisting that problems are addressed. It’s not a “squeaky” waiting, it is a stop all the traffic on the road because there was a major crash due to the fact that someone was sold a car with no wheels kind of waiting.
Max’s impatience may not be that weighty, but in observing the way he waits, I have learned that sometimes it is good to cultivate a sense of stillness and peace while waiting, especially for the things beyond my control. But sometimes, it is good to cultivate a sense of disruption and passion while waiting.
And Max has taught me that either way, in stillness or action, waiting is best approached as a time of preparation. That could be preparing our hearts by instilling a sense of calm in the face of anxiety, or it could be preparing to make real change in the face of injustice, but either way the in-between waiting time is crucial for how we encounter or create whatever comes next.
So thank you Max for waiting on me. I hope you find a sense of peace in your waiting, but even in your impatience I thank you for pushing me to embrace a more active, uneasy spirit when waiting for wrongs to be righted.