Presence and Waiting

This morning I played cards with my nine-year old daughter. After, we played Concentration, or Memory, or whatever it is called today. She won, so I had to do push ups. Before that, we had reviewed her math and practiced fractions.

I have thought, often, that the two traits I want to bring as a parent are patience and presence. The former is for when my two daughters bicker, or don’t listen, or generally do anything that inconveniences me. The latter is for mornings like today. I need such time with my daughter, while the younger is at gymnastics with her mother. In many ways it was a routine Saturday. But it was also an hour to play. To be present.

The other resonant idea is one of waiting. I read Psalm 130 this morning, that ancient poem where the writer declares that he will wait (assuming the writer was a man in that patriarchal society) more than watchmen wait for the morning.

This waiting: there seems to be few stronger metaphors for life. We live in a waiting place. I think of how I’ve waited this week at my work: on interviews, on timelines outside of my control, on others’ priorities. I flew to Indiana and waited at airports. And I’m the sort of man who is oriented to the future: I am excited by what is next, by what will happen. What is happening is less exciting than the opening of possibility.

For the religious, as I am, this waiting is for the divine to act. But even without religion, we find much of our lives waiting. And in the meantime, we fill our lives with purchases or rich food and drink to forget that there is something to wait for at all.

Good waiting has, according to the ancient poet, an aspect of watching. An aspect of seeing the gradients of light each night, from astronomical dawn to sunrise itself. We watch for the subtle gradations of light and movement. There is, in other words, a presence to it.

Of course, patience is also necessary.

I wait today for a thousand pricks of light to burn into red and reveal the sun itself. I wait for the girls to go to bed so I can watch a movie with my wife. I wait for a new hire on my team to come through, for a trip to Florida we have scheduled, and this morning I waited for my workout to be over. (I lifted weights this morning, or as I prefer to call it: uncomfortable counting.)

The waiting is formed of patience and presence. I think of how these two traits I want to show as a parent may be traits of living a good life. Patience in the divine and slow movement, the unhurried change in the night sky. Presence to remain there, to find places not where I can escape to the internet, a magazine. But to practice math with my daughter and play cards, before she gleefully climbs onto my back and commands me to do push ups as my punishment for losing.

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