On Waiting

Old and battered

Old and battered

I have been keeping this journal for almost six years now. It is very worn and have seen a lot of things. I’m quite frustrated that it is taking a long time before it is filled, and finished. It seems I am always writing somewhere else.

And yet I go back to it, constantly, like a lost child. Every time I feel bruised and confused by the world, I return to these pages.

In one of your recent letters, I was forced to think of my life in compartments—personal/public, personal/private, and so on. I have written them all down and have been reflecting on them ever since. I will tell you more once I’m done. The answers come slowly to me; I find myself waiting for the right time to write them.

It’s bedevilling though, to have to wait.

I was having a late lunch, and fretting over the shipment of my books, which I have ordered last year. I said, why is it taking a long time to get here. They should have arrived by now. My sister told me to just wait. I said, but it’s getting on my nerves. I can’t be expected to stay put. She said, that’s the point of waiting. Staying put.

And I realised: I might not be a patient person after all. And that comes to me as a surprise. I always thought I was. I mean—that’s what one does, yes? To wait? All my life I’ve always waited.

I remember Barthes:

attente / waiting
Tumult of anxiety provoked by waiting for the
loved being, subject to trivial delays (rendezvous,
letters, telephone calls, returns).

1. I am waiting for an arrival, a return, a promised sign. This can be futile, or immensely pathetic: in Erwartung (Waiting), a woman waits for her lover, at night, in the forest; I am waiting for no more than a telephone call, but the anxiety is the same. Everything is solemn: I have no sense of proportions.

5. “Am I in love? — Yes, since I am waiting.” The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely this: I am the one who waits.

— from A Lover’s Discourse

Until now I am waiting to be found. Yet my anticipation seems to have grown two faces: one that is looking forward, rewarding, and the other turned away, as if punished. When have I lost my peace? When has my restlessness became more than I could control?

It’s starting to come apart in my hands, my journal. The main culprit may be the things I insert in between the pages, the things I tuck in the pocket. I took them out for further examination:

Remnants of my life circa 2007-2008

Remnants of my life circa 2007-2008

Some of the things I’ve been keeping: bus tickets, stuff I write on napkins while eating by myself. Not in the photo: various outlines and notes for a poetry collection, letters to an old love written on the back of bank deposit slips, movie stubs, polaroids, a flyer for a coffee shop, receipts, an invitation to an awards night, etc.

These things—they have stayed here, desperately, stubbornly, waiting to be looked at again, I suppose. Or thrown out.

What I did—I took the photos and tickets, and placed them in a shoebox that I have kept all these years. It contains various ephemera that is essentially my life. Together they mean nothing, and everything.

The rest—the outlines, the notes—I put in an envelope which I decided to stick at the back of another notebook where I write my poems these days:

Just so.

Just so.

Wait, for now, says Galway Kinnell, in a poem:

Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?

I need to learn how to wait again. To wait well. To wait, but not be idle. To master my desire, and to respect delays. To live, really live, while making space in my life for things to come. To understand that things will happen, but in their own time.

Good night, M.


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