Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Wisdom from Unexpected Places

Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" was, I admit, a Costco impulse buy. I liked the colourful, sparkly cover. I like the author, and I liked the title. Timely, I thought. We are, quite literally, going places, and since Kaiya loves books so much, I have found myself regularly searching out books to help prepare her for what's ahead. Little did I know that this book would be more for Jeff and I than for our girl.

And so today, after sitting on this post for over a week, I bring you the wisdom of Dr. Seuss.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.


You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

Since the fall of 2009, I have been in somewhat of a holding pattern. The life I was living, with its busy-ness and escapism, was unsustainable. And some personal events made it grind to a halt. As a result, I pulled back from work. I read more. I explored my health, changing a lot of the foods I eat. I found a good counsellor, to help me figure out the journey I was on. But most importantly, I created a space for myself, away from a variety of defining people and places, in order to explore what it was I really wanted and needed ... and believed. About myself and this amazing life we have been given. And I grew up.

Just in time, it seems. This fall, my strong and steady husband, the one always keeping me positive and grounded, hit upon his own rough patch. The troubles of life caught up with him, and the combination of a particularly difficult teaching assignment, together with the steady loss of a dearly loved one, was enough to bring him to his own place of doubt and grief. And so the leaning of support has shifted, an unexpected but beautiful transition. We are on a tentative, precarious climb back up the slope. Life as we know it has changed. Along with the difficulty has come a realness, a raw honesty, which we had always longed for but just couldn't grasp. And so, in the midst of the angst, we sense the re-birth. And for that, we are thankful. Our eyes are open now.

But this April, the old restlessness has settled in again. The focus and clarity I was so enjoying have vanished, and I find myself flitting from one meaningless activity to another, with next to no focus, finding joy and fulfillment in very little. The calm I could find in front of the bedroom window or through yoga, meditation and prayer has escaped me, slipping right through my fingers. I find myself constantly lost in thought, unable to focus on the present moment, time simultaneously dragging and flying by.

And I realize that somehow, sometime in this past month, I've transitioned from living to waiting.

Waiting, oh, we are waiting.....
for the sun to come
and the warmth to replace the damp, damp cold
for a contract to be offered
and a contract to be signed
for a child to stop being so disagreeable
and another child to be conceived
for a sister to return home
and decisions to be made
for hallways to be painted, closets to be built, basements to be cleaned
and a house to be rented
for Friday night and the end of June
for an email to come, the phone to ring, excitement to happen
for understanding and being understood.

Waiting, we have been waiting.

But this is not the end of the story.
Turn the page in Dr. Seuss' book, and this is what you will find:
That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Waiting Place, I have something to say to you...
You're not all bad. In fact, you've been kind of necessary to us. We're proud, stubborn folk, and we've needed to have our butts whipped a bit in order to figure out the important stuff.

But we're just about done now, and you need to know that when we leave you, there will be no tears, no sad good-byes. I imagine our departure will be more like an explosion of energy, superhero style, with lots of sunshine, starbursts, rainbows, and applause. You've helped shape us, but we're just about ready to rise up and take flight. Thought you should know.

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." - Joseph Campbell

Perhaps, down the road, once this quiet, introspective time is behind us, we will see that in the end it was life waiting for us, and not the other way around. There's a part of me that still holds on, that wishes to stay in this Waiting Place, but each and every day, a greater part of me is crying out to let go and not hold anything back. I pray for the strength to do so.

Grace in the journey, friends.


jeff said...


James said...

From One Who is Waiting Too:

I am envious and impressed by your ability to dive into The Waiting Place. I've been on this trip for about 4 years now that has seen me "race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space," basically trying my best to avoid The Waiting Place, but finding it still nipping at my heels. Oh how I'd love to just have a bit of that grace that you have Kathy, to just let it go, just let it be.


I'll get there eventually I'm sure. In the meantime, you can find me jumping around in right-and-three-quarter turns like an idiot.

jeff said...


thanks for sharing - and great punchline. much more intelligent than my comment