Queuing. Patience. The art of just sitting. Africans can do it. Middle East and North Africa can do it. We not only are t very good at it. We also rail against it. Cramping at the bit. Twitching and stressing.
Probing further, I realise we take it as failure. If we had done something differently (arrived earlier? Been better prepared? Chosen that other queue? Not changed queues? ) maybe we could have avoided this. What was the flaw in our strategy? Our actions? Should we have been more charming or more insistent with the first person in the process?
In another frame of mind we might rage against the machine. These petty bureaucrats with their pointless procedures. This damn country! This stupid town! (Whichever country or town we happen to be in at the time).
I notice too that it is recent. I remember my grandmother had this skill. To sit patiently in a hard bAcked chair. Hands on her lap. Not reading the paper or looking around. No phone to distract her as I have now, writing this as I queue. She had that ability to wait patiently. To trust all will be well. Sooner or later.
The very last thing we seem to do – I seem to do – nowadays is accept the situation. It is what it is. Some things take more time than we allow for. No!!! I have do much to do. Every second is precious.
What if we take that wisdom. Treat the waiting seconds as precious. I have been told that the existentialists stand in pointless queues just so they experience that heightened awareness of the seconds passing. This is part of our life this second. And the next. So maybe instead of feeling tension as we waste our time we sometimes embrace it as a gift of time. I’m going to try!
Consider for a moment your breath as wind.
You inhale. Often unconsciously, but for now let’s pay closer attention. The wind moves through your nose or mouth. It is usually a different temperature to your body. Notice the coolness as it brushes over the tiny hairs in your nostrils. Or the damp surface of your tongue.
By the time it reaches your windpipe it is already close to your body temperature and harder to detect.
With next to no guidance from us, this wind finds its way to our lungs, filling them with fresh supplies of life giving oxygen. Our body knows what it needs. It sorts through the gases, oxygenating our blood and sending it on our way. We have breathed in the wind.. Inspiration. Ours for the taking, over and over. At least 20,000 times a day for the typical adult. Half a billion breaths in the average life span. More if you exercise. At least half a billion opportunities to fill our lungs with life.
And wind moves through the world. If it blows in a window in your house it must blow out somewhere else. So with our breath. Expiration. Removing waste products, cleaning our bodies, sweeping out unwanted gases and vapors.
So each of those half a billion breaths is a chance for change. Each is a change as our body actions dozens of processes according to the inhaling and exhaling, inspiring and expiring.
It is a wonderful thing.