Lessons on Waiting and Being Delayed

Image from ASCRS Eyeworld

Image from ASCRS Eyeworld

“How did it get so late so soon?” 
~ Dr. Seuss

“If we can just let go and trust that things will work out they way they’re supposed to, without trying to control the outcome, then we can begin to enjoy the moment more fully. The joy of the freedom it brings becomes more pleasurable than the experience itself.”
~ Goldie Hawn

I spent a lot of time waiting in doctors’ rooms yesterday. In fact, over the last thirty years I’ve spent an enormous amount of time waiting. Waiting for doctors, waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for second opinions.

In the beginning waiting used to frustrate me. Doctors always seem to run late. There’s inevitably a big queue at the pathologist’s early in the morning when you’re on fasting bloods. Simple procedures often take far more time than you’d expected. Have you noticed that?

Back when I lived a very measured and time-poor life, scheduled down to the last-minute, this kind of waiting nearly drove me crazy. Why couldn’t these people be more efficient?

I’ll tell you why.

People and bodies are complex by design, and things don’t always run to plan.

Yesterday I was up early to be one of the first through the door for blood tests at 6am…

My first doctors meeting is at 9am and I have a string of appointments after that, all scheduled a few hours apart. I plan to get quite a lot done during the ‘in-between’ appointments time.

After breakfast I arrive at the surgery early to fill in paperwork. And then I wait. So early in the day I’m not expecting much of a delay. It’s a busy practice with several doctors, and the waiting room is already full.

One by one each person’s name is called. New people arrive. Others come and go. 9am rolls by, then 9.15 then 9.30. I still haven’t been called. After a while a woman sits near me, and she and I stay sitting as more names are called. I’ve been waiting over an hour now, and the woman beside me half that time. She begins looking pointedly at her watch, sighing and making it apparent that she’s not happy. I keep reading my book.

After an hour the woman loses it. “What’s the delay?” she shouts angrily. “My appointment was an hour ago.” She lets it rip at the receptionist. Still yelling abuse she storms out of the practice as an elderly couple emerge from a consulting room, red-eyed and obviously upset. They look lost as they stand at the front desk.

A minute later my doctor calls my name.

He’s reserved today, not his usual self. “Sorry about the delay,” he says. He seems quite sad.

I can’t help myself. “Are you okay?” I ask, placing my hand on his arm.

My lovely doctor is taken aback. Tears prick his eyes. “Yes,” he says in the softest of voices. “Yes, I’m fine.” With great professionalism he brings the focus back to me, the weight of whatever happened earlier sitting heavy in the air between us.

Things go well for me, and I’m out the door in under fifteen minutes.

Luckily I’d made my medical appointments with plenty of time in between them. I can deal with the delay with a little juggling. I cancel some plans. And my day works out just fine. Better than fine in fact. For some reason we end up getting ‘rock-star’ car parks right out front everywhere else we go. The day slides by so smoothly. Nothing at all is a hassle. It’s like being late early in the day somehow saves us all this time later on.

Last night as I sat in meditation I thought of that elderly couple, and said a little prayer for them, and for my doctors, nurses and all those who work in the health care industries. It’s a big job, at times a very hard and thankless job. People and bodies are complex by design. Things don’t always go to plan.

I spent a lot of time waiting yesterday because someone needed more of my doctor’s time. And whenever you need more time it’s not a good thing. Positive news is always fast. The other kind usually takes longer.

How could I mind someone needing more time? How can a doctor or other medical professional possibly determine in advance who might need that extra attention?

I have been on the other side of this too. A few years ago a young technician was performing an ultrasound on my abdomen. She took forever, and went from being chatty to very, very quiet. Eventually she left me there, and after a fraught ten minutes brought back a colleague. They both huddled over the screen and then the senior technician repeated my procedure. Neither would tell me what was going on. My fifteen minute procedure took ninety minutes, interspersed with phone calls back to my doctor. I was the person emerging into a waiting room of cranky patients being held up because of me.

I have been given my share of bad news. I have cried in car parks or sat stunned and silent afterwards in coffee shops near medical specialists’ rooms. I have been the reason for everyone else being delayed and inconvenienced.

Yesterday I was thankful that it was not me needing more time. And I was also grateful that others could have the time they needed.

It might not be a doctor’s surgery.You might end up waiting in the office of a counsellor, a tax accountant, a veterinarian, a dentist, a skin cancer specialist. The thing is, you’ll be waiting because someone needed more time.

If that was you, if you needed more time, you’d want the person helping you to care enough to be very present for you. To do all that they could to explain and work on your problems. You’d want to feel supported. You wouldn’t want to be just a number being churned through the mill.

So, if you find yourself waiting, know that it might be inconvenient, but it’s not the worst of things. It shows that whomever you’re waiting for cares about doing their job well. They care about looking after their clients or patients. And that means they’ll extend that same care to you.

Go well in the world today. I’m thinking of you and sending love.

Nicole xx

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14 thoughts on “Lessons on Waiting and Being Delayed

  1. beautiful! nailed it! the waiting time challenge, amazing what we can do in that focused time if we allow it to flow – extra meditation, reading, writing on ipad etc i had a beautiful co-worker from argentina, i did a publishing project that went way over schedule with delays, she said to me, “time is like a river, you can’t hold back a great river, you just allow it to flow” thanks for such a beautiful post!:o)

  2. After being given a diagnosis of Cancer, a beautiful nurse took mine and my husbands hands, wished us all the best and said, ‘…and now you learn to wait!’
    Indeed we have. Bless ALL who care along our way 💜xxx Be well, my friend 💛

  3. Thank you so much Nicole. That was so beautifully expressed. Today I too needed extra time. My mum in law finally decided she needed to end her struggle and passed on. All the time in the world is never enough when you have to say goodbye.
    Xx
    Simone

  4. Such a poignant post Nicole ~ I get it. I’ve been the patient who needed more time, who left crying more times than I’d like to count. I am like you, I want others who need that time to have it when they need it. Great post. I hope more people read it. xoxo P.S. Glad you got all of your dr appts etc done yesterday with rockstar treatment.

  5. Very well written; an entirely new perspective. Thank you Nicole and I am delighted your appointment was so brief 🙂

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