Hold Fast

Courtesy David S. Soriano, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International




Some people are great at throwing their oddly-shaped balls around, coding our new overlords, painting with pixels, manipulating spreadsheets, drinking to the dregs, defenestration. I am pretty good at waiting. I have had a lot of practice in my life.

In the service they say hurry up and wait. I did that, eating government peanut butter and John Wayne bars on an iron field. I waited eagerly for school to start as both kid and adult, for the half to end, the movie to get good, the food to finally get here god I was starving. I have waited: for my big break, for someone I loved, for someone I would meet; for the tide to go out, for the snooze alarm, for the timing of an egg; in train compartments, boat salons, helicopters and planes, cars older than my house; in houses and apartments and businesses and museums and restaurants; in wicker honeysuckle hummocks, dry and wet ditches, barn lofts; in heat, dust, cold, rain, boredom, joy.

I have waited, holding myself in uncomfortable positions in closets or behind furniture, sometimes for an hour, for my children to overcome their caution in games of dart gun tag and to come look for me so I could win.

I have waited about town, above reproach, across the seamless air-from, after disasters in the smell of broken trees, against all hope, along the strand, among, around, about, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, from, of, off, in, into, near, on, over, toward, under, upon, with, and within, , , , , , , , .

I have waited for time to pass, the purest waiting there is—meaningless except for itself. I am still waiting for the meaning to be made clear. It feels I have waited ‘til Kingdom Come.

I have also waited on others—that is, attended them in their lives, served them meals, and taken care of their needs. I have known The Weight, have picked up my bag and went looking for a place to hide.

Waiting, done well, requires virtues—patience chief among them. Not that you have any choice most times. But if you can get a little patience, acceptance, constancy, endurance, toughness, thoughtfulness, and generosity into it, waiting can seem almost like a game—meaningless except that it matters. Rarely does the world give you so much opportunity to be with yourself, as you are, in the world.

Waiting well is not really relaxing into it and letting what come may. That sort of thing edges into non-waiting. Real waiting is holding yourself the way you might to save your back on a bad chair, but naturally, painlessly, neutrally, steadfastly. If you have been working your core it helps.

I always believed you could choose to devote yourself to something or someone, and the waiting would pay off the hours as if they were compounded interest.

Hold fast.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.