On Waiting Rooms.


My family, well, you could say we all grew up in waiting rooms. We’ve seen cancer, we’ve seen tumors, we’ve seen hearts, we’ve seen brains, we’ve seen backs, we’ve seen all the unknowns, we’ve seen and felt all the broken.

And we’ve seen the dark, oh, we’ve seen and felt the very darkest.

We’re going about our normal lives, cleaning and scrubbing and driving and working and sleeping and breathing, and then—just like that—we’re called back to the waiting room.

But we look around and we realize, this place is our normal. We know how to do waiting rooms.

We all do the waiting rooms a little bit different, but there’s much to learn from each person’s approach.

We’ve got the sleepers, curled up in blankets that hold them close in the warmest sheep’s skin, dozing off and drifting away to a place in their dreams where waiting rooms disappear, vanish, never existed. We need the sleepers to remind us to rest; it’s more than ok, it’s needed, to just close our eyes and close our minds and just rest.

We’ve got the laughers, watching and reading and laughing out loud, showing off something funny or something ridiculous to the person to their left and to their right. Isn’t that great?! We need the laughers, oh, we need the laughers, so very deep in our souls. We forget sometimes what laughter can do.

We’ve got the eaters, munching and crunching on something sweet, something savory, something delicious, something so mouth-watering that they close their eyes and drift into a moment, or many moments of bliss like they’re floating on a raft in a fountain of chocolate. We need the eaters to remember to taste the goodness in life, to remember that we can enjoy the sugary and the salty, we can use this beautiful sense of taste, even in waiting rooms where everything could just taste like tar.

We’ve got the workers, calling and typing and writing and checking and emailing, because they can’t miss a conference call or forget to put that appointment on their calendar, that thing they must do and will do when they get out of this waiting room. These worker bees, the ones who stay busybusybusy, they see beyond the waiting room. They hear the buzz of the world outside and they know that it all goes on and on and on outside these walls. For now, we are waiting, but we won’t always be doing this waiting dance.

And then we have the starers. They came with nothing—no blankets, no phones, no movies, no munchies, no laptops, no books. They slouch and they stare straight ahead to a point in the distance that melts to a blur, and they wonder where they are and how they got here; they sink deeper and deeper into their chair, deeper and deeper into a stare that they can’t be snapped out of. The starers feel all the temperatures of the pain, they wear all the shades of the pain, they sink into the deep and the dark and the scared and the worried.

But, you know what, starers? I’m thankful for you. Sometimes we can’t sleep, we can’t laugh, we can’t eat, we can’t work. We must stare. We must pause and feel the pain, feel the dread of the waiting, feel the cries that burn inside: This isn’t fair. This isn’t right. This hurts, and hurts, and hurts.

No, we don’t need to be the escapers, the ones that sneak outside the waiting room because they itch, and itch, and itch, and they need to numb the pain, so they find the bottle or the pack or the something hidden in the bag that will race them to the next place, the place so far away from the twitches and the jitters and the fear. No, no, no, we won’t race to the great escape.

We will stay in the waiting room and we will learn all about the waiting. We will learn how to sleep and to laugh and to eat and to work and to stare.

We will learn to trust. Waiting rooms are where we grow, yes, we grow up right here in this waiting room because, well, we have to. We grow up inside ourselves, but we mostly grow up together, all together, because we’re in this together.

Yes, we’re in this together, all the sleepers, the laughers, the eaters, the workers, and the starers—even the escapers.

If you tell my family that we are waiting, just waiting and waiting with the ticking of the Clock, just waiting and waiting for the Answer that makes all this pain make sense, just waiting and waiting to talk to the Doctor and the Healer, just waiting and waiting to taste the Mystery up in the clouds, we already know all about this life in a waiting room. With every call that jolts us—just like that—and calls us back to the waiting room, we give thanks that we can go together and we can grow together and we can master the art of the waiting room.

5 responses to “On Waiting Rooms.”

  1. I think I get this one.

    Life….Waiting to get to heaven……right?

    Thank you, UB 🐸

    1. Thank YOU, UB! Keep fighting the good fight. We all love you so much.

  2. This post takes my breath away. The clarity, the honesty, the beauty is just stunning. Your writing is a gift to me.

    Date: Thu, 4 Feb 2016 22:21:25 +0000 To: danielle_hollenbach@hotmail.com

    1. Thank you for always reading and loving me so well. You write with the same clarity, honesty, and beauty…so KEEP WRITING! Miss you lots.

  3. […] grew up in waiting rooms, the cold and uncomfortable kind. A few years ago, I wrote about mastering the art of waiting rooms. Born into a sick family, I’ve kind of seen it all, whether it’s my own pain or pain of […]

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