How to Pass the Waiting Hours?

How much of human life is lost in waiting?
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The hours of waiting are the hardest hours to bear. The hours when an unknown is brewing in the horizon somewhere, when you are not in charge, and yet you expend massive time and energy worrying and wondering about all the possible outcomes.

Will they say yes or no?
Will I pass the test or not?
Will the pending event happen or will we be spared?
Will my blood tests come back normal or not?
Will he forgive me or not?
Will she call me back or not?

Will it all go my way or will it all go the other way?

Waiting for answers and closures. Waiting to find out. Waiting to know.

Knowing, I can find a way to handle. Knowing brings information and removes uncertainty. Knowing provides facts and data. Knowing makes planning easier. Knowing tells me what I can do with the options available to me. Knowing may bring pain, unhappiness, and disappointment, but it brings finality along with it. Knowing brings clarity and choice, and the power of choice is enormous when you fully understand the situation.

You can choose to take the job or to walk away.
You can choose to be a follower or a leader.
You can choose to fight it or to accept it.
You can choose to grieve your loss or to get over it.
You can choose security and stability or a risk and starting over.
You can choose to always second-guess or to never look back.

You can only choose your course of action after knowing the outcome. Until then, the waiting hours keep you company, and the company is far from warm and inviting. Waiting finds a way to slow down the hands of time; it knows how to stretch the minutes and to weigh down the hours. You try to focus on work and carry on with your routines and the thought of the unknown takes over at whim, zapping your forward momentum, and nudging you to run the possible outcomes over and over in your mind. Do you let hope float as you ponder a good outcome, or do you imagine the worst coming to fruition?

What do you do when you wait? How do you pass the hours?

When I wait, I pace the floors, I stare out the window, I take an unusually great interest in my neighbors’ habits. I play with my hair far too much and browse the web far too aimlessly. It is this preoccupied state of mind that robs me of my normal routine. Everything takes longer to finish because my mind is hardly focused. How long do you think it took me to write this blog post?

In extremes, waiting for the outcome of something preoccupies me to the point of impacting my exercise regimen and my desire to listen to music or to make plans. Anxiety and nervousness rule above all other emotions and I feel useless until the outcome is clear.

This is where, in an otherwise standard blog post, I would give advice on how to tame the waiting beast, how to overcome the nervousness and take back control of your hours and your actions, and how to not allow the circumstances to control you. Except I do yet know how to do that. Waiting still wins the game and I am at its mercy until I know the answers.

I could tell you to focus on the task at hand, to set aside your worries and even do a thing or two to get in a good mood, but I can hardly follow the advice during those long hours of waiting. I can urge you to meditate, a remedy that would work if you could do it and yet I can hardly sit still for more than 5 minutes! I could tell you to remember that worry is about as useful in solving the situation as chewing bubblegum when solving an algebra problem, and yet I still worry as I wait. I could especially tell you that no matter what the outcome, you will prevail and yet, even this awareness does little to ease the mind during the minutes and hours spent waiting.

“I am ready any time. Do not keep me waiting.”
~ John Mason Brown

So instead, I will say only that waiting is hard, waiting takes patience, and waiting tests us through and through. Waiting peels the layers and exposes the inner core. Waiting can call upon your powers from within. You may like what you see or decide to change for the better. Waiting has its own agenda and there is no way I am making friends with it. But it is a part of life and I will strive to meet it on higher ground in each encounter.

Do you have a secret to deal with the hours spent waiting?

  • Christopher Lovejoy

    Shhh, I have a secret: read chapter 11 of a book called Positivity by Barbara Frederickson, Ph.D. Okay, Farnoosh, I’ll bite: it took you 3 hours to write this post. Am I close? 😉

    • Farnoosh

      Christopher, I love books – I can never have too many. This blog post, on and off, took nearly 4 hours. Can you believe it? But the waiting is all passed now and I am drowning in action so life is good again and even better after having read your comment. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • Christopher Lovejoy

        I can believe it!

  • Steven Papas

    Hi Farnoosh,
    Very nice article.You have written something that i feel no one would have ever cared to think for.Well my waiting periods always bring anxiety to me.But i always took it as a part and parcel of life.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Steven, hi and thank you so much. The waiting is always on my mind and sometimes, it pays unwelcome visits. So you take it as a part of life. I know, I know, it’s what it is but some waiting is harder than other waiting and I am still impatient with the tough kind of waiting – the one where you do not control but where the outcome can impact your life …. sigh! :)

  • patrick

    Very true! It’s sometimes hard to take our own advice when we are struggling or impatient about an event in our lives. It’s so much easier to recommend it to someone else than take our own advice. Patience is a virtue and one that must be practiced many times in our lives. I appreciate your advice. It’s comforting to hear a voice that helps keep me focused.

    • Farnoosh

      Hello Patrick, well, I must practice my patience a lot more and good for me to have to wait for this outcome – at the time of writing – I got heaps of practice. But I am so glad that the post helped you too. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Michael

    one of the greatest lessons of my life is to detach myself from the outcome. not always easy to do, but if we have faith that things work out for the best, then we’re done with our part. not easy, but it works for me.

    • Farnoosh

      Hello Michael, I have heard that wonderful suggestion and I must tell you, I have tried it and it worked brilliantly. And no doubt, I am very much attached to the outcomes. I love the choice of your words here. Thank you.

  • Sandra / Always Well Within


    I don’t have a magic secret or solution. Waiting used to get on my nerves too. But I’ve gradually come to see that it does me no good whatsoever, so now I choose to let go. I realize that everything will come to pass in its own time. You can’t push the river. I’m currently waiting for some test results that will come in a few weeks and I’m not thinking about it for a moment. How I made the shift, I don’t know!

    I would like to add a point about meditation. Meditation is about being aware of what passes through your mind. Sometimes mind is calm, sometimes – as in your example – it’s agitated. If we wait until mind is calm to meditate, it will never happen. We can just look into our own mind right now!

    • Farnoosh

      Dearest Sandra, forgive the tardy here – I read your comment when you first put it up but I am just now replying. “You can’t push the river.” < brilliant words. And honestly, there is no better motivation to get me back into meditation. I had not been skipping so much as just not having a very nice session. I still sit still and try to go through the motions but it’s not as gratifying. It’s, however, all part of the process. Thank you for the loving nudge. Thank you!

  • Rebekah Smith

    It kills me, the way you sometimes blog about what’s uppermost on my mind.

    If I’m stuck in line, trapped in the car, waiting at a garage, or sitting through a graduation walk, I have a stockpile of favorite poems or lists of favorite things to play with in my head, sometimes an index card with something on it to study. If I’m at home and too distracted by suspense to be able to think, *like today,* I drift and fidget. A set of push-ups, a seam to mend, something that needs scrubbing or sorting, nail filing, only on the condition that I drop whatever, “Puh, I hate this,” whenever I feel like it. I really, really miss the IBM Selectric II typewriter and tapes to transcribe. The mindlessness combined with the banging noise was truly soothing.

    • Farnoosh

      My dear Rebekah, I must just know you. It is serendipity to be so in touch with the thoughts and feelings of your friends and community. I am delighted that this post struck a chord with you. And I love that you carry your favorite poems. I must start to do that. And while I can’t give yo a typewriter, I’ll tell you this. If you agree to calm the waiting hours next time they strike, I’ll promise to do the same and we can hold each other accountable. For now, mine seems to be passed and life has resumed its wonderful normalcy. Thanks so much for sharing your unique thoughts here.

  • Therese Miu

    Great Post Farnoosh. I don’t always comment but I do read your blog and I always wwwwaaait for it. It’s always full of goodies and wonderful insights. And did I tell you, your writing is EPIC! Just truly WONDERFUL!!!
    My personal story I have done lots of waiting. It took me 7 years until I met my biological parents I was 12 years old. I was nearly 21 yrs old when I had my ‘real’ boyfriend, Both my pregnancies my babies would not come out. I was pregnant total of 10 months for both. I don’t mind waiting.
    To answer your question “Do you have a secret to deal with the hours spent waiting?” I don’t have one except the feelings always of knowing understanding and accepting that ALL IS WELL in the here and now. I trust that life is unfolding in its own perfection. Allowing the universe to do its job. Thanks for this lovely post 😉

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Therese, how nice to see you and forgive my tardy reply. And how sweet that you wait for me to write. Epic writing? Oh I don’t know but I know how to take a compliment and that one will stay with me for a long time. THANK YOU!
      Oh my gosh. There has been a lot of severe and serious waiting in your life. I am sure that the experiences have added to your stamina for waiting. I am impressed. And you give me the best secret: “All is well in the here and now.” Thanks so much for enriching this post by leaps and bounds. Thank you!

  • Henway

    I always bring my iPod with me packed with ebooks and motivational mp3s so I won’t get bored easily. I also brainstorm new business ideas when I’m waiting as well.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Henway, it’s not about getting bored so much as it is about managing anxiety and butterflies in the stomach. :) But perhaps, these methods even work for that if you are determined. Thanks for sharing.

  • Joe Wilner


    This makes me realize how much waiting and worrying go hand in hand. It’s as if we think worrying will actually prevent something bad from happening. Often when we’re uncertain about something that is on the horizon it’s easy to go through all the “what if’s” that could lead to our demise. Something that I strive to do, is let things go. I have certain priorities and things I can control, but for those items that are out of my control I don’t let them bog down my thinking. It’s all about being mindful. Great post!

    • Farnoosh

      Hello dear Joe, how nice to see you here.
      Yes, waiting and worrying are together always in my world. Glad I am not alone. It is so so powerful to be able to let go. And that is the answer, I know it must be. Now that the waiting period is over for me, I know I should’ve just been patient but then again, hindsight is 20/20. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom here.

  • Galen Pearl

    Most people would not describe me as a patient person. Waiting is not what I do best. But I have gotten better at it. I keep crossword or sudoku puzzles in the car to do while I’m waiting for kids. I can tuck one in my pocket to do at the doctor’s office. I take small quilting projects to sew at long meetings (where I tend to get the most cranky). I meditate sometimes. I go through taekwondo forms in my head. I count my breaths. I play the gratitude game–see how many things you can think of to be grateful for in a specified amount of time.

    Those are all things I can do if waiting for a relatively short period of time. But what if your waiting period extends over hours or days or even weeks? Much harder to stay centered. I try not to play the what if game. I catch myself spinning out various disastrous scenarios and stop. Focus on now. The Dalai Lama says that if a problem has a solution, there is no need to worry, and if a problem does not have a solution, there is no need to worry! Very wise, I think!

    • Farnoosh

      My dear Galen, I love that I am similar to you in many ways and that you too are not that proficient at the game of waiting. I don’t feel so alone now :)! You manage beautifully, it seems, for small portions of time but yes, what do we do when the waiting expands to days and weeks? How do people deal with it and still have a sense of normalcy and productivity and motivation in their day to day lives. The Dalai Lama of course knows best – he makes perfect sense -but to put words to practice is where the real answer lies. Thanks for sharing all this here, Galen.

  • Leah McClellan

    Hey Farnoosh,

    Great topic. I see people getting antsy in lines all the time, and cashiers/clerks apologize profusely if they’re slow.

    No sweat. I meditate. Or just be peaceful in the moment. At grocery stores, drug stores etc I like to look at the magazines. That’s where I catch up on my magazine reading :) Stuck in traffic–three hours one time with a crying cat–it was an opportunity to be at peace in the moment and share that with my cat, who actually was pretty patient overall. Be nice to other drivers as we inched forward, smile, wave, let them get in from a ramp, spread the love. People watching is great too–I can learn a lot by watching.

    I don’t see the time as a waste at all, though I do remember a time getting frutrated once in awhile. But this has been a great practice for me to be at peace with things I can’t change. Once in awhile, I get irritated when the grocery store line goes too fast! Can’t stand when I’m not able to finish an article :)

    • Farnoosh

      Leah, you are way ahead of the game. Even if the waiting examples you give here are a different kind from what I had in mind, they are all still part of the waiting game – and a 3-hour stretch in traffic is sure to unnerve anyone so I think you may have mastered one of the hardest tasks for human beings. If you know how to wait, I am sure all good things will come to you. I need to learn to be better at this – and all of these great suggestions help. Thank you, thank you!

  • Amy Rootvik

    Farnoosh, thank you for this honest post. I wish I had excellent advice on how to deal with the waiting. All I have is my own experience and tools I’ve gathered along the way. I have been repeatedly in those challenging waiting hours, waiting for news on things beyond my personal control. I went through periods of obsession, trying to gather all the data and predict outcomes, guess at what the next steps would be and how it would play out. That didn’t bring peace. I tried to ignore it, but that would only last for so long because I was actually just ignoring my feelings rather than surrendering to the mystery.
    I recently read that in order to hold the Buddha nature, we must be able to hold the belief that the answer to the question “Is God dead?” is not yes OR no (for then you lose the Buddha nature) but is yes AND no — a space of total possibility.
    We let go of needing an answer. We have to surrender. We have to willingly step into that void and trust that god/the universe/life has everything in perfect and divine order.
    Without such trust I have found no peace.
    Peace to you in your waiting hours. I continue to surrender, over and over, to the possibilities of life.
    Thank you for a timely and thought provoking post.

    • Farnoosh

      Hello dear Amy, thank you so much for advice that left me speechless as I read. I couldn’t wait to get to the answer of the question you pose – and I can’t but agree with you on just how much relief and surrender comes to us when we let go of things we cannot control AND stop obsessing about them. At least, you went through that phase too before you reached this new level of awareness so you know well that this is the only way to deal with the waiting. I am going to try this. The waiting hours for me are over this time around but I am going to remember your words and your advice here next time. Thank YOU so much, Amy! And welcome to prolific living if this is your first time here.

  • Dragos Roua

    I don’t have waiting hours, even if I do. 😉 Because I reject the concept, I think every little piece of time we have is given to us for a reason. Even if it’s not fitting in our plans, so to speak.

    So, when there are unexpected gaps, for instance when I’m caught in traffic (and this is happening more than often in Bucharest) I usually day dream, or project different realities. I had this thing ever since I was a kid. I like building scenarios, dozens of them. What will happen if… And I project myself into it. Sometimes I even surprise myself talking out loud. There was a time when I was finding this ridiculous. Not anymore. :-)

    • Farnoosh

      Dragos, what a pleasant surprise to see you here. So you reject the waiting concept altogether? That is a bold way of winning – I like it ;)!!
      You know, one thing is true – that we need to brainstorm and come up with tons of ideas in the blogging world and there is nothing like opportunities that force us to do just that. Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing this!

  • Andrew Hill

    Ah, waiting, waiting, waiting. When I find myself waiting for something I expected to have already seen or received, I can become impatient and grumpy. A distraction (any kind of distraction) is often a good solution. But waiting can be a blessing too, as it provides an opportunity to tidy things or organise myself. It is also a time when I can do some self-reflection or a personal audit of my “to do” list. I find those sorts of activities therapeutic and calming.

    Most importantly, though, I think it is helpful to consider whether there is anything I can do to resolve the question on my mind. Any action I can do, I will generally do – no matter how small or insignificant that action might seem. Goal focused action is preferable to distraction, and distraction is much better than psychological paralysis. But, if there seems to be nothing more that can be done, then it is time to focus mind and energy on something else.

    Whatever it is you are waiting for at the moment, Farnoosh, I hope you receive it soon.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Andrew, indeed – waiting, waiting, waiting! Tell me about it. You know, I can agree that the waiting makes time for all of that but what if it’s beyond an hour or two? Do you still wait calmly for the answers to arrive?
      Luckily, my waiting hours are over but the outcome was a bit disappointing. No matter, I like to be more prepared for the waiting phase next time – it’s like a personal conquest – and I’ll keep your words closeby! Thank you so much, dear Andrew.

  • Kara

    Hi Farnoosh,

    Good article. I particularly enjoyed it as I am in a waiting mode about my job situation, and there is a lot of transition going on in all the parts of my life. It is frustrating and seems like it will never end.

    From similar past experiences, I know worrying doesn’t actually help anything. I am not pretending that I have mastered not worrying! But, I do try to concentrate of my focus of what it is I want in the future, after the outcome. To tide myself over, I write about what aspects I want in my future after the outcome, and write about them as they would be in my ideal life, as if it was already happening right now.

    If I am too impatient to do that, I just keep trying to be as creative as I can. Any little creative project – writing, doodling, de-cluttering the house – keeps the energy flowing, so it doesn’t stagnate. If I throw myself into a project it takes my mind off things, and also keeps things moving.

    I hope your situation resolves soon!!


    • Farnoosh

      Dear Kara,
      I know, I know, I really know how you feel. Transitions are tough and those unknown pending job situations can really try our patience.
      Worrying helps nothing at all – no kidding. I love that you integrate writing into your waiting; that would be the most fitting and in fact, come to think of it, that is what I did – hence the post ;)! Thanks so so much for sharing and I hope that your situations resolve beautifully, with all good things coming your way. Thanks for your lovely comment.

  • Vic Hubbard

    Farnoosh, Long ago I learned that time spent waiting was inevitable. I also found that the easiest thing is to move on to whatever is next and that by doing so, the wait is no longer a weight. Time moves much faster if you can accept certain things and take control of what is in front of you. You will know the answer soon enough and in due time.

    • Farnoosh

      Hello dear Vic,
      What? You mean, I have more waiting waiting to happen later in my life? ;)!
      Oh you are absolutely right but reading the written word is still empowering and the emphasis goes a long way so for that, I thank you immensely!

  • Robin

    I love this post and the wonderful comments because I just struggled mightily with this very issue a few weeks ago. It was a business thing, a game of cat and mouse, and I, the cat, was waiting for the mouse to make its next move, and that move could have been disasterous for me. After several hours of obsessing about it, writing about it, talking about it, not sleeping, and finally accepting that I would get an answer on the mouse’s schedule not mine, I decided to do this: ACT AS IF.
    I selected my desired outcome in my mind and moved on to other things as if this had already been resolved, as if things had worked out my way. As soon as I decided this, my worry, self doubt and depression just melted away. It was wonderful. I had several productive yet relaxed days until the answer came. The answer wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but the calm space I created by acting as if made the whole issue seem smaller, less monumental anyway.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Robin,
      Welcome here and thanks so much for sharing your story. And indeed, I love that you *still* were able to see the benefit of calming the nerves during the waiting hours EVEN IF the outcome was not ideal. Mine wasn’t either but no matter, the important thing is learning to refrain from doing damage to our mind and well-being by all the worries. It seems you figured it all out in your cat-and-mouse game and next time, things will turn out just as you want them. I’m adopting your attitude for sure. Thanks a million for sharing!

  • Sibyl-alternaview

    Farnoosh: Really powerful post and it touches on such an important topic. I thought the statements you said at the end were so poignant. Waiting really does strengthen our character even though it may expose some of our vulnerabilities and concerns. I also liked what you shared about striving to meet it on higher ground each time it comes your way. That really is what living and learning is all about. Great post … and thanks for the link :)

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Sibyl, hi!
      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Waiting has its benefits too, I suppose. And there is no way to get better other than raising the bar each time. So indeed, I am expecting a lot better “behavior” from myself next time the waiting comes around. Thanks so much for the lovely words, Sibyl.

  • John Sherry

    Superbly well observed Farnoosh and a gold medal for honesty in the truth Olympics regarding what you do when you personally are waiting. I’m over eager to get on with things despite proof over the years that this is not a wise practice for me – I guess we need to understand our own nature first so that we can then reign it in, tone it down, or even care a tad more, when the waiting game comes to town. So you’ve reminded me how to respond and not to react. Game of cards anyone while we wait for our ships to come in???

    • Farnoosh

      Hello John, are you sending me that gold medal through FedEx? ;)! Oh seriously, that’s very kind of you to say. And I am pleased to read that this is also not fun for you, as we are both really into self-improvement and it takes a bit of courage to admit the areas in which we, well, do not excel. I’d play cards with you if we were waiting and you’d probably win because I would hardly be focused on anything aside from worry! So nice of you to share these thoughts….thank you!

  • nazimwarriach

    Hi Farnoosh,
    What a moody photograph you shared here.
    I spend my waiting hours by walking, thinking about my ideas and playing games on my mobile phone.
    But sometimes waiting hours become too long to pass!

    • Farnoosh

      Nazim, the waiting makes me moody but bravo for having a strategy. I wonder if it would work for my waiting games. And yes, they become far too slow sometimes; I do believe that was the nature of my post.

  • Felicia @ No Deposit Poker

    Hi Farnoosh,
    All I can say is that your post here has asked a question that no one else bothered to ask their readers before. I sometimes am guilty of making other people wait for me when we get together, but personally I don’t like waiting, especially if I have other appointments to attend to.

  • Sinea Pies

    I spent 11 years waiting for an answer to prayer. I knew it would come someday but the “waiting lesson” was huge. I had no idea how long the wait would be (Had I known it would be 11 years, I might have given up. Good thing I didn’t know) but what I finally came to realize is that I could wait and LIVE at the same time. Many great things were going on around me…like my kids…and I needed to enjoy every minute of it. Makes waiting much easier.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Sinea, welcome to prolific living. ELEVEN years?? I can only say that I am delighted that you received what you were awaiting. Today was my last day at an 11 1/2 year career – I resigned two weeks ago to pursue my dreams – and I must tell you that it was a loooong haul. You are beyond patient and I am so thankful you shared this here. Hope to see you again soon. Thank you.

  • Sinea Pies

    Good morning Farnoosh….I am awaiting news on whether I will be granted a summertime break from my job (alas, probably unpaid) to also pursue my writing. Feel the need to focus. It’s a bit scary but I think it’s worth it. I will hear today.

    Have a blessed day!

    • Farnoosh

      Boy do I know how you feel (the need to focus) – I *know* it will be worth it if that is what your heart and soul is telling you to do – to write! And I will be thinking about you and sending you very good vibes. Best of luck, Sinea!

  • Laur @ The Mad To Live

    Hey Farnoosh!
    I first have to say that I can’t believe I haven’t been over to your blog before b/c I see you on Twitter all the time and we have a bunch of mutual friends and after perusing your blog I think you are GREAT!!! You inspire so many people I can see just from the comments and that’s a gift! I’ll definitely be stopping by here more often!

    And as for this post… as tom petty once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” There is one main thing in my life I’m waiting on, and its the one thing I don’t really talk about too much on my blog… love. Or rather, the end of a love that’s played a huge role in my life. I’m stuck right there in the middle, and I can’t seem to go either way, so here I am… just waiting. Really… I don’t need to be waiting… I just need to choose.
    Thanks for giving me something on the deeper side to think about today Farnoosh!
    I’ll talk to you soon!
    LAUR :)

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Laur, it’s so nice to see new people and I am delighted you decided to check out the space here. Thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate them. And I don’t know what to say except that yes, do choose. This is one where you are trading your time in life for something that I think you may know the answer for. There are many forms of love that an old love can take and you may want to explore the right level of that for this relationship. It does not have to be all or nothing, black or white…. but the right decision can help set you free so you can move forward. At least, I do wish you all of that. Come back anytime. I’ll talk to you soon too!

  • Pingback: O the Agony! 5 ways to Keep The Travel Joy Going as you Await your Big Trip()

  • Pingback: Sleep Hacking | 21-Day 4:30am Early Rising Challenge()