noun [mass noun]
1 the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or event: years of waiting.
One of the aspects of borderline that I have yet to find an effective way to cope with is waiting. I am absolutely hopeless whenever I have to wait for anything (hardly surprising when I consider how impulse driven we can be), and despite my normal aptitude for multi-tasking I am virtually incapable of doing or thinking about anything outside of waiting for what ever it is I am waiting for.
My wife and I are, for the third time in two years, trying to sell our house. Knowing what to expect does not – I repeat does not – make it any easier whatsoever. The first time we tried to sell, we had just missed the buy-to-let boom that was hoovering up all the one-beds. The second time was shortly after Brexit and the market was pretty much dead. Viewings were few and far between, but for each one, in true borderline style, I shed blood sweat and tears (figuratively speaking) ensuring that our home was immaculate: I moved things from the corridor so people didn’t feel the space was tight; I hid our trinkets and kitsch so it didn’t seem cluttered; I hid the dog beds, dog bowls, dog toys, the dogs, so there wasn’t a trace of anything dog; I polished windows, mirrors, and glasses; I turned on cosy and atmospheric lights and I burned a butterscotch candle till just before I left the house as the next best thing to homemade bread wafting throughout the kitchen. You name it, I did it until our house was almost unrecognisable. All in the name of our pristine home being The One that the viewer could not live without.
And then I waited. The same painstaking kind of waiting I had done when waiting for the agent to call to say they had a viewer. Even though I sit by the phone, or carry the phone around with me, I still pick it up at regular intervals to check it didn’t ring and I somehow missed it. And even though I can see I haven’t missed a call, I still check the answer phone every now and then just in case. I consider distraction techniques; wash up, walk the dogs (again), have a shower – no, no shower because I won’t be able to hear the phone, do some writing. I consider them, briefly, and then go back to waiting. Worrying. Waiting. Checking. Panicking. Checking. Wondering what I need to do differently, additionally, next time. Waiting.
With this third attempt to sell, we have had two viewings in just over a week – the market has shifted, slightly, unlike my ability to be patient whilst getting on with all the other things I need to be getting on with. As each minute and hour passes I feel increasingly frustrated, disappointed, angry and resentful, and overriding all of these is an accumulative desperation.
It is a hard thing to describe, and it is an even harder thing to live with, although it doesn’t feel like I live at all when I am waiting for something. Rather, all life is suspended while I wait: I see life going on around me but I cannot participate – I am far too busy, too preoccupied, indispensable. There is absolutely no space in my brain or my life, for anything that is not directly related to what I am waiting for.
The good news is, I do have brief moments of respite when my brain can stand down. Mainly because I know what time the Estate Agent opens and closes. So when I wake in the morning, I have until 8am (usually just before) where I don’t need to wait because there is nobody in the office yet. Likewise, around 7.30pm I begin to accept that I can stand down in anticipation of them closing at 8pm. Although this respite is not what it used to be (the office hours used to be 9am-6pm and sadly I recently discovered that the Estate Agents are also open 9-4 on Saturdays and Sundays), it is a breathing space none the less and I can relax, my brain can switch off, and I can do things other than wait.
This trait is, quite literally, debilitating. Twice this last week I have been close to self-harming out of sheer desperation and frustration. I have conversations with myself. I tell myself all the things anyone else would tell me but it makes little difference. If anything, it adds to my sense of failure because I see the logic but cannot apply it in this instant. There is little that can help me when I am in the throes of waiting.
My wife and I have discussed this excruciating disposition of mine and she, quite reasonably, suggested I just don’t expect any viewings to come to anything: We might not actually sell at all; If we haven’t heard anything by now, we’re probably not going to. All things logical and rational and undeniably true, yet I can not make myself stop waiting, obsessing, for the phone to ring. I know, cognitively, that the phone will ring – or it will not. I know that if I don’t hear the phone ring, a message will be left. I know that I should get on with everything else I should be getting on with. I know that if we do get a buyer it is only the beginning of a long, long line of waiting. I know all of this, but I don’t know how to turn off the switch in my brain that puts life on hold because we have a thing to wait for.
I know the rationale behind all of the reasoning my wife presents me with whenever I ask her why we haven’t yet got a buyer. I don’t really need to hear it again. What I need is to vent that small vapour of steam; to ask my question, rhetorically (because of course she has no idea why we don’t have a buyer yet), and for her to simply acknowledge that I am waiting, and that I feel as though the waiting killing me. I don’t need her to fix me or make things better – it would be nice, but I know there is nothing whilst I am in ‘waiting’ mode that can make anything better other than, in this case, an offer on the house! I just need her to know that I’m struggling, that I’m trying to keep my head above water, my feet on the ground, and I’m finding it almost impossible to do much else. I need to be able to tell her how it is for me, inside my head, without being told what I know already, or without feeling stupid or wrong. That’s all I need.
I need it to not be a dirty great secret that I am embarrassed to admit because actually, I do feel stupid, and I do feel wrong. I feel ridiculous by how paralysed I become and how dysfunctional this trait makes me. I feel ashamed when my wife comes home from work and I’ve barely managed to complete the washing up from the morning. I feel useless because I cannot combat this, and I cannot avoid the trap because waiting is an integral part of life.
I need to be honest, and I need to be heard. That’s all I need. Until I find a cure, then I need the cure. Oh, and a buyer for the house – I need that too.