• We might wait for the 'perfect time' to change, without stopping to realise the barriers that are holding us back are inside ourselves

  • Counsellor Sandra Hilton explores what it means to let go and embrace change

“I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.
I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.
I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task
I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.
I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.
I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.
I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.
I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.
I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.
I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.
I am no longer waiting to be recognised; I know that I dance in a holy circle.
I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I believe”

Mary Anne Perrone’s poem reminds us that life is for living. That line “I am no longer waiting…..” embodies the timidity with which many of us live our lives. Waiting for an elusive time or state that we imagine, or have been promised, and which feels like personal failure each time it doesn’t arrive. 

I remember when I was seven or eight, we had two living rooms in our small terraced house – one for daily use, and one for guests. For a time, we children weren’t allowed into the light airy room with plush sofas and bouncy carpet. We spent our time at home in the back room, containing two metal framed brown chairs (there were three of us) and a table with a view through the north facing window onto the concrete garden. We were waiting for those special occasions when people would come to visit and we could move into the light. It was a rare occurrence. Until one day, we expanded our living into the front room, and suddenly it was no longer out of bounds. 

I have no idea what changed. Maybe mum had a moment where she felt “I am no longer waiting for guests to arrive….we shall be guests in our own home?” or she was just tired of us clamouring to sit in the “posh” room and gave in to our child demands which don’t wait so readily? What I do remember is that there was a fear of us “spoiling” the room: an idea that it needed to be preserved to look immaculate, rather than lived in. 

This story of things needing to be perfect reveals a lot about my own waiting patterns. I have been unpicking, unpacking, untangling these patterns over the last few years and found many current responses to the poem, including these: I am no longer waiting for my judge to let up.

She’s here to stay and we’re learning to live together. I am no longer waiting to be the perfect creature in body, mind and soul.

I’m daring to unfold the human version of myself. I am no longer waiting for the fully formed idea to arrive.

I’m sitting at my desk scrapbooking fragments of what is true for me. I am no longer waiting to get it right before I speak.

I want to hear my true voice, and find forgiveness if and where it may offend. I am no longer waiting to read all the books/listen to all the podcasts/watch all the programmes that will make me an expert.

I trust that the wisdom I have is both enough and always expanding. I am no longer waiting for the world to approve of me.

I approve of myself. I wonder what your own responses to this tantalising invitation might be? What is it that you no longer wish to wait for? Waiting may sometimes be wise, but often we wait when we’re afraid. And there is plenty to be afraid of right now. 

Author Deena Metzger writes: 'Beginning is difficult. We are afraid of failing. We are afraid we will have nothing to say. We are afraid that what we will say will be banal or boring. We are afraid it may endanger us. We are afraid it may be a lie. We are afraid that what we say may be the truth. We are afraid of succeeding. We are afraid no one will notice. We are afraid someone will learn what we’ve said – and it may be ourselves. We are afraid there will be consequences. We are afraid we will pay attention. We are afraid we will have to change our lives. We are afraid we won’t be able to change. We are most afraid we will. It is right that we are afraid. If we are fortunate, we will say something, it will be the truth, it will be eloquent, it will have power to it, we will listen, and we will change our lives.'

As Metzger says, it is right that we are afraid. Our fear-based responses have a place, but that place is not in the driving seat. Carl Jung said it more strongly in his book Symbols of Transformation: 'The spirit of evil is negation of the life force by fear.' Jungian analyst James Hollis expands on this in his book The Middle Passage and speaks of it in his interview with Tami Simon in the podcast Insights from the Edge: 'Every morning, two gremlins at the foot of the bed, challenging us and threatening us, fear and lethargy. Fear says, it’s too much, it’s too big for you. You can’t handle this life. And lethargy says, chill out. Tomorrow’s another day, turn on the television, try to be distracted if you can.” And both of them are the enemies of life, and they’ll be there again tomorrow, no matter what you do today. So we have to realise they are inside of us. The biggest enemies to life are inside of us: fear and lethargy. If we can address that life opens up and begins to be what it’s supposed to be, in my view, the unfolding of the gem that each of us embodies in this world.” As I think about how this resides inside of me, I can feel the definitive statement of Hollis hitting up against my own very real fear which is always here. As is the lethargy. So then another response to the poem begins to percolate: I am no longer waiting for the fear to leave.

I will feel scared and begin anyway. I find that working with these poetry lines illuminates the internal conflict, and speaking them out loud then breathes a space into the contracted place. So I feel the fear – I feel the longing for her to leave – and the acknowledgement that she’s here to stay. So then, I don’t blast through the fear, but get closer to it. 

As I do that, I recognise that this fear is rooted in the early messaging of needing to be perfect for the world. I also know that this isn’t true for me as an adult in the same way that it was true for my mum. So I soothe the frightened one. I tell her of the world we’re creating now where there is joy and love and connection as well as disappointment, sadness, anger and grief. I share what I’ve learned along the way with the scared child who’s trying to shut me down. 

For working with, not through, our fears, is what the world needs from each of us. Until we can work with our internal adversaries, the internal 'others', we are unable to relate to those 'out there' who may also challenge us, block us, get in our way and the splits that we are witnessing right now will grow ever deeper. What is it that you’re no longer waiting for in this fresh new year?

Sandra Hilton is a verified welldoing.org counsellor in London and online

Further reading

Managing loss and inevitable transitions

How hands-on bodywork helped me navigate change

3 steps to challenge your limiting self-beliefs

How coaching can help you thrive in times of change

The neuroscience of change: why changing direction is hard to do