Step one (and two): fill the kettle and turn it on. Listen to it burble while beginning to type. There’s a lot waiting in this weird world. Even deciding to sit and sip a cup of tea takes time. Maybe that’s the best way to wonder and ponder about the rest of 2020.
The world waits for news about the coronavirus. Are there just a few scattered cases, or will clear out every big box store while preparing for a quarantine that may not happen? We wait, and buy.
Climate change is accelerating, but climactic change takes decades, or has already become apparent in some regions. For the folks for whom it is affecting, they wait for institutional responses to cover what individuals can’t. (Pardon me, time to pour hot water over dead leaves. Set timer for 4:44 because I’m too lazy to take the time to hit the 0s for 4:00.) For the rest of us, climate change is something that will probably change lifestyles, too; but the urgency is lacking because it looks like we can delay (even though it may already be too late.) Some are already moving, self-appointed climate refugees. Many more wait for more news.
Politics has become an every moment issue swinging on tweets and memes; but for people in the US who aren’t running campaigns or involved in the major parties, there’s little to do except wait until November. (Beep, beep, goes the alarm. Sipping will commence after heat transfer transfers some of that heat to the local climate. I’ll wait so I don’t scald my mouth.) Only 245 days until the US Presidential election. That’s 245 days of waiting to vote. Add a few to find out who won, assuming the election isn’t a chaotic mess. Only 323 days until the US Presidential inauguration. That’s 324 days of waiting to see if the US will have a lawful and peaceful transfer of power. A lot of life decisions are waiting on that outcome.
(Oops. Mutiny Bay Blend, the tea, is still too hot. Must wait longer.)
Economies are hard to judge and measure. It takes months to aggregate data, which is why recessions are announced months after they’ve begun. For a couple of years, as this recovery extends and possibly over-extends, there has been talk of an inevitable recession. Recessions, really almost any economic trend, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy because humans are human and don’t always only react to objective data and analyses.
The financial markets don’t wait. They trade on nano-second intervals. As rumors run around the world, the markets are playing bumper cars with each other as traders try to outguess the randonmess of today’s chaos. Not a stabilizing force. Traders value volatility, even when nothing is volatile.
Because of the markets and the economy and who is going to rule the world (or at least one major chunk of it) it is understandable if people wait, redirect, and actively manage their plans.
If you are old enough, think back to the months before the Great Recession (the Second Great Depression). What did you do then? Now that you’ve seen the recession and the recovery, what advice would your today-self give your then-self? Regardless of what I would do, ask yourself what you did, what you could’ve done, and maybe get an idea of what to do now.
Knowing what I know now, I should’ve hung onto FFIV, then bought a house for cash. Knowing what I knew then, I knew I had to move out of that rental as quickly as possible for health reasons that are too scary to describe. Financial health traded for medical health.
The tradeoffs aren’t as easy as one-answer-fits-all. No one knows you better than you know your self.
Finally, the tea is at just the right temperature.
Waiting is one way to gather all of the data, read the analyses – and watch the world go by until it is too late to act. Rather like letting tea get too cold.
Acting impulsively is one way to gamble on trends, taking on risk in the hope of an eventual reward that others will be too late to acquire. That can be like drinking the tea before it cools. You can burn yourself that way.
Today I’m waiting on news from at least three sets of clients, feedback about a writing assignment or two, and postponing some work items (like publishing my latest photo essay book, Twelve Months at Possession Beach) until I get paid. Waiting can be the only response, sometimes.
Waiting isn’t easy. It is one of those human qualities that are virtues and values and hard to exercise. Patience takes practice.
Acting isn’t easy. Making decisions, committing to them, then acting on a plan can be intimidating enough that it becomes easier to talk and plan – and notice that something changed in the meantime so talk and plan – and repeat – and never act.
There are billions of people. There are billions of balancing points between waiting and acting. The benefit we have is the ability to access memories and histories. Events spiral and echo. This time isn’t like the last time, ever. I look back at my responses to hopefully guide me to wiser decisions about personal choices. I can read and study history about how climate and politics disrupted governments and individual citizens. Frequently governments have fallen. No government has been immortal. The species survives, however, and I see lessons in how individuals adapted.
People say “I can’t wait.”, which is ironic because that’s usually said about things where waiting is required. I don’t know how the virus, the climate, politics, and the economy are going to change. But I can move when it is to my advantage, position myself for the most likely scenarios, and wait for the rest.
About an hour after I started typing, my tea is cold enough to turn into iced tea if I had some ice cubes. That’s OK. If I tried to optimize the time for my tea consumption there’d probably be one moment when I should drain the cup. Life doesn’t work that way. Act, wait, act, wait. Boil, steep, wait, sip, wait, wait, enjoy, wait, finish.
Finish my cup, post this article (and share using the hashtag #TomTea), then see what’s happened in the meantime. I see Notifications blinking at me. They can wait just a little while longer.