Language has power. The words and phrases that we regularly repeat instruct us as to how we should feel and what we should think.. Words are not harmless. Despite the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” words regularly break bones and crush souls. Often, our own soul is the one that our own words crush. Words we speak, whether to others or to ourselves belie what is going on internally. Words communicate stress, such as “I am just worried that….” When I hear someone speak those words regularly, I am usually looking at a person who struggles with anxiety. Words communicate discontent, like “I wish that….”
How about the phrase, “I can’t wait until …”? I use that phrase way too often. “I can’t wait until summer.” “I can’t wait until our vacation.” I can’t wait until John makes that decision.” Most of the time, “can’t wait” is harmless. Yet it hints at a deeper issue. I am always looking forward, away from the present. For me, the grass that is greener on the other side is always in the future, until the future comes. Then, I find other green grass to pine for. If I pause and consider this for a moment, it is sad. Beauty abounds every day. Life presents us its gifts every day. Today is not meant to be rushed through but embraced. Even the really hard days are precious gifts: hard days of wrangling small children running crazy, hard days of walking with a loved one suffering in pain, hard days grinding through monotonous work.
“Can’t wait” also communicates nagging discontentment. A twin cousin to “can’t wait” is “If only….” For me, these phrases sow seeds of frustration in small, insidious ways. It breeds ungratefulness. “Can’t wait” language lures me to become exasperated with matters that make no real difference in my life. I will think, “I can’t wait until that construction is finished” regarding some random building being built along my normal ride to work.
The wrong response is to beat myself up over these imperfections. We all have our shortcomings. If I reflect, though, without condemnation, I realize that “can’t wait” robs me of joy and peace. Rather than berate myself, I hope to open my eyes to the gift of today. I am even working on changing my language. A subtle change like saying “I look forward to …” instead of “I can’t wait” internally communicates optimism instead of discontentment.
For a while I had a habit of waking up each morning and quoting to myself a Bible verse, “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps. 118:24) When I did this, it centered me. I could physically feel how my spirit expanded when I would quote those words. I opened my eyes to what was ahead of me that day. I was more present in meetings with friends or co-workers. That was one of the better habits I practiced.
The truth is we can wait. All of our impatience will not make the clock tick faster. The future will come before we know it. And so, today:
- Take a few moments; take several deep breaths and relax. It won’t take long to lower your stress one notch.
- Decide not to rush today. Get started slightly earlier and take it a little slower. I assure you that you will get just as much down, just without the angst.
- Work to reframe that distasteful task you have or that difficult meeting by deciding to fully engage in it.
Claim the following affirmations:
- I can wait for the future. I will enjoy the anticipation of tomorrow without forgetting the value of this day.
- I will be present today. I will rejoice in today.
- I will embrace the good and the hard that comes with today.
Have a good day today!