I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write yet another “waiting” post. I was hoping that something would shake loose and “Ben” would follow his friends into freedom. Failing that, I was hoping I would be able to turn my creative energies in other directions to so that I would find something totally different to write about.
Neither has happened, although something could happen any minute. See, that is the problem: the expectation that something could happen any minute. Not good.
I have a certain sympathy for all those people stuck in quarantine limbo during this coronavirus scare. I can even imagine what it is like waiting to hear about a loved one who has gone missing. And of course I have a great deal of empathy for refugees and would-be immigrants stuck in detention for months and even years—the prison sentences of unknown terms.
My personal waiting is nothing compared to those situations. And yet, I have some insight into the effects of waiting.
It is felt in the body. Maybe the spine curves, shoulders ache, maybe the solar plexus tightens.
It is felt in the breath. Anxious, shallow, nervous.
It is felt in the spirit. “Dispirited” is the word that comes to mind. A dissipation of energy, a weight of melancholy, an edginess that can lash out at the least provocation. Unsettled.
Attention shortens, wanders. The thing you are waiting for is always at the periphery.
I haven’t made note of these symptoms before because, as I am quick to say, it isn’t all that bad for me. I am not the one in indefinite detention, reassured by an officer who says he’ll get to my case in 3 or 4 days and then 9 days roll by with no word, and my friends have all been released by their officers for weeks now. I am only the sponsor-in-waiting.
But yesterday I noticed something. It was a little thing, again. It was the difference between waiting for two things and waiting for one thing.
The one thing, of course, is waiting for Ben’s Deportation Officer to decide whether to parole or bond him out. But added to that was a second thing. Ten days ago, in anticipation of Ben’s possibly imminent release, I had sent a donated phone we had set up for him to use as soon as he got out and was making his way across the country. I sent it Priority Mail, to someone in El Paso who would handle the logistics at that end–meet him at the detention center, put him up for a few days and book him standby on Southwest, which is flying our released detainees free of charge to Chicago.
I sent the phone on a Monday and it was supposed to get there on Wednesday. It didn’t. It wasn’t there on Thursday, either. And then the contact person did not communicate at all on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.
Meanwhile I looked for my Priority Mail receipt with the tracking number. I could not find it. I never throw those things out.
By yesterday, I was going a little nuts about this, as well as about the fact that Ben might be hearing from his officer that day since it was the first such opportunity after the President’s Day long weekend. I texted to the contact person, “I take it the phone still hasn’t arrived?”
Several hours later she texted, “We received the package. Our office was closed extra days for the extended holiday weekend, but I have it now.”
What I noticed is that, with the second thing off my waiting agenda, the first thing became bearable. I stopped expecting Ben to be released and was pretty calm the rest of the day.
Ben wasn’t released but he was as cheerful as ever when he phoned last evening. I don’t know how he keeps his spirits up. He credits his faith and the fact that people are praying for him. I also know that he has been through much worse on his journey up to this point.
I guess it’s all relative. We make our own mountains out of what to others might be molehills. But they are our mountains. And when we are able to climb them even partway, they don’t seem so high.