• Matt Harrison

The Waiting Place

I'm under 45, so I am waiting — waiting one more week until I'll be eligible to receive my first dose of the vaccine, and I honestly don't care which one I get because, as my editor Nikki Mantell rightly reiterated in her editorial last week, “the best vaccine is the first vaccine you can get.”


But waiting is hard. We're not used to waiting. As Dr. Seuss insightfully wrote in “Oh, the Places You'll Go,” we enjoy our “race down long wiggled roads at break-necking pace.” Up until last year, we experienced “waiting” individually, most of us racing at “break-necking pace.” Since the pandemic ground everything to a halt, we're now collectively experiencing “the most useless place. The Waiting Place.”


We're waiting for vaccine appointments; to hear if schools and businesses stay closed or will re-open; to see family and friends, to travel; for COVID test results...

And we don't like it.


When faced with crises, humans want to act; we want to do something to help. When the rivers flooded a few years ago, I rushed to the aid of my in-laws who lived along the Gatineau River to help sandbag their home. Despite the rising waters and the feeling of powerlessness against nature, it still felt good to be doing something.

In this pandemic, we're told that the best way to help is to do nothing. We have to stay at home and wait — unless you're a frontline worker. And while we wait, we're experiencing a new kind of 'feeling' — it's not depression nor is it burnout, it's languishing.


According to a recent New York Times article by Adam Grant, languishing is that 'blah' feeling that's a mix of stagnation and emptiness, “it's the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being.”


“You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work,” writes Grant.


The solution? There isn't really. You can't, as Seuss suggests, “escape all that waiting and staying [by finding] the bright places where Boom Bands are playing” because those Boom Bands are super-spreader events.


Instead Grant suggests that we acknowledge our waiting-languishing state, and, by doing so, there's something cathartic to that:


“We still have a lot to learn about what causes languishing and how to cure it, but naming it might be a first step. It could help to defog our vision, giving us a clearer window into what had been a blurry experience. It could remind us that we aren’t alone: languishing is common and shared.”


And so, taking Grant's advice, I suggest a healthy, honest, 2021 revisioning of Seuss's The Waiting Place, acknowledging that we're all...


Waiting for AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna to arrive

Or the age to be lowered, so we might just survive

Or a school to open or the sun to shine

Or for a picky shopper to make up their mind

Waiting for a test result, yes or no

Or just waiting for COVID to go…

Everyone is just waiting.