Michelle Martin

The places in between

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

It might be a guilty secret, but I love waiting.

Maybe not so much waiting in line, where I have to stand up and pay attention to the people around me so as to keep the line moving, but waiting in a doctor’s office — so long as I’m not there for anything especially scary — or in an airport or train station or, when my kids have had various activities, in the lobby of an ice rink or pool complex or in my car out in the parking lot.

When I’m waiting, I can just be. No one is expecting me to do anything else, to answer the phone or to create a meal or snack in less than five minutes from whatever is on hand. I can read, or do a puzzle, or just get lost in my head for a while.

I also have worked while I wait, making phone calls and writing, but somehow, it feels different at a coffee shop where I’m killing time than it does in my office or at my desk at home.

I’ve even been known to sneak in a quick nap.

If I’m waiting, I don’t even have to worry about being late; I am already where I need to be.

I spent a couple of hours this week waiting for Teresa at a shopping mall, in the suburbs nearly an hour from home. She went to meet up with friends from summer camp, and they enjoyed wandering the mall on their own, spending time in the arcade and food court and Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Sitting at a high-top table near the Starbucks, I worked and read and exchanged occasional small talk with the woman who shared the table, who was waiting for her own set of teenagers.

Actually, that day came with two pleasures: Time to wait, and a long, boring car ride with my teenager. Nothing works better to get them to talk, even if it’s just about the vibes given by different Hamilton and Taylor Swift songs.

Maybe the car is also an interstitial space, a place in between that is neither here nor there, a place where teenagers and their parents feel more able to be who they are because there is no role for them to perform in that moment.

In a way, the whole week between Christmas and New Years often feels the same way: The build-up to Christmas is over, school is out, many people are off work and the world takes on a slower pace. It’s a time to breathe, a time to be, before the revelry of New Year’s Eve and the hard post-holiday landing back into the usual rhythms of life, this time with resolutions.

For me, this is the time to listen, to pay attention to what God is telling you, to hear the messages that don’t break through the noise of everything else that has to be done. To think about what God, who loves you for who you are instead of what you do, wants for you.

Then you can be ready to throw yourself back into the busyness of the rest of the year.


  • family life