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Hurry Up and Wait

The definition of “hurry up and wait” is “a humorous phrase used to refer to the situation in which one is forced to hurry in order to complete a certain task, or arrive at a certain destination, by a specified time; only for nothing to happen at that time, often because other required tasks are still awaiting completion. The phrase may have originated in the United States military in the 1940s. Many U.S. military veterans, in particular, consider this phrase to be synonymous with military culture.” (Wikipedia)


In my eight years in the military, I heard this phrase repeatedly. This phrase usually came up in training events where we had to report at 5:00 a.m. to only stand around for 2 hours until the training instructors were ready. Or, we finished our tasks and assignments for the day and had to sit around waiting for the next set of guidance. At all times, being physically and mentally ready in any minute to do what we were told and do it perfectly.


I believe “hurry up and wait” is the exact position we are in now during the unprecedented times of this pandemic. If you are still working but now 100 percent at home, you have to perform all of your daily tasks at the same level of process you had in an office but yet you have no idea when you will have to start your former daily routine all over – the routine of waking up early, getting you and your family dressed, fed, and out the door, survive the elements and the commute, to sit in an office at a desk doing the same work you have been doing at home for the past months.


Or you had a business that was abruptly closed and boarded up. You halted all deliveries and orders and are waiting to see when you can call your vendors and restock the shelves and open the delivery apps to serve people.


Times are so different right now and I believe as we hurry up and wait, our emotional bandwidth is being tested. In one sense, we are grieving our former lives that either we wanted to be better or we were in love with. And, in opposition to that, we are preparing ourselves for either a new, un-requested start or a new routine that serves the parts of our new normal that remain.


Susan David, PhD says that the only way through grief is through it. We cannot go around it, we cannot avoid it, and we cannot suppress it. If we do, those particles of grief that irritate us will continually show up. Susan David says you “have to show up to grief” but when we do so, grief holds the promise that you “will forget me” and you will experience joy thereafter.

Going “through” grief allows us to process those emotions we have attached to whatever it is we lost – your routine, your job, a loved one, or the stability your former life gave you. Emotional agility effects our emotional bandwidth; meaning if we do not process what we are going through and acknowledge those emotions, we will not be able to have space for future emotions.


As we sit in this pandemic, we have to go through the grief that we feel for our former lives and we have to hurry up and wait to see what the government officials prepare for our new lives, and then create emotional agility to deal with whatever our new lives bring. Change is good. Change is not comfortable for everyone but change, if you accept it, brings hope and new opportunities for growth, happiness, and abilities.


As leaders, we must create the environment where change will be tolerated, supported, and accepted as we ask our connected humans to “hurry up and wait” for the new normal. We have to dig deep into our emotional agility and show up for our networks.

Emotional agility also allows us to say, “I am not ok” and I always say “sitting in where we are” allows us to process it, acknowledge it, and get through it.


Emotional agility does not allow us to continuously ruminate on all the attached previous “I am not ok” moments and then jump into the black barrel and despair while leaving our ladder inaccessible.


There are days where getting dressed is too frustrating for me. There are days where braving public transportation in the pouring rain is overwhelming. And then, there are days were the thought of having to deal with “that person” again brings thoughts to my mind that I should call in sick. Some days, I cave to those feelings. However, most days, I show up to…those feelings, to my despair, to my grief, to my hope, to my future…and say not today.

As we “hurry up and wait” for whatever our future holds when we can safely emerge from our social distancing bubbles, we need to massage our emotional agility, walk through our grief of our former lives, and look forward to the gracious changes our lives hold for us. Change is good if we process it and show up.


As Susan David also says, “emotions are data.” Let us walk through our grief, hurry up and wait for our new lives, and use our emotions at every step as data in which we analyze and process to strengthen our emotional agility.




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© 2023 by Rochelle M. Howard Esq, MBA.