The Power of The Linger

Stuart McLean, host of the CBC’s Vinyl Café, spoke about the joys of lingering on his show this past Saturday.

“It’s not procrastination, it’s enjoying the moment you’re in,” he said. “Lingering is an attempt to let life slip out of time for a bit. It’s about letting go and engaging at the same time. About being imbued with the present rather than focusing on the future.”

For me, linger is a word that holds anticipation and promise. Like if you wait long enough, something special will happen. The first time you met the man or woman of your dreams, you let your hand linger a moment longer than usual when you shook hands. When you’re with a group of people you enjoy, you linger until the end, not wanting to be the one to shatter the mood and cause the whole group to disperse. At a book signing or lecture, I will often linger just to get a chance to meet the author or speaker for a few minutes – something those people who raced out the door never get to do. And I’ve gotten some sage advice from the people I spoke with. Who says lingerers aren’t productive?

Over the last several years, I’ve become a lingerer. I take things at a slower pace. The best times to linger are at a coffee shop with a notebook and pen, my iPod, and an empty schedule. My life slips out of time, and I float. I can actually get more done when I have this time, than when I have to rush off somewhere. Or taking a slow walk around the neighborhood with my kids, just being imbued with the present – with their presence. They pick up sticks and rocks and ask all sorts of questions. And when I’m lingering, I can answer them. When I’m in a hurry, we don’t even get to walk.

Someone recently asked on Smaller Indiana how we use social networking to our benefit. I use the power of the linger.

My best conversations come at the end of gatherings and meetings I attend. When I go to large gatherings, like Rainmakers, I meet some excellent people during our allotted time. But the best meetings happen at the end, when everyone else has fled to their next appointment.

We talk about our work, our families, our hobbies, and I learn about who they are, not what they can do for me. Those are the people I remember. Those are the people I want to help. Not the ones who rush around as if they’re in a race. Not the ones who are competing to see how many business cards they can hand out. I like the people who linger with me because they’re real people, not a 2” x 3.5” piece of cardstock. If only there was a way to put the last 20 minutes of a meeting at the beginning, I could do a whole lot more of it.

But my best meetings – my favorite meetings – are when I meet someone for coffee or lunch, and we linger over our time together. I get to learn a lot about that person during that lingering time. We talk about writing, books, music, art, families, and careers. I know I’m having a good time when I look up and it’s 20 minutes past the time I’ve allotted for the meeting. Which is why I don’t schedule anything immediately after a meeting.

Because I never want to miss the linger.