The Longest 30 Seconds of Your Life

I heard comedian Yakov Smirnoff on the radio talking about his career and how he was invited to write jokes for Ronald Reagan during the Cold War. Before immigrating to the U.S. from the Soviet Union, Smirnoff had been required to submit all his jokes to the Department of Humor in his communist country. Sex, politics, and religion were off-limits. Now he was being given the creative freedom to write a joke for the president of the United States to deliver at the 1988 Moscow Summit.

He described listening as Reagan delivered his joke to the crowd:

“It’s said that if the angels kissed a baby’s head, he was blessed with intelligence. If they kissed a baby’s mouth, he was blessed with the gift of speaking. A kiss on the hands made a great artist. I’m not sure what part of these men the angels kissed, but they spend a lot of time sitting around.”

Then came a silence that stretched on and on. The delay was the time it took to translate the joke from English to Russian. Smirnoff described it as the longest 30 seconds of his life.

When the crowd laughed, he was flooded with relief.

Hearing this story made me think about how I sometimes feel I’m in the longest 30 seconds of my life, when I’m so focused on a specific reaction or outcome that I almost forget to breathe. Or when I’m in a time of transition, when I’ve put myself out there and I’m afraid my efforts will fall flat, or go nowhere.

When I worked at the Ruby Room in Chicago, the woman who hired me was a well-established intuitive. As we were chatting one day about being stuck in one of life’s pauses, she said matter-of-factly that the standard time frame for manifestation is 18 months, that it takes roughly that long for a desire or intention to be delivered into our experience.

I was skeptical. How can anyone know such a thing? It seemed arbitrary and slightly foolish. And yet, it gave me a lot of comfort. Even today her words, whether true or not, come back to me when I’m feeling impatient or wishing my understanding would stop lagging so far behind my experience.

Smirnoff used his experiences and lack of understanding to make people laugh. His comic persona was perpetually confused and delighted. He acted as if everything he encountered in America was meant especially for him. He even took his name from a billboard that said “America loves Smirnoff.”

Maybe the next time I find myself in the longest 30 seconds of my life, waiting to see if my efforts will be rewarded, I’ll remember that the joy is in knowing that all that’s occurring has my name on it and is meant for my good.

Even the pauses.

Tammy Letherer is a writing coach who wants to help you find your voice, whether in a blog or a book. She is the author of one novel, Hello Loved Ones, and an upcoming memoir, The Buddha at my Table. Contact her if you have a story that deserves to be shared. Follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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