Patience is a problem. Something there is that wants immediacy. We spend a lifetime becoming sophisticated, that word that denotes the ability to overcome reaction by virtue of considered response. But ‘sophistication’ came to connote an affected veneer, a modality of dress and behaviour, a meme of collected attitudes. And patience, perceived as the lot of the plodding, the impoverished, the reptilian, the imprisoned, became not so much a virtue as an imposition. We want what we want and we want it now.
At 90 years old Nancy does a dance. It is a dance of the immediate, and the myriad checks she has in her mind move in a continuum as though on a spreadsheet against which she ticks off the steps. Curtains closed, blinds drawn, doors locked, birthday book checked, stamps and postage and phone calls, time for tea! The itemization of our lives is necessary to all of us. We have timetables for schoolchildren, for buses, for the work-place. We have scheduled maintenance for our vehicles, our health, our dentists. We are creatures of habit as surely as there are game trails in the wild that are as discernible as footpaths. It all is necessary and usual and normal. And if it is the speed with which the one may pursue an objective down the road that differentiates us, then it is the inner music to which we dance that differentiates us too. One likes to waltz, another likes to twist. But eventually, summers end. Such is the winter of our discontent.
Creatures of habit, we grumble at change. Weather affects us. Other’s intrusions on our vein of thought, of work, of doing, are like an unexpected knock at the door. Now what? And while not all interruptions are unpleasant, some interruptions have the effect of entirely discombobulating one. Creatures of regularity, we do not adjust easily to having our own pace affected. Some drivers I’ve known have a certain anger toward almost every other vehicle on the road. Other drivers have shown themselves so overly cautious that there is little sense of flow. And some people just hate it when they’ve returned from a shopping venture but forgot to get the milk. We find it difficult to celebrate the 99 sheep safe in the fold, but must berate ourselves for having lost the one we left perhaps in the car, or did not look for in the first place. Patience is a learned modality. Children come by it not as a natural thing. And adults practice it with the wisdom of lessons of the long ago, and sometimes not so well learned at that.
A perception of wasted time, wasted energy, wasted interest, wasted effort, wasted words, wasted intentions, wasted generosity, wasted potential, wasted petrol, wasted food, wasted money all drives our impatience-metres to various levels of unhappiness. How to accept, absorb, assimilate, include, allow for, and integrate everything into a pleasant state of compliance with what is? Rather, we rail against the ‘damn ring of that bloody telephone’. Thing is, should the voice at the other end be familiar and loving, we are just ‘so happy you rang’. Perception and patience do a dance together. When all the music is on the same page (for a change) the entire orchestration of events is of an accord.
Without the intention of learning from each and every smallest thing we are indeed very slow to change. We do not have the patience to subsume ourselves to the lessons. We want what we want. And though ants and worms and weevils and cockroaches and crows and sparrows and clouds and noisy neighbours be our guides, we persist with our complaints against our taskmasters, rather than allowing them to be the teachers toward a smile, that authentic smile of the truly patient. Acceptance is all. Patience calls.