Patience is a virtue, a phrase believed to have originated from the poem “Piers Plowman,” written in 136O by English poet William Langland. Willie should only know the trouble I’ve had with that particular virtue.
One of the quips my son Dan repeated often to me that got a laugh but was said in all seriousness, was SLOW DOWN TURBO. Slow down, you’re rushing dinner. Slow down, you’re speeding in the car. Slow down, you’re speaking too fast.
My sister’s main complaint that she’s always had about our relationship was that I was too quick to get off the phone and too quick to leave after a visit and when we were kids, just plain too quick. What offended her was that instead of saying, well that’s about it or been really nice talking to ya’, or it was a lovely time together but I have to go now, I would just say okI’mleavingbye. It wasn’t just the way I said goodbye to her. That’s how I leave and say goodbye to everyone.
I tried to trace the origin of my speedy behavior and all I could really come up with was that in my family there was a value to being quick. You didn’t have to actually know any facts or have any answers but you had to be the first one in the room to respond. So while my sister stayed thoughtful l learned to be fast on the draw. It was as if, if you waited to think you’d lose the audience. There was no time for waiting.
So waiting was synonymous with slow motion, molasses, being a loser.
I remember in my early gardening days I planted asparagus and as I watched and waited for the precious fruit to emerge, I found out that it takes two years for the darn thing to flower. I was annoyed at the time, thinking I never would have planted something that I had to wait for it to bloom, something that didn’t pop up immediately.
I do know that being impatient has taken up precious creative time. I guess I’m a tapping-of-the-foot kind of impatient. I heard someone added up the hours you sit in traffic waiting for the light to change and it’s something like a full week of your life. Now that explains why I haven’t written the great American you know what. That week would have been the writing time I needed.
A few years ago I started working on cultivating patience. Meditation practice is key to success in slowing down and developing patience.
In Eckert Tolles’ meditation he says, listen to the space between the words, that that’s where the real impact often can be found. So watching your breath, counting inhales and exhales, listening to the space between words sounds easy, right?
Eckert should only know the trouble I’ve had with listening to the space between the words. Because as soon as I make space between the words, I also make the grocery list: Parmesan Reggiano, pink grapefruit, avocados if they’re not over … oops … back to the space between the words.
He says our prominent state is waiting for the next thing. He said he trained himself to use the time not being frustrated when someone kept him waiting, that he learned that being irritated is a choice. And waiting in presence can actually be most enjoyable. He tells the story of a friend who was supposed to meet him at an appointed time and the person was very late. When they finally arrived they apologized up and down saying, “I’m so sorry I kept you waiting,” and Eckert said, don’t worry. I wasn’t waiting, I was in joy-ing myself.
Turning frustration into joy, that’s the trick. Obviously I need more hours on the pillow.
An interesting thing happened recently right before my sister died. I asked her if we could agree on a symbol, something that I could look for, something that would tell me she was there. She said no. And I said but how will I know when you’re there. And she said you’ll know.
Last week I received a gorgeous arrangement of flowers from friends. I’ve been doing everything to keep the flowers from wilting and mostly they have stayed perky. But one, a white rose, dried up and flopped over and I pulled it from the vase. I noticed out of the whole bouquet, only this one had a label hanging off it. As I was about to throw it in the trash, I took off the label and looked. The name of the rose was Patience.
Between my son Dan and Eckert Tolle and my precious sister who just left me, I think you could safely say the message has been sent.