November 6, 2011

Patience Please

I am not a patient man. In counting from one to ten I tend to skip five, six, and seven. I've always had a great deal of difficulty comprehending the persistent gap between desire and gratification. When it comes to pleasure, “now” is always on a bit too much of a lag while pain “later” is never quite far enough removed. The only time that patience seems to be my strong point is when it comes to elective pain. In that case, procrastination is my destination.

I know that “Patience is a virtue,” but only because I was assured it was thousands of times by my mother while growing up. She would inevitably follow her remonstration with the phrase, “And virtue is its own reward.” It took me decades to catch the sardonic tone to her voice on that one, but not nearly as long to determine that while virtue may be “its own reward,” I never made a dime off the deal. I guess when it came to long-term investments in virtue I was always too impatient. My mother saw early on that the solid career opportunities implied by the term “Swiss Watch Repairman” were probably not for me.

Not having the gene or the genius for patience, the virtue of it eluded me for many decades. It is only in the last few weeks that the virtue of patience is beginning to dawn on me. That virtue is, “If you are patient with yourself, you may live. If you insist on running the 4 minute mile this afternoon, you will be checked out of here in a wicker basket.” In short, “patience” is no longer an option but a requirement. My previous reaction to illness has been to get over it and then get back to work. No such option here. There’s no “getting over it,” there is only “re”-“covery” -- a kind of slow tempo cover of the Beatles’ “Get Back.”

Want to walk around the block at a decent clip? Tough. Walk to the end of the block and back slowly first. Repeat it about 20 times over 20 days. Then go for the round the block.

Want to sleep through the night? Tough. Sleep for 60 minutes, get up, stretch. Lay back down carefully, carefully... now sleep for another 60 minutes. Rinse, repeat.

Want to take a bath? Really? Are you strong enough and healed enough in your upper arms and upper chest muscles that you can actually pull yourself out of the tub? No? Better keep up those showers then. Patience. Patience. Patience.

Don’t feel immortal? Don’t feel like you’ve got oceans of time left to you? Tough. Waste it on getting slowly, slowly, better. Otherwise you will have less time in the long run. Patience please. Patience.

A glance at the literature counseling patience reveals a host of stern admonishments such as :

Patience! why, it is the soul of peace; of all the virtues it is nearest kin to heaven; it makes men look like gods. The best of men that ever wore earth about Him was a Sufferer,— a soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit; the first true gentleman that ever breathed. -- Thomas Decker
I don’t know about you but that sort of thing sets my teeth on fire. I just have no patience for that sentiment.

And yet.... and yet.... I must. What I want is no longer in the driver’s seat, but what I need. And what I need is patience... patience enough to learn how to be at last... patient.

"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

Pace, John Milton. Here I stand. I can do no other. Maybe I am not learning “patience”so much as I am, finally, learning “Not my will, but Thine.” Either way it's a long hard lesson. You need to be patient to learn it.

Time to take a walk to the end of the block and back.

Slowly. Patiently.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at November 6, 2011 11:20 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Baby steps, Gerard. Look at the path, not the mountain.

...and hey, at least you have the internet. For without it, you would really know the meaning of impatience (as in check-in as an impatient at the sanitarium).

Posted by: Cond0010 at November 6, 2011 11:47 AM

It will go faster than you think, once you start feeling half-decent again. This is the chink-chink-chink climb up to the top of the first hill of the roller coaster.

Posted by: Maureen at November 6, 2011 12:05 PM

Understanding your new normal comes with - you guessed it!

Posted by: at November 6, 2011 12:05 PM

As it turns out, when you finally do get it, patience is fun, or at least enjoyable.

What you have to do is give over optimism, at least the sort of bumptious, forceful optimism that demands that the next thing be better. That's how the OWS kiddies got where they are. No matter how well things turn out there's always something not quite perfect, so they get disappointed and either bitter or furious, depending on personality. The true pessimist, on the other hand, goes through life with a spring in his step and a smile on his face; nothing happens that's worse than expected, and all his surprises are happy ones.

It may be easier for us Believers. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent -- as RAH pointed out, it says so right there on the package. It follows that He got it right.

The world would've gone on without you, and will eventually. The right attitude, of a morning, is Hey, cool! Pop let me go out and play again! Based on that, everything is fun (though admittedly, some things are more fun than others).


Posted by: Ric Locke at November 6, 2011 12:07 PM

Oh, and the thing to watch out for is when your body is feeling achy and tired and yuck, but it's just low enough that you don't consciously feel it as pain. There were lots of times with my broken arm where I had to figure this out; and there are lots of bits of you which are unhappy but don't necessarily have nerve endings. So remember to take your meds on time, and you'll feel better.

Posted by: Maureen at November 6, 2011 12:07 PM

Patience has a twin: Pride. They're a nasty duo and I despise them thoroughly. Patient people harbor a sly pride, believing that their patience is a virtue. Humph. I call B.S. on whole thing. It's ok by me if you want to be pissed off, impatient, annoyed, and surly. (You can make me wait, but you can't make me be patient :)

Posted by: Deborah at November 6, 2011 1:42 PM

"Patience (n) a minor form of despair disguised as a virtue." Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"

Actually, I think you have framed the definition better without the cynicism. Remember the Tortoise!

Posted by: Nashville Beat at November 6, 2011 1:45 PM

Fortunately for A.D. readers, reflection will be a part of your adjustment process. We can all use a lesson in the art of resenting patience. Just after I had my first baby, I knew I was in very serious trouble when I finally realized the real mom wasn't coming to take the baby home. I'll tell you how that story ends in another ten years, but one thing I do know is that patience is neither learned nor is it a virtue. It is the mindset you adopt when you finally accept the only power you have is the power to just keep going. I can only advise you in the same way my slightly more experienced new-parent friends advised me in those days and nights of sleepless regret and endless feedings and diaper changes and in the same sardonic tone as your mother: "This too shall pass." (Yeah. I had that same reaction.) As always, thank you for sharing your insight and wit. Taking it slow isn't all that bad when we learn to enjoy the new perspective. Once I learned to accept motherhood, I was able to appreciate the trade-off. Believe it or not, your new reality just may offer you perspectives, blessings that you might have missed.

Posted by: RedCarolina at November 6, 2011 1:49 PM

All those who happily profess their impatience and proclaim how proud they've always been to scorn anybody less quick may miss the point until the end. But you won't, not after this one.

Pain is the greatest teacher. "Thy will, not mine" indeed. I don't have to like it, but I do have to die. My choice in the interim.

Remember how superior you felt when you were 6, towards the kid who seemed to find it necessary to take a breath?

Maybe he was crippled. I was.

Maybe he was abused. I was.

Maybe he hurt all the time. I did.

But y'know what? I'm still here.

And so are you. Breathe in, breathe out, see what comes next after the great cosmic Pay Attention! You'll like it, and we need you.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at November 6, 2011 1:56 PM

We can wait for you. We're in no hurry, either.

Posted by: Jewel at November 6, 2011 6:31 PM

My wife has a motto that avoids the dreaded P word: "Don't try to have all your fun at once."

Posted by: Mike Anderson at November 6, 2011 6:48 PM

It's a bit like climbing Everest. A big task, not easily accomplished. One step after another, endure, and, all in God's good time, the summit comes nearer. Works the same for recovery. It's the journey not the destination that matters.

A dear friend has been living with COPD the last ten years. He will never reach the summit, but continues the journey because that is now his task. And so it is for all of us.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at November 6, 2011 9:08 PM

I rather like the "Mother's Prayer"for difficult times.

"Dear God, give me patience, right Now!"

Posted by: Peccable at November 7, 2011 3:59 AM

As ever - the Bard nails it for you:

How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
William Shakespeare

Posted by: Frank P at November 7, 2011 5:24 AM

I'm reminded of the old poster from the 70's and then reissued through the years. Two vultures in a tree, one says to the other "Patience my ass, I'm gonna kill something".

Posted by: midtown miscreant at November 7, 2011 6:21 AM

Here is some inspiration! to guide you in the days ahead.

Posted by: pdwalker at November 7, 2011 7:37 AM

Look on the bright side. You can say, with that guy in the photo...

"I outlived Michael Jackson. Bet you didn't see that one comin'."

Posted by: Rich Fader at November 7, 2011 12:45 PM

From what I've read, V., guys with your attitude (pissed off at the damned inconvenience) recover the fastest and go the farthest, past their former best.

Kick its ass.

Posted by: Lance de Boyle at November 7, 2011 3:58 PM

PD, when I clicked the link and it took me to Boned Jello, and I clicked the video to watch the Hub Rollerskating rink with the horrible organ music, I thought to myself, what Gerard ever did to you to deserve that? And then I watched the video below. Now THAT's inspiring.

Posted by: Jewel at November 7, 2011 4:47 PM

Ya know that picture of the two vultures in a tree, and one says to the other: "Patience, hell... Let's kill somethin!"?

Just sayin...If ya need anything...


Posted by: Patvann at November 7, 2011 5:56 PM

(Jewel: *LOL* I guess I should have been more clear in which video to watch - and no, it wasn't the roller skating rink I had in mind)

Posted by: pdwalker at November 7, 2011 8:36 PM