The Meaning of Patience

Since I’m doing this whole exploration of patience, I figured I should know the definition. So I looked it up (as you would expect). Frankly, I don’t know that it captures what I am seeking when I seek patience.

A path in the woods, surrounded by trees, ivy, and other lush green plants.

pa·tience /ˈpāSHəns/noun

  1. the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
  2. any of various forms of card game for one player, the object of which is to use up all one’s cards by forming particular arrangements and sequences; solitaire. (chiefly used in Britain) [I definitely mean only this when I seek patience.]

I don’t think that definition is wrong; I just think it is too limited. It seems to assume that this capacity applies to all delays, troubles, and sufferings. But there are delays, troubles, and sufferings that should piss you off or upset you. I’m not going to trot out a parade of horribles here, but I’m sure we all can think of something (big or small) that deserves those responses. Getting angry at delay, trouble, and suffering helped (and helps) me identify the personal relationships I have that are unbalanced or even abusive. Anger is information. Anger can get shit done that needs to be done (h/t Mr. Nancy).

The patience I want is some of this definition. I don’t want to get frustrated waiting in line or one the phone with customer service. And I’ve had a decent amount of success teaching myself this kind of patience. But what I really want is something deeper. A flow in life. A lack of rush. A trust that there is time for the things I crave to do. Patience with myself.

How do you do that? How do you build an internal patience? If I could do that, oh what a life this could be!

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Considering Patience

I am not a patient person. Perhaps not the most impatient (although saying that makes my competitive brain wake the fuck up and say “We’ll see about that!”), but I do not like to wait. I suppose people could see this as a result of growing up and living in a Now! Now! Now! culture, where that Now! has become faster and faster to the point that the space between one Now! and the next has essentially disappeared. Sure. That’s part of it, but not all of it. Some of it is just me.

Spring blooms on a morning walk

And now we are here. All of us experiencing varying levels of stay at home and physical distancing and face covering. Going to the grocery store is a marathon of stress management. Packages are taking longer, and when we get them, sit for days, hoping that the pathogens wither and die before we open then. Washing and washing and washing again our hands. We are being forced to slow down, to be patient.

This is difficult for me. I started stay at home before my office and LA itself mandated it. (I read a lot of dystopian novels and am privileged to have a job that already allowed work from home.) Since then, I have been dealing with personal tragedies that have taken up so much space in my life that I haven’t experienced the slowing and stretching of time without an end in sight the way others have. The impact of these tragedies have waned, and now I find myself there, craving this whole thing to end.

I am alert for any signposts that this is working, that we have turned a corner. The curve seems to be flattening as the stay-at-home order extends to mid-May here in LA. I need something to do to distract that craving. Something bound by this crisis, of it and in it.

So, I am going to explore patience. I don’t know what this exploration will entail or how it will manifest. I will simply give it a portion of this slow and stretchy time, and share what I find there. Care to join me?

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