Wow, time is moving in some weird ways. The activities in which we were all participating before social distancing seem like forever ago. Some of these days now at home seem interminable; others fly by. Regarding when we might be able to resume our “new normal,” our post-outbreak lives, experts speculate that it likely will be months. Months! I can’t even conceive of months without hugging each other.
Even in the best of times few people would describe me as a patient personality. It’s just not my natural temperament. Usually I’ve got one eye on what’s next, what we might imagine into being, where we’re headed — “are we there yet?”
I’ve done a fair amount of work on this. I practice being present, mindfulness, trying not to always slip my life into the future thereby missing out on the experiences to be savored right here right now.
But to be patient in isolation is danged hard for an extravert like me who has declared his life purpose to be all about creating in-person community. I was antsy on day one. I’m ready to be through this, out the other side. I want to dance together. I’m ready to participate again in live performances in a crowded theater. I can’t wait to linger in a brew pub with a dozen friends at a time. I want to touch my freakin’ face! And yet absolutely I don’t want to lend any of my restless energy to the cavalier call for a fast-track back to business as usual, because clearly such is an irresponsible approach to our collective well-being.
So… Patience. Ugh. It gives Chastity a close run for my least-favorite virtue.
President John Quincy Adams said, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” That sounds pretty good to me. Let’s disappear the difficulties! And let’s be quick about it! Oops — there went my patience.
Chewing on this quote these past few days, I’ve begun to wonder about patience and perseverance, because in some ways they seem almost like contrary qualities. Perseverance sounds like pushing through, onward and upward. Patience occurs for me like idleness, waiting. Maybe Adams intended it as a tortoise & hare sort of thing — slow and steady wins the race. We persevere though it may feel like things aren’t moving fast enough; nevertheless, we persist. Patiently, we put one foot in front of the other.
Still, I can’t get away from the idea that there is some value in a certain amount of impatience. “Perseverance” to me suggests a little impatience — a healthy reluctance to acquiesce to conditions or situations that are not as we’d like them to be, an optimistic belief that the future will be brighter if we keep working towards it.
The word “patient” comes directly from the Latin patientem: bearing, suffering, enduring, permitting. Both modern usages of the word — a hospital patient as well as one who patiently waits — have the same origin: to suffer or endure. The word “passive” is another derivation, meaning: to be acted upon, to endure suffering without resistance.
Yuck, right? I mean, this pretty much spells out my beef with patience. It seems antithetical to just about everything else I believe in — my active ability to exercise creative authority in my life, to consciously cause my experience, to be empowered in my commitment to mitigate or even eliminate suffering in the world.
But — yet — and — here we are, slowed-down with so much on hold. We have no choice but to reckon with the fact that some things take time. We can’t fast-track this process without making things far worse.
There’s something in here about reconciling the obvious need for patience in the present with an empowered (and perhaps impatient) vision for the future.
Maybe it’s about being patient with ourselves when it feels like we’re moving through molasses. Being patient with life, patient enough to keep moving forward even when progress seems to be taking far too long. This definitely includes the need to be patient with each other, with different reactions and responses as we all adjust to a world that feels so changed from the beginning of the month. I think we have to be patient in every sense of the word — to acknowledge that we suffer, that there is hardship and fear and uncertainty that we can’t just skip over — that the only way beyond this is through it, and we will endure.
And I also think that a dash of impatience is helpful right now, too. I don’t mean impatience with what’s so, because that’s just an argument with life that we’re not going to win. I mean a little impatience that recognizes our experiential reality for what it is and still says, “It doesn’t have to stay this way.” A bit of impatience to keep us hopeful and engaged, looking toward the future that we can create and into which we can live together.
I can’t wait to be with you again. And yet we’ve got to wait. That just about sums it up — I can’t but we must. Impatiently endure. Patiently persevere.
We’ll have a new message, more songs, a reading and a prayer on the Bosque CSL website (bosquecsl.org), on Facebook (Bosque Center for Spiritual Living), and on Vimeo (vimeo.com/bosquecsl) by Sunday morning at 10:00 am.
Onward, upward, and inward, my friends. XO, Drew
© 2020 Drew Groves