I led a gathering on the topic of “patience” this past week. Many different theories/experiences/questions were discussed in the session. Was patience remaining calm in the midst of an anxious situation? Was it best to distract oneself in order to wait? Does it require a positive attitude? Can you be patient with others but not patient with oneself? Do good things come to those who wait or are we just procrastinating? Is love patient?
The problem with the phrase, “Love is patient” is that the word love is way overused. This is probably true with some kind of “God love”, where the universe conspires to help you become your best self. But from my experience when I love someone, it is the hardest to be patient, not the easiest. Human love is of course rewarding and fun, but it is downright anxiety filled and painful too.
It seems patience requires some amount of anxiety; with no anxiety it’s just waiting. For example, waiting on your daughter. Let’s say your teenaged daughter is on her first date with a young fellow you don’t know. You had told them to be home by 11pm and it is now 11:15pm. You decide to take a deep breath and not call her yet. Second example this same daughter is out with her mother and they were to be back by 11pm, it is now 11:15pm. You probably don’t even notice they are late. My contention the second example is not patience, it’s just waiting because there is no anxiety, she’s with her mom.
I have found that patience requires action. I’m not good at sitting still and waiting calmly, it’s not gonna happen. So to be physically patient I have many techniques: housework, going to work, taking a walk, reading (not good but okay if anxiety level is not too high), etc. And for long term patience there is always prayer and meditation. But for me these typically are actions as well: walking meditation, working a job where I have to go to work everyday (not work from home), etc.
Maybe the key to patience is acceptance. Can I enjoy this moment, can I enjoy the uncertainty. I’ll finish with a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”