It may or may not be a secret that I am and have always been a voracious reader. Books are my world I turn to in which, regardless of the outer circumstances of my life, I submerge myself in a story losing all vision around me until I nearly miss my Metro stop, or my eyelids droop in bed at the late hours of the night. It was in the midst of a book that I came upon the author’s invocation of the word “patience” and it struck a chord.
Patience is a quality that was difficult to come by in my life. Complaints weren’t allowed growing up, so patience held an enduring quality…sitting (forced) for an hour quietly in a corner of the living room to meditate upon my behavior deemed too wild or unnerving for a descendant of the regal Pathan warriors of India, or remaining quiet on the infrequent shopping excursion, calming the childhood tendency to reach out and grab colorful things that called out to me and following my looming father, trying to look as invisible as possible. It was a painful but necessary part of everyday life, that I later came to appreciate.
In looking up patience in Webster’s dictionary, it defines patience as the following:
- bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
- manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
- not hasty or impetuous
- steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity
- able or willing to bear
“Patience is a virtue.” “Patience, my dear.” That is what they say, whomever they may be. And over the years, I have flexed this skill to increase my capacity for bearing suffering, not being hasty, deflecting the urge to complain, remaining steadfast, and through these trials I’ve gained a peaceful, listener-like quality to the relationships with most people in my life – a quiet, non-judgmental understanding that exceeds even my own capacity to understand. I don’t question whether or not it is my right to complain or to want things for myself, it’s simply not allowed or entertained. It is only the few, close people in my life who see me in my less-polished moments where I’ll allow myself my human frailties, complaints and all. It sounds quite bad, self-punishing even; but it is patience which gives me resilience, calm in the face of chaos, and inner strength.
Without patience, I might have been a sprinter, or not even had the tenacity to run. With it, I am a marathoner and an open water swimmer, with an average body that bears the pains of any other, without the need to cry out my pain or far worse, quit before the finish line. I always finish the race. On one occasion, this patience and ability to “manifest forbearance under strain” even won me my age group in an Olympic distance triathlon in direct sun on the coast of Florida, simply because everyone else had dropped out with the sweltering 100 percent humidity, 105 degree temperatures. I was hurting like everyone else, I just didn’t consider the option of quitting. Patience guided each step, and even as the heat scorched me inside and out, I was directing myself to keep going from a quieter place within, where all things were perfect and still.
Love is patient, Love is kind. Love bears all things, endures all things, according to Corinthians 13. It is a verse spoken at most weddings, but do we really exercise it in our daily lives? Do we really wait calmly in reflection after a mean comment is uttered to us by someone we care for (or not) and try to first understand where they are coming from, what day they may have had to act out of hurt in that way; or do we simply yell back, defend our small turf in this cruel world, and then later regret that moment when we could have chosen patience instead? My moments of regret all add up to a lack of patience.
In rereading the definition, it becomes clear that it is patience that forms the backbone of love. Without it, we may be inclined to say or do anything, regardless of the consequences to ourselves or others. With it, we are steadfast and powerful. We take the time to think through our reactions, to put ourselves in another’s shoes, to walk the steps we are intended to walk when it is love leading the way. I have come full circle now, watching the young girl in the corner with tears in her eyes and wondering when her time will come, what kindness might yield to her.
We have so much to learn from these moments. The time is now. Be patient.
“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” – Samuel Beckett