When my daughter was in nursery school, her favorite song starred a snail and had the following refrain: “Be patient, be patient, don’t be in such a hurry/when you get impatient, you only start to worry.” These words have popped back into my mind in the last few weeks, as we have been dealing with so much uncertainty with no clear timeframe for resolution. Patience used to be a common girl’s name. You may have some women with this name in your family tree. But it is not often we find women with this name in the contemporary times, just as the virtues of patience may not be accorded as much importance as before.
In the pre-Covid era, many of us were very busy with activities and experiences packed into our lives. The more we did and the faster we could accomplish things, the better. Now we find ourselves in the tenuous place of not knowing when we can reengage with some of these activities, and even if we can. All we can do is cultivate patience.
As a doctor’s daughter, when I was young I would sometimes accompany my father on house visits. I was intrigued that he referred to the people he was treating as ‘patients’. Were they called patients, I would wonder, because they would have to be patient in order to get better? I knew that getting better didn’t usually happen overnight. If I had an earache or the flu, I would have to spend a few days quiet in the house, not able to go out or even take a shower or eat some of my favorite foods. I had to be patient, so I could get better and go out to play once again.
This was probably a quite simplistic way to view what it meant to be a patient of my father, but I was only about five or six at the time. But even if it is somewhat simplistic, in some ways my ideas way back then were not so far off the mark from what we are having to live through right now, all of us, globally. We are all, in a manner of speaking, having to be patient patients.
This focus on patience can feel rather mundane at first compared to the apparent glamour and excitement of some of our pre-Covid 19 activities and lifestyle that are not safe for us at present. Let me give you a personal example. One of my favorite things to do is travel; it has been a central part of my lifestyle since I was a teenager. Due to Covid-19, I had to cancel three planned trips in Spring 20. One I have a travel voucher for am not sure when, or if, I will be able to use.
Last week I began to fee impatient about wanting to travel again: ruminating about the postponed trip and wondering when I will be flying in an airplane again. I had to remind myself to be patient about my travels, and to try to focus on what I am experiencing now, in my home and my hometown.
Several people have told me how grateful they are to have had to slow down their lives of late, and that this quieter time has given them the gifts of spending more quality time with family members and loved ones. And also in nature.
Spending time in nature is always a good reminder of the patience of the earth with its cycles. Now in autumn we patiently observe the cold arriving, the green departing and the early snow reminding us of what lies ahead. Ahead will be a long winter, we know that, but also beneath this snow lie the buds of a blossoming spring yet to come if we can be patient through the dark and cold winter months.
The second part of the song’s refrain is the following: “remember, remember, that God is patient to/and think of all the times that others have to wait for you.”
If there is a God, or god, or gods, or even if there is nothing but the void of nothingness, the patience that we can bring to these unpredictable and previously unimaginable moments we are collectively living through right now may just give us some gifts and possibilities we would never have dreamed of or understood before. Being patient patients may just help gestate some new growth within us and for the earth.
Published in the Monadnock Shopper 11/2020