Patience: An Option to Those Who Wait

Nov 3, 2010 by

Patience: An Option to Those Who Wait

When was the last time you enjoyed the simple sweet experience of a Tootsie Roll Pop? You remember, you pick out your favorite flavor from the brightly colored paper options, you untwist the paper wrapper, and then you put the hard candy-coated sucker into your mouth and begin to savor the fruit-flavored outer layer lick by lick by lick. Tastes so good, you think to yourself, but then, somewhere between the third and fourth lick you are confronted with the old familiar decision, whether to patiently lick your way to the chewy center reward, that scrumptious soft chocolate morsel which is already right there, though hidden, in your mouth, or whether to just crunch down on it right away and be instantly satisfied! You intend to exert self-control, to make the experience last, but somehow the temptation overpowers your reasoning, and as much as you would like to be patient, you “cave,” but why?

Let us consider a slightly more serious circumstance. The big day arrives; you and your partner learn that you are going to be parents! How you have waited for this moment and now it has arrived! Of course, today things are not so simple as they once were where having babies is concerned, at least in some respects, and your doctor, reviewing some of your options regarding the birth and delivery, asks you a question; would you like to know the gender of the baby before it is born? You glance at each other in a moment of excited consideration, and you begin to weigh the many reasons it might be better to know whether the child is a boy or a girl in advance of the birth. Your desire to know as soon as possible is juxtaposed with the traditional way of waiting until the time comes, but what will you decide?

And when is waiting more debilitating, as evidenced repeatedly throughout human history and literature, than when you are waiting for love? Suppose you are in love with the most wonderful being you could ever possibly have imagined, but as fate would have it, you find yourselves far, far apart. Things are such that before you can be together you must bide your time, and you find the longing and separation almost unbearable to you both. Still, in order for you to realize your passion and your bliss, you must wait. The choices inherent in this waiting may encompass everything from questioning fidelity, to being creatively supportive, from maintaining great trust, to giving in to the loneliness and finding someone new. How will you find the stamina to love across great distances, perhaps for a very long time? How will you wait?

Photo Credit: Andreas Marx

Somewhere at the very beginning of our lives we discover that almost everything in our life will require waiting. We wait as infants to be fed, to have diapers changed and to be held. We wait as parents for our children to come home as we count the minutes past their curfew, or for their healing from an injury, or for their acceptance into a chosen school. We wait for the letter that may never come, for our patriot to come home, for our seeds to sprout. We also wait for our gift to be opened, our hair to grow, for the results of the test, for our faith to be restored, we wait, always and forever, it seems, we wait, and waiting requires patience, and often fortitude, and sometimes even more.

We live our lives within the constructs of time and space. Perhaps these are merely illusions, or peculiar to our specific life experience here on Earth, or in this universe, regardless, try as we may, we cannot alter time (yet, anyway), but have you considered, we may be able to affect how we experience it? Patience is said to be a virtue, a tolerant restrained resolve to wait in calmness, but what is it really and where does it come from? Is it always just there, available to us in any circumstance of waiting, or is it something we must create, or at least muster, in order that we might assuage the pangs of waiting? It seems to me that patience is a choice that once made must be cultivated throughout the waiting time. I propose it is a mindset, and an ongoing decision to endure the inevitable in a proactive and responsive way, and somehow, with the choice to be patient, comes the mastery of time.

When we choose to be patient, we are mostly choosing not to be victims of the seemingly inevitable and often tortuous passage of time. Rest assured, waiting is not something to be dismissed as insignificant, it is mildly discomforting at least, and true agony at its worst, and if patience is an option for us whenever we must endure waiting, then surely we should consider it!? But how can patience help us, really? Why should we choose this apparent discipline in the midst of our discomfort and to what end? First of all, there are times when we can wait, and there are times when we must wait. Take the example of the Tootsie Roll Pop, we have a clear choice, to savor or to crunch, and the consequence of our decision, in this instance, appears relatively insignificant. Yet there are those circumstances when whether we wait or not, and how we choose to behave during our waiting, can have crucial consequences, indeed, if not for us, then often for those who observe and learn from us or wait with us. I see the choice as one of constructive and appropriate use of the waiting time, which can demand genuine bravery as well as fortitude, or a dismissal of responsibility and refusal of opportunity to rise to the occasion at hand. For instance, there are things we can do and help others do while waiting, things that may even affect the outcome of the wait! We can always insert joy and humor and hope! We can hug or cry with. We can make things, do things, or mend things and prepare for things, and at the very least, we can be present to those who wait with us, or kind to ourselves when we wait alone. In either case, as with many things in life, we are presented with an opportunity to build character, and we can take it or leave it, but if we take it, we do seem to grow, and it can only help the next time we have to wait.

So consider this: the next time you discover yourself with a choice of whether or not to wait, go confidently into that good decision, and weigh your options carefully, depending on their gravity, of course. However, for those those excruciating times when there is no option except to wait, when life brings you to the precipice of despair, when your peace of mind, your love, your life are on the line, there is always the option of whether or not to be patient, which may even be a synonym for being kind, even if only to yourself.

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  1. Caitlin

    Beautifully expressed.

    I would go one step further and invite people to try out the belief that patience is our natural state. Animals are patient. Our basic animal brain is patient, it’s only thoughts that make us impatient.

  2. Adele, thank you. I have been enlightened and enriched by your efforts!