There is a collection of children’s books that I acquired as a child. I remember precisely what their covers look like and how my mother sounded reading them to me. Some of them I read to myself in ritual fashion. Some of them I read to my Barbies when they weren’t being flung from my ceiling fan. These stories probably had more influence in shaping my young mind than I’ve realized before.
Today I thought about virtues. The image that flashes in my mind is the cover to a book whose home was among the Beanie Babies on a tiny bookshelf in my 6 year old self’s closet. The Book of Virtues. I can see the images in my mind, but for some reason I cannot recite to myself a single story, poem, or line from the book. I can practically smell the thing and feel the gaudy over-sized bow in my hair, but I can’t place a single word.
What can this mean? That I could retain the concept of the importance of milk when giving a mouse a cookie but not a single learned moral quality from this book? Somehow I remember the prevailing quest of Corduroy the bear, the unconditional providing of The Giving Tree, and plights of The Tub People, but I am still at a loss for a mere morsel of the teachings of this “treasury.”
Maybe I don’t remember the character names or rhyming verses, but this book obviously taught me, if nothing else, what an actual virtue is. The general idea. The meaning of the word itself. I know that much. So let’s explore this for a moment.
“Patience is a virtue.” I can hear my mother speaking this phrase just as clearly as I can recall her reading to me from those books.
Patience is not something that I grasp well. I’ve always prided myself in having an extremely level head and impeccable moral compass. Much like Corduroy the bear, I understand the irrelevance of the materialistic. I make it a point to practice the selflessness depicted in The Giving Tree. I even put my drain plug in at all times in case my tub figurines come to life when I am away.
My battle with patience is a vastly different story.
Maybe this stems from the feeling that I have been constantly waiting on something my entire life. Waiting to be old enough to drive. Waiting to go off to college. Waiting to start working. Waiting for relationships to form, for someone to get me, for opportunities and excitement. Waiting for life to happen to me, when really I should have been actively seeking my own life.
For this reason, when I want something desperately, I have an impossible time waiting to pursue it. To achieve an end result. My type of impatience has evolved in this sense, and it has its very own cycle. It all starts with a vision. An idea. It could be something as simple as deciding that I want to go rollerblading this weekend or as complex as deciding I want to move across the country by the time that I am twenty-five (25tofly).
The initial phase is raw excitement. It begins as overwhelming, optimistic joy and certainty. However, seeing this idea to fruition is rarely immediate. After a while, anticipation can start to feel less promising and more draining. Sometimes circumstances are such that a goal takes many steps towards achieving. Some steps are less enthralling than others, and these steps take time. For me, that time often passes so slowly that it can be maddening.
It’s as if increasing the time that lapses between the establishment and accomplishment of my goal also increases the likelihood of failure. This isn’t necessarily always the case, yet the anxiety that I associate with the passing of time is unavoidable.
The point is that my impatience is a fear of waiting. Waiting is inevitable, so there is an ultimatum to reach in this cycle. I can allow the frustrations from my impatience to break me, or I can attempt to endure the home stretch. Right now I am approaching that ultimatum. I’m trying to holding out for the home stretch, and it is taking everything I’ve got.
Patience has not been my virtue, but maybe it can be.
Note: This post is out of character, but my goal here was to write something heartfelt instead of pumping out something in my typical style that was unmotivated. I want to extend a special thank you to Rich for talking me through this post and helping me to edit this piece efficiently. My friend, you certainly have no problems with patience.
- An Exercise For Developing Virtue (teachingsofmasters.wordpress.com)
- Having Patience (robertjrgraham.com)
- The 4 P’s of Love and Happiness: Passion, Persistence, Prayer, Patience (everythinggl.com)