In The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defines patience as “A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.” I support this definition wholeheartedly. I am not a patient woman. I like quick results, instant gratification, swift changes. If something does not work, I turn around and try to find a solution. I do not wait, pause, rethink, reflect. I act.
Patience and I do not get along very well. All too often when I try to be patient, I end up blowing up. “Beware the fury of a patient man,” said John Dryden. I say: beware the misery of an impatient woman. I want everything and everyone around me to be perfectly well, perfectly happy, perfectly safe all the time.
Some projects, like child raising, last a life time. Parenting, as Dar reminded me today, is best done day by day, drop by drop. I’ve been dabbling at motherhood for eleven years now, but I’m quick to despair. I throw up my hands and proclaim myself a failure. Dar had more faith: “No failure can be fairly established until the job is done,” he explained. I am well aware that being a mother will only be done, quite possibly, when I’m dead and gone.
A pessimistic thought? Actually, I feel relief. I hope many more years are before me, allowing me to try and get it right: to pour just a little more love into the children’s hearts, to give more lift to their wings, more confidence to their bearings, more food into their growing tummies and minds. “Don’t try to rotate them in the right direction,” Dar told me. “Steer them little by little. Fly with them so they can fly.”
I asked Dar: what if I am myself too confused? What if I lack confidence in my own flight capabilities? How can I teach the children to fly when I am not proficient? I don’t know how to teach them to fly because I don’t know how to fly myself! And I threw up my hands once again. Failure! Despair! Hopelessness!
Patience. That’s how. Day by day, drop by drop, little by little. I suppose acceptance is important too. Sometimes a day might include only the putting out of fires as they arise. Often a day will require watering the little seedling hearts of the children with a lot of love. Sometimes they might ask me for the moon, and other times I might discover that the moon is as simple an object as a coin the size of their nail, like in the story with the princess from my blog the other day.
I don’t have a detailed mothering plan. I think even if I did, I’d find myself moving away from it almost instantly. But I do have overarching goals: to love the children, give them as much support as I can, have patience with the process, and give myself room to feel hopelessness and despair if I feel I must.
This is where I found the quotes on patience.