Waiting Holds Its Breath. Patience Breathes
My whole life I was waiting. Waiting for something to come along. Waiting for my time in the sun. Waiting for my turn.
But the problem with waiting is that it suffocates you. Waiting is the watched pot that never boils. It keeps you looking ahead with frustration, hoping for something that may never happen. It’s like travelling on a train, pacing up and down the carriage hoping that it will get you to your destination faster. Only it doesn’t, and in many cases waiting actually stops the train departing the station in the first place. You’re pacing up and down hoping that any minute now you’ll arrive in paradise when all along you’re really going nowhere. And you tire yourself out and you wear a hole in your shoes, and you’re no closer to where you want to be.
Patience, on the other hand, requires you to have faith that the train will get there. It asks that rather than pacing up and down the carriage you should instead find yourself in the driving seat, your hands firmly on the controls, enjoying the journey, looking out at the world as it goes past the window. But more than this, patience gives you the space to realise that you’re already in paradise, that it’s not a place you have to get to, but a state of being and understanding. And when you’re able to exist in a state of patience you are able to deal with anything.
There are times where I’ve had no choice but to be patient. I spent three years working as a carer with the “disabled”. I’ve put that word in quotation marks because it’s a blanket term that is used to pigeonhole a whole section of society, many of whom are much more able than you or I. When you work with people who might not be able to move as quickly as you, who might not be able to speak, or feed themselves, or do other things that you or I take for granted, you owe them the patience to find themselves and be themselves, and to not just be what society describes them as. And in doing so, you find yourself, too. Patience creates the space that allows dignity to manifest itself where previously it had been missing. It allows a sense of normality to flourish, and for a sense of identity to grow that isn’t just defined by your inability to make sense of the letters that jump around on the page in front of you, or your inability to go to the toilet without help, or your inability to use your arms or your legs.
Patience gives you the room to be you. It says you have challenges, but if you can just be here now and forget about waiting, you can see who you are, where you are, what you’re capable of and not just how you’re labelled. And you can see what you need to do, and how you need to do it.
We can all exercise patience in our own lives. It gives us the opportunity to be mindful and see our world and ourselves in a way that that isn’t clouded by subjective negativity, but objective positivity. It says that it may be raining, but if we take the time to look closely we can see the beauty of the world reflected in each raindrop. It gives us the chance to be present, to see the paradise around us, and allows us to build things that grow and blossom slowly over time, rather than not even trying because the wait is too long.
That’s the problem with waiting. Waiting asks “are we nearly there yet?” while patience engages with and enjoys the journey. Waiting stops us from doing the small things now that will make our future lighter, brighter and more beautiful. Instead it makes everything heavy, bearing down on us like a millstone that will sink us to the bottom. But patience makes this moment, right now, lighter, brighter and more beautiful. And it gives us the space to build and create and imagine and pause.
Waiting tells us that we’re running out of time, but patience transcends time. When you are being patient, present and in the moment, time is no longer the overriding issue you thought it was. Of course it’s still there, and you’re still in it, but that’s the point. You’re in it, in this moment. You’re not obsessing about the future, you’re not fixating on the past. You’re right here. And that’s beautiful. When you’re patient things happen, but when you’re waiting, they don’t.
When you’re patient you are connected to the place and time you are in. Right here. Right in this moment. You are connected to the air you’re breathing, and the infinite continuum of the universe. Because being patient asks you to stop for a moment, and to breathe. And in doing so, and in transcending time, wonderful things happen. Dreams are realised, goals are reached.
You can’t wait to become a chef. But with patience you can train, and practice, and learn what it takes to realise that dream. You can’t wait to run a marathon. But you can patiently put on your running shoes every day and hit the road yet again, getting better, faster, slowly but surely. You can’t wait to walk a thousand miles, but you can patiently take you first step, and then your second, onward, forward, until you get to the end. You can’t wait to be happy, but with patience you can find happiness. And understanding that patience transcends time allows you to find joy in this moment, in the potential of the future, and the glory of the past. Right now.
Patience asks that you let go and allow the wind to take you there. Waiting holds on tight until your fingers are stiff and sore. Patience builds. Waiting atrophies.
Waiting holds its breath, while patience breathes. So open your eyes, open your mind, and breathe.