Tag Archives: patience

Hurry up and wait.

I woke this morning with a kink in my neck, and it never really went away, in spiIMG_0564 orange flowerte of many treatments including a thorough and deep massage by my friend who is staying here. When you are in pain, the hours pass slowly. I was lying on my bed a lot or taking walks, and thinking. I know I shouldn’t be typing at a computer, but — I am. While I was resting I read a line about Virginia Woolf, that she wrote in her diary every night, because she didn’t feel that anything had really happened unless she wrote it down.

In the morning I did my usual route on the bike path, following the advice of my chiropractor long ago who said that when you are walking “every step is like a spinal adjustment,” and as therapeutic. And I thought more about Metropolitan Anthony’s words I quoted recently about how to have an intense life.

I took pictures with my cell phone, even though the sun was a little too bright. I walked up the next street over, behind our house, the street where the people live who sing Chinese karaoke for the neighborhood, and who ran their leaf blower at 7:00 a.m. last Saturday. I wanted to write down their house number in case there is a next time with the leaf blower.IMG_0366 trees from CC

And I took this picture of the tree line. That Dr. Suess Tree is the redwood that dropped needles in our pool when we had a pool. My pine tree is the next one to its right. The other trees are in other yards in the neighborhood. I’m glad I don’t live in a new development where all the trees are young and short.

But living in a neighborhood of any sort requires patience. I have had yappy dogs next door for years, and I didn’t get too bothered by them until Mr. Glad died, and then I became irritable. My priest confessor warned me that this would happen, but when I lost my patience with the dogs who yipped and yapped nonstop every time I went into my yard, I didn’t repent. I started thinking about how some people have poisoned dogs, and I understood.

Then when I was standing in church on the Feast of the Transfiguration, the realization came to me that my attitude toward the dogs was the real problem. St. Herman or St. Seraphim would have made friends with the dogs, even through the fence, while I had not even thought of praying for them, who were after all only doing what is natural for dogs. My own angry thoughts were making a racket in my soul that was much nIMG_0553 berriesoisier than any dumb creature’s barking.

For a week I did pray for them, and for their owner; I knew she didn’t know what to do about their incessant outcry either. Then for three days while great tumult was happening in my yard, the poor pups probably didn’t know what to think, and if they were barking no one would have been able to hear it. After that, they were gone. Yes, their owner and they have moved to another town.

Having patience can be an intense activity. I think there must be a connection to the scripture, “Strive to enter into that rest.” When Met. Anthony tells us to “make haste,” I trust this is what he is talking about. I’m not too sure that his exhortation is for me right now, because any kind of hurrying or striving sounds like what I am trying to get away from.

He has said many other things about time and managing it to God’s glory, and I will be musing over more of his words here soon. For this evening, when I walked again at dusk, I was more restful about accepting the intensity, the struggle that has been given me. I don’t see any way to avoid it, if I wanted to.

IMG_0364 s.f. a.m.

I also have to accept the necessity of waiting. As many people have pointed out, there are lessons and pictures of my wider life, in this suburban back yard and town. On my evening walk the light was just right for photography, so most of these pictures were taken then.

Only yesterday I was complaining about my inferior tall sunflowers, but today my shorter variety is blooming, and looking cute. I just had to wait a little longer for it.

George Eliot and The Paralytic


This Lord’s Day we were remembering the paralytic, who sat by the pool waiting for a chance to get into the water at those times when an angel stirred it, so that he might be healed. After 38 years, Jesus came by and healed him.

Father John in his homily highlighted one aspect of the Gospel story: how we are like that man in our seeming paralysis when it comes to overcoming our sins. Priests often hear in confession the lament of the Christian who continues to battle the same weaknesses and failings year after year, feeling that he makes little progress.

I think a lot about the truism that habits are like a second nature to us. As we read in Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

It sounds very little like one chipper exhortation you might have read: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Well, yes, why not just start today? When I read that on Tuesday, I remembered the paralytic, and I thought on my own unchanged bad habits. After his 38 years, wasn’t it in fact too late for many things? (The assumption is that one might have been greater; the reverse is probably more true, that it’s never too late to start a downward spiral.)

For myself, let’s see…how many years have I been cultivating certain of my bad habits? More than that, I’m afraid. But it’s a simple thing: “The only thing that stands between me and greatness is me.” (Woody Allen)

George Eliot

George Eliot is credited with having made that bold assertion, “It’s never to late to be what you might have been.” She was the subject of a New Yorker article from February of this year, “Middlemarch and Me,” by Rebecca Mead, who questions the validity of the quote and whether it even reflects the true outlook of the author Mary Ann Evans.

Mead has been a lifelong lover of Eliot’s books, Middlemarch in particular, and she points out some hints that the author leaves in her novels, as well as forthright confessions from her journals, to show that her general attitude was wiser and more modest.

In Middlemarch, we read of the main character,  “Dorothea herself had no dreams of being praised above other women, feeling that there was always something better which she might have done, if she had only been better and known better.”

Mead writes: “Middlemarch is not about blooming late, or unexpectedly coming into one’s own after the unproductive flush of youth. Middlemarch suggests that it is always too late to be what you might have been — but it also shows that, virtually without exception, the unrealized life is worth living. The book that Virginia Woolf characterized as ‘one of the few English novels written for grown-up people’ is also a book about how to be a grownup person — about how to bear one’s share of sorrow, failure, and loss, as well as to enjoy moments of hard-won happiness.”

Let’s look back at the Paralytic by the Sheep’s Gate Pool. He must have had some way to propel himself, perhaps one limb that was functional, so that he could sit there for much of his life hoping to get down to the water first. He certainly had patience — and perseverance, to keep trying.

Father John said that even if we feel we have nothing more than a big toe’s worth of strength against our sins, we must keep struggling. Because we never know when Jesus will come to us. When he came to the cripple by the pool, He Himself was the source of the healing, and the man was delivered from his afflictions and was able to walk and carry his bed. For most of us, we will not receive the equivalent healing until we are resurrected in the coming Kingdom.

In the meantime, we will have failures. Maybe we will even think we are failures. It is very discouraging when one realizes what Samuel Johnson found: “The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” On another aspect of this human experience, Dorothea said in Middlemarch about her husband’s intellectual labors: “Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.”

The most helpful sort of activity to persevere in, if one wants to be on the path to God, is prayer. “A long perseverance” of this sort would never be disappointing. The very moments of prayer have the potential to be Heaven itself, in the presence of the God Who is Love.

“In patience you possess your souls,” we read in Luke 21, and Mark Twain elaborates: “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

Whether we are being too easy on ourselves is the question. If we are being lazy, of course, that is one of the sins we are trying to overcome. And pride in thinking we are equal to any task, we can be anything we put our minds to — that also must be set aside.

Mary Ann Evans put it this way in her journal: “The difficulty is, to decide how far resolution should set in the direction of activity rather than in the acceptance of a more negative state.”

But I like best the way St. Seraphim of Sarov speaks about this, and will close with his gentle words: “One should be lenient towards the weaknesses and imperfections of one’s own soul and endure one’s own shortcomings as we tolerate the shortcomings of our neighbours, and at the same time not become lazy but impel oneself to work on one’s improvement incessantly.”

Around the Net

When Joanne at  Seasonal Hearth  was in the Netherlands she and her family rode bicycles a lot, and they took so many pictures of bicycles of all sorts everywhere, it adds up to give a feeling for the country where the population of bikes is greater than that of people.

On this blog about Words, I learned that I possess philoprogenitiveness, and it has been one of the greatest stories of my life! I don’t always read these posts, but they come daily…Now that I’ve been so encouraged by this one, I might check in more often. If I had known the word amphibology it would have come in handy when I was grousing about grammar recently.

Some people can drink milk their whole lives seemingly without  any problem (though my husband’s chiropractor thinks it’s the worst thing for anyone) while others can’t digest it. Via Touchstone I ran into this article about population migrations and where the gene for lactose tolerance came from. I’d like to read more about it.

My favorite prize from recent web wandering is a daily posting of poems from the George Hail Library in Rhode Island, each one accompanied by a picture and brief introductory notes. It’s more reliable than the online poem-a-day I used to read, and the blog host has some pleasing parameters for the sort of poetry she likes to share. Here is a recent one that I love. If you click on the title you can see the photo and comments as well:


THE PATIENCE OF ORDINARY THINGS

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

~ Pat Schneider, American poet and writer