Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Cultivating patience

miraculous green shoots

I was an impatient child.

I can remember waiting at the train station with my grandfather – waiting because we had come too early, way too early. (My grandfather was not a man to cut it fine, to race the clock, to risk being late.) I remember wanting to cry, such was my frustration, and then actually crying . . . for no other reason than that I could not stand the limbo of waiting.

I suppose that motherhood helps cultivate the quality of patience. All of that waiting, all of that forced stillness -- as you let a child learn to dress herself, or sound out the letters of a word, or eat a meal with a clumsy knife and fork and a dreamy disinterest in the plate’s contents. And that’s not to mention piano scales, or ballet practice, or all those many hours waiting in a car for someone else to finish. But still, I am childishly impatient – and I have learned to always carry a book, so that I can be entertained – so that I can escape.

I once bought a card that featured a cantankerous elderly woman. She said, “Lord, give me patience. And can you hurry it up.”

My favourite exercise has always been walking – but always outside; never on a treadmill. I want to breathe the fresh air, and observe the landscape as it changes, but most of all I want the sensation of movement. I want to feel that I am going somewhere.

This winter, for the first time since we have lived in England, there have been long stretches (weeks, months) where the weather has been too bad to go outside. Unable to walk, I’ve had to look for some other form of mental/physical exercise; and I’ve discovered an unexpected affinity for yoga – that practice associated with stillness, and concentration, and patience.

Necessary parenthetical caveat: (But having said that, I started with yoga on the Wii – which encourages the rather un-yoga-like competitive aspect. Although the various beeps are helpful for correcting one’s form, and getting a score for each pose is wonderfully motivating, I don’t think the desire to beat your teenaged daughter’s scores are wholly within the yogic spirit.)

Last Friday, for the first time, I graduated (transcended?) to a real yoga class. For 90 minutes, we breathed, we stretched, and we held our poses in silence. I had a more or less empty mind for once, hearing only the crackling of the wood-burning stove and the howling of the wind outside. The time passed quickly . . . or maybe not quickly, but it passed without my being conscious of counting it, or minding it, or ticking it away. I don’t remember thinking, not even once, that I wanted it to end so that I could move on to something else.

Yesterday I was reading a novel in which a woman, who lives in Chicago, is offered a dream house in California. All winter, I have dreamed of living in California. I’ve longed for blue skies, with an angry, deeply impatient sort of longing. Take the house, I say to the fictional character! Are you crazy? But the woman thinks this: “she probably really does need the seasons, their lessons of birth and rebirth, the rich variety they offer, even when the offering is a freezing day full of howling winds and driving snow.”

Hmmm.

Yesterday, we had that blue sky that I’ve been yearning for. We also had a sun hot enough to encourage me to put on my gardening gloves and dig my spade into the cold, damp earth. I turned over the soil – “airing it,” even as I aired out my own winter-weary body. I felt this deep sense of – well, exultation, really. I just felt so joyful, so grateful, for this most optimistic of all seasons.

And even though I can’t wait to see everything come into full and glorious bloom, I actually felt content to appreciate and admire these first few signs of spring.


miniature iris
enjoy their brief moment,
because they are a favorite snack
 of the muntjac deer who often visit

21 comments:

slommler said...

I can wait in line okay...or for a plane that is delayed...but I hate to wait for someone to pick me up. I would rather drive myself. Drives me crazy!! LOL! So I understand how you feel! Yoga huh? Hmmmm! Maybe I will try that too!
Thanks
Hugs
SueAnn

ewix said...

What a wonderful, joyful essay, Bee.
Doesn't Jane Eyre open "There was no possibility of a walk that day?"
Like you, I'm horribly impatient. I'm so glad you enjoyed the yoga -something I keep meaning to try.
So you are out in the garden --while I was chopping chunks of ice at the dog run yesterday morning.
Anyway, so glad to see/feel/hear the seasons turning.
We have snow in the forecast.......

Beth said...

I have a fridge magnets which reads “Lord, give me patience and I want it now!”

If it’s true that “good things come to those who wait...” - I’m waiting! In truth, good things come to those who recognize them. :)

The Bug said...

My husband (& probably simple aging) has taught me to be more patient. Well, & living in Zambia for 1 1/2 years helped too - but that was a long time ago & I jumped back into Type A American life with gusto when I got back...

I've been really working at waiting out the winter - knowing that I'll love the spring even more when it comes - & knowing that I'll complain about the heat of summer too. There's no hurry to get to that place!

ArtSparker said...

I find the non-acceptance of the Dream House in California to have a certain quality of perfunctory profundity. Hope there are more sunny days for you all there soon.

rachel said...

I learned to be more patient once I started driving in my mid-30s - sitting in crawling traffic to and from work was so frustrating that I reshaped it into Time To Be With Myself - and slowly, it began to work, and to extend to other areas of my life. But I still find it hard to wait for people who are late!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Patience. Yes, I am learning that today. It is snowing like gangbusters outside my window. Again. I do appreciate my four seasons greatly, but I am so tired of cold feet.

Anne said...

I'm okay with most waiting, perhaps because I'm a little too good at daydreaming. Waiting for someone who is making me late, however, and waiting to do something unpleasant or anxiety-inducing (like a thesis defense) are the two sorts of waiting that get to me.

Yoga sounds like a wonderful way to while away the days you can't go outside. And may I just say that I love the idea of a yoga practice with a crackling fire inside and wind howling outside! So cozy. I enjoy yoga, though I don't do it very often. I'm glad you're enjoying it, too.

For what it's worth, we do have seasons in California: the season when it's cool and rains (and everything's green), and the season when it's hot and doesn't (and everything's brown).

:)

Lisa said...

Motherhood definitely taught me patience. Like you, I bring along something to read otherwise I'd either drop off in sleep or have some kind of damning internal conversation that would leave me impossible to live with for the next few hours.

This winter in the SE United States, we've experience more of winter than usual. It's been a bit bracing, but refreshing in a way. More so than in years past, I'm truly anticipating spring.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ah what a beautiful post. So seasonal, including the impatience that accompanies the change of season.

I don’t think the desire to beat your teenaged daughter’s scores are wholly within the yogic spirit.

Made me laugh. No, probably not ... but why not?? xx

Marcheline said...

Lovely. All of it.

Angie Muresan said...

I've been doing yoga for years and prefer it over any other type of exercise. It teaches patience.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

I love yoga--I think all that breathing puts me on an oxygen high.

Your photos make me want to say: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I can feel it. Spring, that is.

XO

Nimble said...

What a mismatch between your personality and your grandpa's. I can picture the frustration even though I was not an impatient child. And what a relief to have the first taste of gardening after a long dark winter.

Star said...

Oh I feel so happy. That is the first time I have sensed contentment in your voice at being here in beautiful England. I suppose it has come as a sort of Lenten experience. The winter has been so hard this year that the spring seems even more wonderful in its' coming. Welcome in England Bee (hug) please enjoy every moment of this Spring and may you have many many more under these skies.
Blessings, Star

B said...

I'm a VERY impatient girl, too, but I do find that yoga helps, strangely! Maybe I should go back to my classes! I enjoyed your reflections on waiting for the seasons...

Dick said...

I'm pathologically impatient, I'm afraid. Queues do for me completely. But thank you, Bee, for the inspirational paragraph about yoga. I think I've finally located a yoga session in town that won't have me the lone straining, grunting man amongst lissome housewives who all lunch together. I shall go for it.

Shaista (Lupus in Flight) said...

Oh Bee, such a lovely lovely post. I love the pictures you create for us, the yoga wii (!!), the airing of the soil, the pure pleasure of your long walks... you are truly living, and epitomising the best of England...

Kristen In London said...

How lovely this is, Bee! I hate myself every Friday for dreading sitting through my daughter's ice skating lesson. Never does an hour go by more SLOWLY! And it's just because I'm waiting. But I used to feel that way about waiting for her horseback riding lesson to be over, and suddenly, before I knew it, before I had a chance to notice, I'd seen the last one and she switched to riding through Hyde Park with her stablemates, no more lessons. Nothing to watch or wait for. And I miss it!

Amanda said...

I share all your impatience Bee! It's little better on the Continent with snow in France and Italy. Maybe California good to dream of.

I walk even in lashing rain, but it's different in London. Spring IS coming. I've been learning a new Bach piece, which is all about waiting and waiting for joy, and then it comes in a great burst of joy and triumph. So if the yoga doesn't work,maybe try listening to him?

Relyn said...

I love this post so much. I, too, am of an impatient nature. I think more than impatient I just hate waste. And waiting always feels like such a waste of time. I also always have a book or magazine and a journal. That way I can always DO something. Often it's make a list of things to do. Maybe I need to do yoga. Ya think?