The Art of Patience

My son’s school is learning a new word. When I chaperoned a field trip a couple of weeks ago, I saw it accompanied by a simple, straightforward definition on posters as I walked the halls to his classroom.

Later that evening, I opened his homework binder, and there it was again.
I put his colorful handout in my neverending pile of stuff I don’t really have the patience to organize in any meaningful way, and I moved on.

And then all of a sudden, as I was driving in my neighborhood on a stormy afternoon, I wanted something–  a something I’ve somewhat wanted from time to time but all of a sudden I felt myself wanting it in the most overwhelming way. I’ve wanted things desperately before– a minivan (still saving!), a vacation, a massage. But this wanting felt different because of how far beyond my grasp it seemed. And then I could hear my son’s coloring sheet speaking to me in a quiet, nearly annoying sing-song voice.

Patience: waiting until later for what you want now.

This time three years ago I wrote about a different wanting. I was longing to buy a house and it felt hopeless. Too many steps to take before it could actualize. Eventually, painstakingly it did. And now when I sit on my couch drinking coffee or on my backyard swing watching tiny, aggressive hummingbirds defend the feeder, I breathe in what I can only describe as gratitude. Did I actually get here? Do I actually have all this. Is this really my life? In these moments I find myself looking from the outside– I see a woman on a swing watching birds. She is me, but I think “her” of the image.

On a recent episode of the podcast Invisibilia, the host attempts to answer questions about loss and coping. By exploring the lives of two different people with vastly different situations and eventually interviewing a professor of psychology at UT Austin (who has some pretty interesting thoughts about the pronouns we use to describe our lives), she forms a compelling idea about the ways in which we either stick to a script we’ve constructed for ourselves or find ways to tell new stories:

But if you’re having trouble coping, it’s no good to just have a story, a ready-made one about what had happened to you that you kept repeating over and over again to yourself and everyone else. You have to step outside at some point and actively construct a new story. There had to be some moment, somehow, where you saw what happened to you as if you were the author writing about it, not the character living it.

I’m no longer coping with loss (just desire), but it took me years to stop circling around the story of divorce, debt, and brokenness. And now, with my son’s coloring page as a guide, I’m wondering how I can re-envision the story I have about being an artist. How I can create a good story now for the thing I want so that later I can have it.

What I want is a little piece of downtown Covington– a studio/gallery. A space for the art that is eating my home to live and breathe. A space where couples can pick up their wedding paintings– where strangers will wonder in, and I’ll ask them what they think of the day’s weather but we’ll soon chat about more meaningful things.

Like owning a home, it’s not an outrageous want, but one that’s going to require a lot of thinking, planning. A lot of patience. But instead of can’t I’m wondering how. If you want to send some good vibes my way, I wouldn’t be mad.

Lastly, I highly recommend the full episode of Invisibilia which I linked above. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on patience and the stories we craft about our lives– both the ones that limit and expand our thinking. What specific stories do you tell about your life? Are there any that are stuck and need a new direction?