After two months of easy mornings full of reading, baking, and listening to podcasts, I’m learning to navigate the adventure that is working two jobs and writing on the side. My mornings and evenings are now a whirlwind of cooking, lunch-packing, smoothie-making, email-reading, and pile-building. Because I am Queen of the pile. The book pile. The mail pile. The laundry pile. In the midst of all this busy-ness, I’ve been thinking about what it looks like to be patient? Maybe you’re like me and you teeter-totter between the adrenaline of keeping up with a crazy schedule, the obsession with getting things done, and the anxiety of waiting through the process.
Because some things just take time.
I am learning patience. I am learning that creativity is a process that requires patience, a reality that Teresita Fernández explored in a commencement speech, curated here by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.
A kind of panic sets in the very next day, an urge to get into the studio because you know you have to start all over again, building something from nothing, seeking the company of those trusted beneficial failures, waiting for those absurd internal dialogues with your own gang of voices. It’s not a very glamorous scenario. But this is precisely what internal success looks like. It is visible only to yourself and while you can trick the rest of the world into thinking you are a good artist, you can never really convince yourself, which is why you keep trying.
If you’re lucky and motivated enough to keep making art, life is quiet, you get to work at what you love doing, happily chipping away at something, constructing something, adjusting to a cycle of highs and lows and in betweens, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing it for two years or 50 years, the patterns remain exactly the same. The anxiety continues to set in, the doubts creep in, the baby steps towards mending fragments starts all over again, the cautious urge to peek between the cracks is there. When you find yourself in that place, that’s when you’ll know that the inside is driving the outside.
Moving to a new city means slowly building a new set of friendships and social rhythms. This also requires patience. Did you know the Greek’s had a word for patience in friendships? I learned that recently while listening to a sermon:
Markrothumia is the quality of mind and heart which enables someone to bear with people in such a way that their unpleasantness and maliciousness and cruelty will never drive him to bitterness, that their unteachableness will never drive him to despair, that their folly will never drive him to irritation, and that their unloveliness will never alter his love. [A quality] of spirit that never loses patience with, belief in, and hope for people.
In those energetic moments where I find myself worked up because something isn’t getting done fast enough, I think about the need to shift my priorities. What would it look like to design one’s life around enduring processes well, rather than accomplishing things quickly? What would it look like to measure productivity by how well we waited, endured, and rejoiced despite not seeing results instantly? On a daily basis, how can I embrace the process of whatever it is I’m facing, whether that’s traffic on the way home from work, allowing muffins to bake in peace, or slowly piecing together a new article, one word at a time? How can I find joy despite the torture of waiting, the nervousness of trying, the disappointment of failing? How can I tune into life despite its not-yet-done-ness?
Find some practical tips to subduing impatience here (most of the tips start on page 10). If you feel overwhelmed with trying to get everything done, this chart might help. And if you need to take five minutes to reset, I’d recommend closing your eyes and listening to Lucius: