Why Is Patience So Important?

“If you want to know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.” — Hal Borland

It seems that in the fall, I spend a great deal of time feeling tremendous respect for trees.  More than the richness of their colors and the dignity with which they prepare for their fallow season, I feel humbled by their grace.  The manner in which they bend when the wind demands their attention;  the stately pride with which they accept that time will effect its plan.

A good friend of mine has been on a fantastic roll lately.  Meeting new people, finding that her voice has more range and depth than she imagined (reminds me of Katy Perry‘s song “Roar”).  Her life – her new life has reflected  her enthusiasm, zest and openness to the thrill of possibility.  I’ve shared in this delight of course, just as I am here today when the rhythm slows, the endorphins need replenishment and the bubbles are now on simmer.  Nothing is wrong, yet what happened to the effervescence?  The days of delight?

Jo wonders about her ‘next whatever’, feeling that its elusiveness is akin to a burr under a horse’s saddle.  Itchy and unsettled, we spend many an email considering the what ifs, could bes, and shoulds – and we end up back at the reality that life is going to unfold whether we are patient or not.

Patience.  The art of being still.  Of understanding that there are fallow periods, which require only that we gain strength and sustenance and an understanding of who we are becoming.  There’s something a little unsettling about it I think.  It took me two years to undo the pleasurable and neurotic remnants of working in biglaw.  To finally realize that the primary takeaway – the only takeaway – is that I made a difference, perhaps to a few people over the span of decades.  I choose to hold onto some cherished memories.   I didn’t leave the firm with grace in my heart – a story for another day perhaps.  I struggled to understand that my next whatever would be as serendipitous as the one I had just experienced.  I still do (struggle that is) – just not as much.

I write a lot about duality; it’s so much a part of our human construct.  Yet in the fall I look to the trees.  They are indomitable and unfazed, welcoming both bird and squirrel, a child’s foot nestled between its trunk and branch.  Silently knowing that regardless of preference or wish, hope or daydream, the most important element it brings to the fall is its presence.  Its being.   Time I think to take a moment  under the trees, sway under the harvest moon and just watch life and love unfold.

43 thoughts on “Why Is Patience So Important?

  1. Mimi, this post resonated with me. Can’t sit still. Have little patience. If I could only effect (or affect?) the watching life unfold…

    “Even when he is still,
    The selfish man is busy.
    Even when he is busy,
    The selfless man is still.”

    – Ashtavakra Gita

  2. Ah David…I struggle too. But I try, and you try. You see moments and they register in your memory and are recalled in some of your personal posts. Work demands its own pace and is unforgiving in its expectations – it certainly makes changing rhythm much harder. But despite your impatience, there is a part of you that stops on occasion. Maybe not as often as you’d like – certainly for me not as often as I would like. Perhaps the best we can do is try..

  3. Hi Mimi. I must admit, patience is not one of my virtues. In fact, I’m very much like my Grandfather who had such little patience he drove my family slightly insane. When we were young, and were required to leave the house at a certain time, he would stand at the door (sometimes as much as 10 minutes early) and jingle the massive amounts of change he kept in his pocket until everyone was out of the house and in the car. I still can’t bear to hear the sound of jingling change! Enough about my impatient Grandfather …. what I really wanted to say was that you indeed made a difference in many lives here at the firm. I remember very clearly the day you came to speak to the committee (it has to have been at least 10 or 12 years ago) about the importance of recognizing the difference in the multiple generations working at the firm. Your thoughts made an impact on me, and I remember thinking how refreshing it was to have someone speaking in plain English to all these intellectual types about the most effective way to communicate with people in such a diverse workplace. I thought you were brilliant and I respected that you were able to sit down in front of what could have been a difficult crowd and command the room. Please do not ever doubt your impact, for I know that you made a difference in more than “a few” lives here at the firm. xo

    • I love the story about your Grandfather – though I’ve never though of you as impatient. Responsible, focused, smart – yes, but not impatient. Another insight into you Christine!! And thank you for saying I made a larger difference than perhaps I realize. I remember that day – and as you know, I was never intimidated by the audience – occasionally I was frustrated by their recalcitrance thought!! miss you xox, m

  4. Mims…out of the ballpark. The trees, of course, the trees…what a most lovely, and perfect metaphor. Soon as I came upon your first mention of them, something in me settled. The steadfastness they represent and offer to us. And to find myself in your words, of course resonance, but more importantly, comfort at being known, understood. Yes, the patience to just sit, be. The patience to let it all unfold, trusting that with each bit that unfolds, we will be as ok as we were the day before. So glad to know you are sitting under the same trees… xoxox

  5. As always, beautiful fluid writing that leaves me thinking (and you know how I hate to do that!). I too am struggling with patience right now, as I always have. Now I’m looking out the back door at all the trees starting to turn, and waxing philosophical with your words in my head. Oh gawd.

  6. As a type A, I have no idea what patience looks like. My beloved husband is pokey so maybe that’s what it looks like. Aging has made me more tolerant of all things and less caring about the little stuff. Maybe that’s patience too. Love, love, love the video.

  7. love that you talk about duality and amb is posting bipartie! Great minds and blogmosis 🙂

    I appreciate your words and they sound so lovely, but can’t identify. Do you remember being able to sit and be still when your kiddos were younger? Am in such a crazy stage right now with their needs, my needs, hubby’s needs. Would love to have a spirit of patience, but don’t see it happening anytime soon. Though after reading your post again (see, I read them twice sometimes 🙂 ), a wondering if your “patience” is more of a will of spirit–an internal thing–rather than the reactivity to daily dramas. ??

    As always, insightful in unexpected and lovely ways, Mimi.

    • I remember my life when the boys were younger and there was no such thing as being still, for it just wasn’t on the schedule! I was impatient as a child – never one for delaying gratification or waiting for anything. But by the time I was allegedly a grown-up, I became a pretty patient person. I do think it’s more an internal thing than anything else. Learning that the next-best-thing may not be all it’s cracked up to be and that the best thing is right here in this moment. I’m trying to get there Liz – I have a ways to go. xox, m

  8. Thanks for the great post and the much needed reminder. I am just discovering patience, which I now firmly goes hand in hand with wisdom. As they say, you can run around all day trying chase a butterfly, but if you sit patiently in the field it might just land on your shoulder. Swapping big law for big trees, a great juxtaposition.

    • I love the expression about the butterfly…I’m going to try and remember that. And I hadn’t thought about the juxtaposition of big law for big trees – and yes, I think I like it too. Thanks so much..

  9. I had always considered patience as one of my strengths as I had thought of it in terms of either patience with other people (the elderly, young children, disabled) or in delayed gratification (studying for a better education etc). I had never thought of it in terms of being patient in the “fallow periods” of my life or at times of suffering. ‘Hurry up and get over it’ is the message that keeps rattling about in my head. I heard your message loud and clear this morning. I will re-affirm patience as a virtue worth keeping and living by – and in the full sense of the word.

    I applaud your own patience and grace in the change of life you have experienced from the work you were previously engaged in to finding a new way of making a difference. I am one of those people you have touched in your new way. To me, you have made a difference.

    • I am incredibly touched by your comments Elizabeth…I read it over and over again, somewhat in humble disbelief that I could touch your life so many miles away. And yet, I love hearing from you, relish our exchanges and realize that yes, you too make a difference in my life – and for that I am very grateful.

  10. Patience is a wonderful quality and sometimes also hard-won. I know I’m more patient than I used to be, but I struggle with it at times. I guess, for me, it speaks of trust and waiting for things to unfold rather than “pushing the river.”

  11. Funny, of all the simple quotes I associate with my elementary years, Ben Franklin’s “Patience is a virtue” has stayed with me alongside Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death.” Interesting association, don’t you think? I much prefer the resonance of “duality being part of the human construct”. I believe part of this impatience has to do with the recognition that there certainly are more years behind me than in front of me and “I have places to go and people to see”‘ it’s allowing myself to continue to be defined as an “educator” when no longer “educating” in the formal sense of the word, it’s wanting so much to be productive that I can’t see that I am, and, yes at the end of the day it’s giving myself the present as Emerson put it “…to make one life easier because you have lived. That’s success” which would make me have to admit that I, too, made a difference ( please forgive the paraphrasing and botching of the exact Emerson quote, but you get the idea). I have been practicing patience all week as I embark on this new journey; one certainly not part of my master plan and you know me, always have a plan and a plan b. Patience. All good things come to those who wait. I’ve been telling that to my daughter as she continues to search for the job that may or may not be her career, but a transition. A chance to evolve. An opportunity to grow personally. I guess I should take my own advice. I’m in transition as I continue to be an educator, life-long learner and try to master the art of seeing myself as my nearest and dearest see me. Patience. I’ve always loved a good challenge. Great blog today, Mimi. You hit many a nail right on the head. To the moon and back. All there is.

    • Just more fodder for our time together Jo…:-) So much to say in response to this, but undoubtedly better over a glass of wine. You are still an educator, you are still a contributor, you are still incredibly important to more people than you realize. Success? Yes, you are. xoxo m

      • <3. To be able to see myself as my nearest and dearest see me; something to patiently work toward for sure. Looking forward to our time together, always.

  12. This is a beautiful post, Mimi, so powerful, yet gentle like a tree. It reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Giving Tree, by She’ll Silverstein. The tree was giving and patient. Thank you.

  13. my greatest challenge. Being still. (not surprising, prolly) But I think I am learning. I catch myself…you know? Breathe, and start reciting gratitude prayers left and right–until I feel it. And then I can relax.

    You are prolly getting some splendid fall colors right now!

    And treez. They are sentinels, really. There is this line in Carlos Castaneda’s “Power of Silence” (his best book by far) that says:

    “to know a tree, study the space between its branches”

    I love that line–philosophy–creed. It has been coming up a lot lately, too! That seems significant in itself.

    Thank you for another thought provoking, marvelous post, Karma GURL!! 🙂

    just had a thought (quick!! catch and release!!) you should pick up that book! It sounds like you are in the perfect place to read it–spiritually and geographically.

  14. My dear, sweet friend, you are a constant revelation to me. Just when I think you can’t write a more beautiful, mindful, meaningful post, another flows from your pen (so to speak… ;-))

    I love the analogies you draw in this piece, and as someone who struggles with patience on a daily basis, I so appreciate the admonition to cultivate the art of being still. And the trees, standing like sentinels in all of their autumnal splendor, are such potent reminders. I remember reading a book many years ago, ‘Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes,’ by William Bridges. Bridges talks about the importance, indeed the necessity, of sitting in those ‘uncomfortable spaces in between’ that emerge in times of change–allowing yourself the space to think, rather than instinctively rushing from one point to the next. So very difficult to do sometimes, especially when experiencing pain, but oh my gosh how necessary…..

    Thank you, honey, for wise, wonderful, warm, compassionate YOU. You are my blessing…xoxo

    • Hi sweetie…we struggle together with the self-imposed pressure to ‘be’, never quite satisfied with the reality that where we are is perhaps where we are supposed to be. I don’t know that I’m all that eloquent, but I do know that the trees symbolize a dignity and acceptance I am drawn to. And I know that we are blessed with each other…xox

  15. Oh, stillness…so easy to see and so hard to do. For me, the pattern is to be still when I have the “luxury” of time. That means that it’s still something that I try on instead of own. But it’s an everyday opportunity. Thanks for the reminder.

    And to my fellow Bridges fan, you might enjoy his subsequent book, “The Way of Transition”, when he writes in a deep and raw level about the loss of his first wife. His key point is that we must go slow to go through. Sigh.

  16. Dealing with loss is another lesson we can learn from trees. Every fall they loose their leaves, sprouting new regrowth in the spring. If we learn to be patient from the trees, and wait for the new beginnings to unfold in our lives, we might enjoy new people, new experiences, or even new thoughts and feelings about our lives. It is so hard to loose something we cherised and enjoyed, and if we don’t ever get it back, we have to ride on the memories.
    Mimi, you still make such a big difference every day in a different but very big way. You always will.
    xo Fran

  17. This is excellent, Mimi. You know, I have only in recent years grown an enormous appreciation of trees. Outside my bedroom window – & I often sit up in bed writing – is a huge tree and every morning birds wake in it, and it is joy.

    Yes, I’ve lacked patience, I have, and as my life winds down, it’s difficult to not be impatient to ACHIEVE SOMETHING, to pass something on in this world, to do something worthwhile. But, I will have to be patient…. and have some kind of a focus. I really do lack focus, and have never pictured myself in a good place. I need to try and see well.

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