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The Gifts of WaitingSeptember 13, 2012
When we have given all we can to a project, we can taste the finale. We long for closure. Yet, obstacles often arise just before completion. The bread is in the oven, and the electricity fails. After five edits, we thought the book was ready, and a formatting glitch is discovered. We are told the review copy is in the mail. It feels as though we have suddenly been challenged to complete a formidable test, such as emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. The only thing we can do is wait, isn’t it? Do we have a choice?
Yes, as it turns out, we do. Any test can be transformative if we can clear our emotions enough to recognize the teachable moment, if we can discern the virtues we are called to strengthen.
Tolbert McCarroll, Prior of the Starcross monastic community, said “You always have the choice to take all things evenly, to hold on to nothing, to receive each irritation as if you had only fifteen minutes to live.”
As I found myself becoming more and more agitated by (I thought) having to wait, I began to laugh, realizing that I was forgetting the most basic teaching of The Virtues Project – the virtues are always waiting for us to choose them, and when we do, they change everything. I know intellectually that I am not in control. But in my doer’s heart I always seem to try.
It is difficult, if not impossible for me to beat a direct path from anxiety to patience. When in doubt, anxiety or worry, the virtue that can bring me to patience is gratitude.
Immersing oneself in this powerful virtue is simple: First, call on detachment. Step back from the situation and notice what I am feeling. Second, count my blessings – all the things I am thankful for in this situation. The ability to write. The fact that I have a lovely office space in which to do my writing. My closeness to my children. My enjoyment of my husband. Waking up to sunlight on a crisp Autumn day. Prayer. Birdsong. The list goes on and on.
And so in attempting to embody patience, I find I have moved beyond it to the virtue of serenity. I am able to be the calm in the wind.