Tag Archives: patience

Patience and the present moment

Patience: n. the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without gettingangry or upset 

Present: adj. existing or occurring NOW.

When I started 365 P Words back in April, 225 posts ago, it was my intention to focus on words that represented problematic issues for me – like productivity, practice, perfection, procrastination, perseverance, and PATIENCE.  

It quickly became apparent that other P words would intrude on these ruminations – some inconsequential: poodles, post-its and purple poop – and others of consuming passion: politics, prevarication and Palin. 

This week, I’m parent-sitting my 94-year-old Mom at my sister’s home in Nashville while she and her husband take a much-needed vacation, and PATIENCE is the word of the week.

Mom is trying to maintain her grip on reality, but her brain seems only able to grasp what is directly in front of her. This means that when I leave the room she’s in, I disappear, just like an infant thinks the toy you hide under the covers is gone. 

My sister’s house is not big, but it’s laid out in a meandering pattern, so it’s easy for Mom to lose track of her companion.  If I’m in the kitchen and she’s in the living room, she suddenly notices nobody’s there and she starts a quest for the missing person, poking her head in each room, calling, “Hello?? Anybody here??”

This morning while I was dressing in my bedroom, she came in three times, to call, “anybody home?” I tell her I’m dressing and she wanders off, momentarily satisfied, then in a minute she has to check in again. 

I know she doesn’t mean to drive me nuts, so I breathe deeply and try to avoid rolling my eyes. It wouldn’t be so bad to just hang out with her, but she wants to be good company, so she keeps asking me about my life – her attempt to be a good conversationalist.  In the moment, she is a good conversationalist; but my patience is tried when it’s the same conversation we just had.

I’ve been living alone for six years and have come to savor the chatter of my own tiny mind and I don’t like being interrupted. After decades of living with kids and a super-talkative spouse, I need the external silence. I can’t think or write without it. 

My sister and brother-in-law are singer-songwriters (in Nashville, what else?) – how DO they DO it with Mom always nattering away?  I’m in awe of them.

At the rate I’m going I’m not going to be a Buddhist monk any time soon. Patience? What’s that? I can be infinitely patient in traffic or in a slow checkout line, but in the present moment with my own mother? Not now.

Patience #2

Once upon a time I was not a patient person.  My life, the traffic, the checkout line – none of it moved fast enough for me.  I remember reading a book back in the 70s titled Don’t Push the River (by one of Fritz Perls’ followers), and thinking, “why not??”

About ten years ago I went to see my Unitarian pastor about my marriage, hoping that he would tell me if I should stay or go.

(He’s also a practicing Buddhist.) He told me I was too “ambitious.”

What? Me?  He explained that he meant ambitious in the sense that I was striving for an answer (pushing the river) when the answer wasn’t yet ready to present itself.  Ambition as a form of impatience.

One day a couple of years later the answer revealed itself clearly and simply – and because of that patient stewing period the ensuing separation was pretty painless.

These days I’m much much more patient than I used to be. Yoga has definitely helped. Being older and having more perspective on what’s really important has also helped.

The fellow over at ZenHabits has a post up with his tips on cultivating patience. He suggests keeping track of your impatient moments by making check marks on a tally sheet, and by noticing what specific sorts of things tally impatient feelings.

My friend Paul suggests rock-stacking, as he did on a recent camping trip.

I’m done with traffic and checkout line impatience.  Those have been gone for years.  My two biggest impatience triggers these days are:

  • people who talk on and on (an on), without ever seeming to be able to locate their point
  • wanting to know the outcome of a situation in the future (that I can’t possibly know till that time arrives) -like whether this old high school friend and I will actually be able to create a viable relationship when we see each other at reunion in mid-August…. my imagination can’t let this puppy rest!

All my spiritual learnings tell me to breathe and be here now, since NOW is all I’ve got. Ever. Werner used to tell us “what is is; what isn’t isn’t” – get over it.

It’s hard.

Peculiar passion – my Vector Graphics computer

In 1980 you could probably count on one hand the number of 40 year-old single mothers who desperately wanted to own a computer. I knew nothing about them except that you could correct your typing errors with an easy keystroke or two, you could move whole paragraphs from here to there and back again, and you could get software to add and subtract flawlessly so I could keep track of my finances.

I wanted to earn a living as a writer, but I was a terrible typist. My writing skills were marginal enough that it often took many drafts before something worthwhile emerged (if ever…). With a computer editing was painless, even fun. And I could keep track of my puny finances without having to take off my socks.

The Apple was available but seemed like just a toy; I wanted to play with the big boys.

So I got me a Vector 3 – a CP/M machine with (wait for it) 56Kb RAM (!!) and a 340Kb (!!) external floppy drive. As you can see, the 72-key keyboard and 12” video screen were all one unit. You loaded the program you wanted to use from a floppy disk, and saved your files onto another floppy.

I also bought a big honking Diablo 630 printer, which created beautiful proportionally spaced output (unlike dot-matriz printers where every letter was given the same width) about twice as fast as you could go on a Selectric typewriter (if you could type).

Vector Graphics Inc was started by two San Francisco housewives in the late ’70s, Lore Harp and Carole Ely – how cool is that! Harp’s then husband was technical director. The Harps’ divorce ultimately brought the company down. Lore Harp took a brief left turn and invented a funnel women could pee into when it was inconvenient to use a toilet, and then became a big gun at IDG (which owned Infoworld, among other tech publications), and now is a venture capitalist with lots of bucks and a position on the MIT board of trustees.

But I digress. The computer and printer plus Magic Wand word processing and Execuplan spreadsheet cost an absurd amount of money ($8,000 if I recall!) but I never regretted it for an instant.  It paid for itself in the articles I sold, technical editing I could do, and jump start I got on computer literacy, because believe me the road was rough and rocky.  Tech support? No such thing.

I finally sold the system in 1985 to another Vector owner who wanted a backup for spare parts should her system have problems.

I’ve been a geek ever since, owning countless computers over the years, many of which I built myself. It must be said, however, that I no longer much enjoy getting under a computer’s hood. I just want it to work and keep working. And when it doesn’t it’s all I can do to keep my zen cool.

Potting and perseverance

I have two large ceramic pots flanking the steps to my front door. A month ago my ex extricated the two strappy plants that had filled the pots with their roots over the past four years.

Since the pots had smaller openings than the main body, this was not a simple matter of yanking the plants out or overturning the pots to dump them out. It required surgery. Careful hacking and lots of patience.  I would have given up and tossed everything.  But that’s not my ex’s nature. He perseveres.

So then I had two empy pots.   They sat there for a couple of weeks while I recovered from watching my ex work so hard.

Eventually I bought some fresh potting soil and some new plants.  But then it got really hot – and plants don’t like being transplanted when it’s really hot. I’m not keen on working in the heat either.

Finally the stars were in alignment and the weather had cooled. Time to piss or pot.

The potting soil came out of the bags as dry as dust. It took a couple of hours to get it properly mixed and rehydrated. I mixed it in a giant plastic laundry tub with intermittent doses of water,  hydrophilic plastic bits,  and Osmocote timed release fertilizer.

I got filthy, sweaty, and impatient. This took WAY longer than I had expected. And it took way more potting mix too, because once the water had been absorbed the dirt volume shrank by about half and the pots turned out to be bottomless. I wanted to quit and do something fun, like cleaning toilets.  As I’ve said before, perseverance is a virtue I’m still seeking. (In fact this is my fourth post on perseverance – at least I persevere talking about perseverance!)

But I finished the job. The plants still look puny and pathetic, but my virtue is restored.


Patience: 1. The quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. 2. An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

One week and six hours ago I turned on my computer to discover it hung at the Windows screen.

*I rummaged thru my geek experience and pulled up a bunch of tricks. Tried them. Nothing. I went online and looked for more tricks (I have a laptop too). Nothing.*

[Repeat several times from * to * while breathing deeply.]

I slept on it and tried more tricks the next day with the help of a techie pro. Nothing.

Thinking it was a bad drive I ordered a new highly recommended one from Newegg.com and tried to move on to other things for a few days. I took lots of yoga classes. Breathed deep. A gal in my yoga class shared about having to pull life-support from her severely damaged newborn. Another spoke of trying to make peace with her dying mother. And I’m hyperventilating over a hard drive?

Breathed some more.

The new drive arrived yesterday afternoon and I transplanted it where the sickie had been. Partitioned it, loaded Windows. Or so I thought. When I turned the machine back on it hung in the very same spot.

[Repeat from * to * above while breathing deeply.]

No dice. So…

As I said earlier, “phuck that!” This morning I did what I should have done a week ago – I took it into the local computer shop. They’ve got the spare parts and they have the patience.

In prior incarnations I’d have been rending my clothes over such a disruption, but there’s still plenty room for improvement in the patience department.