Saturday, September 25, 2010

Impatiently Waiting to become Patient (and silently wanting to scream when people say you'll meet someone wonderful soon)

Have you ever had someone tell you that you are impatient? You're tapping your foot in line to get your sandwich at Potbelly Sandwich Works (which I desperately want to bring back to Boston with me) and a voice that sounds like the "Step Back, Doors Closing" voice in the Metro says to you, "Just be patient, you'll get there." You're looking at your watch during a lecture that's gone 25 minutes too long, and you make a face at the person next to you and they just shrug and turn back to taking copious notes as if to say, "Just sit quietly and enjoy this moment." And you secretly make a face reminiscent of Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes when he looks at his mother's cooking. You're lamenting to a friend who's in a relationship that no one ever asks you out, and they say, "Oh Hilary, it will happen. You just need to not be looking for it to happen, and it will suddenly appear before you! You know, Bob and I met when I wasn't even thinking about boys... I was just going to the 7-Eleven and you know, there he was buying some coffee and bagels...." and they're off down memory lane and you're sitting there looking at your sweating glass of water on its duck coaster thinking, "AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!"

Needless to say, I'm impatient. I've been in all these situations and I always want things to appear faster than they do. I want my sandwich, lecture and relationship to materialize as if they've been time warped to me. But unless the next Albert Einstein is locked in some laboratory in the middle of Kansas inventing the time machine, that is not going to happen.

But as a single woman in my 20s the clear winner for "advice about relationships and not being in one" is to be patient. I took the liberty of going online to find a definition of this word, "patient." And thanks to, I found that patient means (after its medical meaning): "enduring trying circumstances with even temper or characterized by such endurance; "a patient smile"; "was patient with the children"; "an exact and patient scientist"; "please be patient"

So when people tell me to "be patient" they want me to "endure the 'trying circumstance' of being single with an even temper and endurance". Okay...

1. This often does not help. This is due in part to the fact that we wouldn't be sitting in the coffee shop at the corner of 16th and K Sts if I already WAS patient. We wouldn't be having the "patience" conversation if I hadn't begun loudly lamenting my exasperation with life in Singledom. Doesn't it sometimes feel like one big Watergate scandal where you're "All the President's Men" style Woodward/Bernstein, trying to get to the truth about why you're not in a relationship, and everyone you ask is basically saying, "No comment"? If I ask, "Why am I not in a relationshipppppp?" ((in a whinny, complaining, nasal voice) and the response, "Just be patient; it will happen" - not only do I still not know why I am not in a relationship, BUT I start to have the distinct impression that the world is playing a colossal joke on me and the person drinking his/her skinny caramel macchiato or pumpkin spice latte or quad grande americano KNOWS the truth and won't tell me! You search and probe and poke around and try to weasel answers out of everyone you meet, and all you get is, "Just wait!" And you just want to yell into the pounding D.C. traffic, "I DON'T WANT TO WAIT! DON'T TELL ME TO WAIT!"

2. This is the truth. Point No. 2 makes Point No. 1 both easier and harder. The truth is we have to wait. We have to become patient. Whether or not it helps the feelings we have about our lack of patience, lack of boyfriend/girlfriend, lack of explanation about our nice condo complete with built-in dishwasher and backyard patio in Singledom - the truth is we have to wait. We can scream at the truth and we can loathe it with all our guts, but we can't escape it. Patience, like all the virtues, is just simply required.

3. This is more than just not complaining. Being "patient" is not just sitting around and being silent about how we feel. I used to think I was "being patient" when I just shut up about being single and wanting not to be single. I used to think I was "waiting for the Lord" when I kept those thoughts to myself. But I was just a closeted impatient person instead of an openly impatient one. How many of us have said to ourselves, "Look at me! I'm so patient, I haven't complained about being single in three weeks! I am waiting on the Lord!" And within that statement we are whispering, "See, Lord? I learned my lesson, I get the whole 'patience' thing now, you can give me a boyfriend! Anytime now... thanks for the virtue tutorial, I did what you want, so let's get this show on the road because I already have color schemes picked out for the June wedding I want to have and several different catering thoughts and I'd really like to narrow them down ASAP!" When we strain at patience and try to learn it in a hurry, we're simply moving our impatience to a deeper, quieter level. We are trying to get "patience" down so that we don't have to actually be patient. But I had this sinking thought the other morning as I was writing in my journal on the bus home from work and we were stuck at a traffic light. God doesn't just want me to "learn" patience and then when He thinks I've passed the test, I get the relationship. The relationship is not the reward. We don't need to learn to be patient because it's a stepping stone from Single to Dating, from Dating to Married, from Married to Happily Ever After. He is teaching patience because it is required to obey Him, required to love Him, and love one another as He loved us. This is about more than just not complaining.

4. I started this blog with the (hopefully catchy) title "Impatiently Waiting to become Patient" - and I want to end it with a word of empathy to my fellow Christian college women (and Christian college men too), who are probably being told at this moment in a Starbucks somewhere by a nice girl with a lovely platinum and diamond channel set engagement ring that she's fiddling with as she takes miniscule sips of her passion tea lemonade that we should just "be patient." It's okay to not be patient yet. It's okay to be tapping your foot while you wait to become patient, thinking to yourself, "Make me patient already, God! Let's get this learning thing over with already!" I've sat there and thought those thoughts and screamed in my room into a pillow about being patient. But let's not fall into the trap of thinking that we're learning patience so we can not practice it. That we're learning patience to get out of being single and into relationship. We may be "Impatiently Waiting to Become Patient" - but let's be impatiently waiting for it because it will enable us to love better and live more fully. Because we will be kinder, gentler, more thoughtful souls and hearts. Because it is good to be patient.

Lots of love, my impatient single readers (and hey, sometimes screaming into a pillow about the whole situation actually helps)!


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