I have been working on the virtue of patience my entire life and I have to say, I haven't gotten very far. Anyone who thinks I have, who thinks I'm very patient, who thinks I am the very essence of delayed gratification, doesn't see the subtle machinations I have put in place to make that illusion possible.
For one thing, there are the books. Waiting for a cab? I have a book. Doctor's office? Book. A friend is running late? Am I ever mad? No. I had a book.
Games. Nothing on TV tonight? Too tired to read? Play a video game. Forget a book? I've got Sudoku on my phone. Planes, trains or automobiles? Books and games. Games and books. Always something.
I've sometimes wondered why one of the names for Solitaire is Patience. Because it is obvious to me that Patience is a game played by the impatient. Solitaire addicts are impatient of time, completely unable to just sit quietly. I would hazard a guess that solitaire addicts are lousy at meditation.
As am I. I do yoga every morning. Only about 10 minutes of a couple of stretch routines. I can't say it's made me any more limber, but I'm afraid to quit in case I rust up. When I started, years back, I polished the routines off with five minutes of quiet meditation in my favorite (corpse) pose. It was no good. Try as I might to quiet my mind, I found those five minutes were excellent for making mental lists. For organizing my day. And after the first minute, my toes would start tapping and my fingers would drum.
I gave meditation up for poetry. Now, instead of lying about with a stubbornly unquiet mind, I read a poem. Out loud. Or two pages of a long poem. Currently working my way through Longfellow's Hiawatha. Which I recommend. You have no idea how lovely that old supposed chestnut actually is. But you might have noticed, I gave up meditation for activity. It's hard enough for me to go to sleep at night, but lie quietly on the floor with a peaceful mind at the beginning of the day? I don't think so.
What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that I think it's all right. The poems I have worked my way through (notice the word "work") are poems I would never otherwise have read. They are the reason I still do yoga. Because I'm not certain it's even keeping the rust out. The poems have become my carrots lying just beyond the stick of yoga. I'd feel as if I were cheating, somehow, if I just opened a book of poetry and read something off in the middle of some other busy work. The yoga slows me down. Prepares my mind. Not for meditation. But for a poem. I don't know that I'd take the time to really listen to myself read, otherwise. A poem could so easily become just another thing to do. In between writing a new paragraph and putting some dishes in the sink.
So I take the time for it while I still can. Now, of course, I find myself impatient for the poem. Thinking to myself, well, this stretch is over, only three more to do until I can read. But when I get to the poem, I'm ready for it. The words come in, and they stay a while.
I wonder if there will ever come a time when I will have to be truly patient. When I can't see well enough to read, can't figure out the game, or rust into one final pose. Will I just have to sit there, toes tapping away, fingers drumming, eager to get on with something I can no longer do? Or will I learn a new skill. Not necessarily perfect patience. But another act of creation. Like a tree, folding its core into patterns of its own.
Because trees aren't so patient either. Their toes are tapping earth and their fingers are drumming air. And all the while they're busy, busy, busy.