Patience, A Personal Reflection on Life and Its Impermanence

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This world we’ve crafted moves very swiftly, and increased in speed with each passing year. Instant gratification is no longer a wish-fulfillment fantasy, but our constant haunting companion. Particularly in the West, in America, we are encouraged to wait for nothing. We are force-fed the belief that patience is no longer virtuous. A new car, you say? Why wait? Finance it and get it now. A new home? Why not now? Same deal. Just increase the debt load. Patience is something we need to relearn, to re-cultivate from out of the barren earth. But how to cultivate patience in a world running at gigabyte speeds? Truly, it’s a difficult lesson.

We live in a world where things are changing faster than the speed of light; where one no longer seems to have time to wait patiently, reflectively. Patience becomes a luxury we can no longer afford; and reflection is a lost art, lost among the remnants of yesteryear, yesterday, and the past thirty minutes.

When I entered the business world about thirty-three years ago, I became acutely aware of timeliness; of the necessity of being on time! I became accustomed to the clock and the time-clock. I fell completely under the control of Father-Time and the clock tower located in the town square. Patience was not among my strengths. I needed to be on the next flight, to my next destination, and I needed my flight to leave on-time. But that was not the only source of my urgency. My life was already marked with impatience, genetically lodged in a faulty heart-valve.

Born with severe stenosis of my aorta, with attendant complications for my aortic valve, I was symptomatic very early in life, and the family doctor was smart enough to send me for some testing. By five years old the cardiologists all agreed that I would not live past my 16th birthday given the condition of my heart at the time. By six years old they decided to do open-heart surgery in order to improve the functioning of my valve and my heart muscle. The boy undergoing a similar procedure just prior to me died on that same operating table. My parents were nearly without hope. But, I came through the surgery alive; I survived. A second surgery was then performed one year later. Although my symptoms were marginally better, the doctors felt I could live a relatively normal life at least for the time being. But, I was monitored every few months.

So, at a very young age I became fully aware of the fragility and impermanence of life; and the relativity of time. But that did not make me want to deny life. Rather it created within me a desire to embrace life fully, to live each day completely, appreciating every moment as potentially my last.

Needless to say, my sense of urgency grew by leaps and bounds. Patience was not, after all, in my genetic makeup. And, I was determined to accomplish as much as possible, as quickly as I could. And so, the trajectory of my life was set early on. I wanted to do everything NOW; for I knew in my heart (literally) that life was short, and then… death.

Hence, the cultivation of patience had been an element of personality I needed to acquire at every step of the way, and my biology resisted it at every turn. So a rather strong conflation of both cultural and biological demands constantly exerted pressure on me to perform, to accomplish, and never to wait. Time for me was an enemy, not a friend. So, I have come to understand linear time, and the challenge of patience, through great effort and exertion, with much frustration and difficulty.

More surgery later in life gave me yet renewed hope, and a sense of greater longevity. But, the emotional toll from multiple surgeries, hours at a time on the operating table connected to a rather primitive heart-lung machine while they worked on me, also had a toll on my emotions. And, the doctors later confirmed that I would be on an emotional roller-coaster for many years to come. So, I needed to learn how to cope with these biologically-induced ‘roller-coaster rides’ monitoring my emotions and moderating my impatience. At sixty-five years old now, my prognosis is excellent; but, I still work diligently at such control. And I understand that life today does not readily support such ‘patience’ in any event. Yet, I’m alive and well, and continuously working on this thing we call… patience. Namaste!