The most abundant flowers in my mother’s garden has always been impatiens. I used to call these pretty plants “impatients.” This was when I was a child who was quite familiar with impatience, as all children are. But I practiced it less often than others in my position might have done. Every day of my life, from then until now, I have ample opportunities to try not to be an “impatient.”
Sitting in my little manual wheelchair that I was unable to move by myself, I would often wait for someone to bring me where I wanted to go. Sometimes, I could turn the wheels sufficiently enough to get me almost fully down the hallway. But then my tiny arms would become exhausted, feeling hot and limp at my sides, and I would call out for my mother, sister, or father to come and help me get into my room or out into the living room with everyone else. Sometimes, I did the classic “Mom … Mom … Mom …” and other times I just fumed, rolled my eyes, and sighed as loudly as I could. However, needing assistance for almost everything throughout the day — rising, washing, dressing, getting food, reaching things — waiting was such a common occurrence that I learned to wait well. I could be very, very patient, impressively patient, though I didn’t always want to be.
In my waiting well, I grew my imagination. Watered and fed, weeded and pruned, my imagination blossomed and flourished, growing into the amazing garden from which I still gather today. Would I still delight in a butterfly as a middle-aged woman — in awe as I wonder where it’s been and where it will go, it’s very presence shaping poetry and spiritual meaning in my mind — if I hadn’t sat so still near a window waiting for assistance to go somewhere else? There are, of course, poets enough in the world who delight and profit in such things as butterflies well into old age. But I rarely set poetry onto paper, rarely need it to be anything more than that moment of sacred wonder while waiting.
As I age and weaken, I find myself unable to move my chair again, even though it’s a power wheelchair now, driven by a little joystick. In my prime, I would travel roads, lawns, and even hills and ice with ease, but now the atrophied muscles of my arm, wrist, and hand are less and less able to do what I want them to do, and I need more and more assistance. After my dad gets the balance of my crumpled body just right, I’ll drive myself into the living room and stop to look out the window. When I want to start up again to go into the kitchen, I find that I can’t get my hand into the right position. And I’m stuck. Again.
The muscle weakening in my body is always slow and gradual, but obvious. I’ve been experiencing this inability to move quite frequently this year, causing me to remember my young childhood days of waiting.
Because I learned to wait well when I was little, I rarely grow impatient now. It’s like that ninth Beatitude: “Blessed are those who wait, for they shall better appreciate the good things of God.” Okay, that’s not really a beatitude, but it could be.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. …Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. …Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” If there is poverty in waiting, then there is also the available knowledge of Heaven on Earth, of God’s kingdom shining all around, right here, right now. If the waiting is done without malice, but with a clean openness to what is good, true, and beautiful, then such waiting offers a glimpse of the divine. If there is peace within the one who waits — mercy and peace for those who have not yet come to aid — then there is also the knowledge of doing as God wills and of being in union with Our Heavenly Father.
I’m not always patient. (God knows. And so do my loved ones!) Although I strive for the virtue of patience, I’m often among the “impatients.” I think those flowers and I have a lot in common. They, unlike me, are actually pretty self-sufficient, not needing much weeding, pruning, or feeding. But they will quickly grow limp without frequent watering. They are a tender plant, fragile like me, that wither beneath the first touch of frost, but they bloom all summer long in a wonderful array of colors. I hope that I am as bright and giving.
There’s a picture that my father recently took that sums up (this reflection for me. In fact, it is the reason for this reflection. A reminder to wait well. A reminder, when feeling impatient, to breathe.
Breathe deeply, my dear reader. Wait well.
© 2019 Christina Chase
Feature Photo copyright 2019 Dan Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.