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
Christina Chase View All
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.
Thank you Christina, if we may use this in Agnellus Mirror, we’d be very grateful. My big lesson in patience came in Montreal, en route back to England, when I just missed the airport bus, and had no money for the taxi. The next bus should have got me to Mirabel too late, but the driver reassured me, even when he was circling past empty stops. I barely thanked him when I got there, but ran through the terminal, found the gate, hopped on the little bus, doors closed, on the plane, doors closed, up and away. I had not realised that Mirabel was a ghost airport even in the seventies but expected vast crowds … which I only realised were not there some time later!
Thank you for sharing your experience and reflecting with me! I wonder what you missed by running through the terminal? Waiting is always a great time for observing the world around us, don’t you think? And observation is the foundation of writing practices.
Yes, you may certainly use this in the Mirror! Thank you! A delightful and meaningful place for daily reflections, which I recommend to my readers: https://agnellusmirror.wordpress.com/category/daily-reflections/
Again, thank you for your….(goodness me!…..I almost said “writing”. None of what you do is merely “writing”….your gifts of words to us are spiritual insights…..with much more meaning than merely “good writings”). I have a renewed standard set for my life. Instead of beating my wings against life like one of your butterflies caught in a net, I should WAIT for God’s time in the struggle I’ve had for the past 3 years. Thank you for reminding me what I’ve known but paid little attention to in my all too impatient humanness. All in God’s time. I shall once again, pray and WAIT. Thank you, Christina….again.
Thank YOU, Sioux! You do know that your witness helps me to grow in faith and virtue, too, right? (Knowing what you’ve been through and are going through, I appreciate the great imagery: “beating my wings against life like one of your butterflies caught in a net.”) None of us can do this alone. We need God, of course, we are nothing without God, but God also gave us the gift of each other so that we may help each other and experience His divine love as fully as possible here and now.
You and your family are in my prayers. Pax Christi
This is so powerful.
Meanwhile. . .
Just got back from visiting grandchildren in L.A. — such a blessing. Then I found this, which brought to mind one of our talks: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-poet-in-the-pulpit-on-the-brilliant-homely-homilies-of-gerard-manley-hopkins/
P.S. Did I tell you that he has a poem on patience? He will surely recognize and appreciate your new-but-old beatitude.
Okay, I really need to read Gerard Manley Hopkins! I’ll tell you how our meeting goes. 🙂
It’s later. Later in the night too. Not really a “dark night” like some souls experience. There’s a moon out, and I’m not at all sleepy. So I came back to read, and talk.
Can’t remember if I ever followed up. Well, here’s a start. If you already looked up his poems, you will have attended to this one (by Fr. Hopkins):
Patience, hard thing! the hard thing but to pray,
But bid for, Patience is! Patience who asks
Wants war, wants wounds; weary his times, his tasks;
To do without, take tosses, and obey.
Rare patience roots in these, and, these away,
Nowhere. Natural heart’s ivy, Patience masks
Our ruins of wrecked past purpose. There she basks
Purple eyes and seas of liquid leaves all day.
We hear our hearts grate on themselves: it kills
To bruise them dearer. Yet the rebellious wills
Of us we do bid God bend to him even so.
And where is he who more and more distils
Delicious kindness?—He is patient. Patience fills
His crisp combs, and that comes those ways we know.
* * * *
That plant image (“Natural heart’s ivy”) is not very comforting compared with your reflection on impatiens, and the “purple eyes” and “liquid leaves” make me think of crying– not my crying, his. It seems that he fought his circumstances, whereas yours is a quieter kind of patience. I recall there was a time when you were angry. But now so much now, right?. The flower you have chosen is delicate, but responsive to loving care. And it adds beauty to the world. Ivy is useful but not necessarily appealing. It covers rough surfaces.
I suppose someone today might disparage Hopkins’ approach as “typically male,” yet it does describe one stage, probably a very early one, in the process that leads to peaceful acceptance. In this poem he is still angry. God, who may well be providing “Delicious kindness,” though slowly, seems no where to be found in Hopkins’ present emotional state. So he turns the idea of patience upside down. In fact it is God who is patient. Patient with our impatience perhaps? Quite a reversal. The last six words of the poem, those six heavy beats pounding like a kettle drum –It’s as if he’s forcing himself to believe, gritting his teeth because, as “we know,” suffering is hard, and one feels alone.
Oh I do like this poem, even if it sounds more like the expression of a spiritual drill sergeant or athletics coach. I like reading it out loud. My friend Charlie and I used to recite parts of it, along with other selections from Hopkins. Now that I think of it, however, I don’t recommend the few sonnets of his that are this heavy. So many of his other poems are far more inspiring. But they all have a memorable element of music. Perhaps I’ll read more tonight.
I like rereading your messages too. Best to you, Christina.
Much to read and ponder over in that poem… It will take further reading and, yes, certainly reciting outloud. You’ve given me a wonderful image of you and your friend reciting parts of it. What a wonderful friendship.
I don’t always have mature and wise feelings or thoughts about things, you know. 🙂 I am very normal, like Hopkins, often disliking patience, though knowing its need.
I remember writing about patience with a kind of resigned fury, muttering. As I recall, it went something like this:
I’ll be patient,
patient as the dove is patient
with his relentless, pleading call,
patient as the wall is patient,
hard and stubborn so it will not fall,
patient as the dawn is patient —
which isn’t patient at all.
I’ll have to look it up to find out how it really went. Thank you, as always, for rreflecting with me and chatting with me, Al! Hopkins is heavy, I may need you to lead me into his world with baby steps. Although, I have a feeling that he, like this poem, may be better appreciated when just thrown in to it.