“Be Patient with the Work”

Oct 4, 2019

Last time I posted, I wrote about “alignment.” I thought I’d done a pretty good job of delivering a complete and persuasive truth. But that’s just how I think. It’s not how truths are.

“Truths” are layered. They’re not transparent; we can only see the interior of the last layer we were investigating when we stopped short in our quest to know. Most of us only go as far into the layers as we think we need to go in order to proceed with our practical wants and needs. Don’t bother me with the details. I’ve got things to do and people to see.

A lot of people I know are perfectly content to live life stopping short. In fact, it doesn’t occur to them that there’s anything more to know. Who has time anyway?

A lot of other people I used to know take a little bit of knowledge and then run with it, believing they have the intellectual capacity to figure out on their own whatever remains to be known, at least for their immediate purposes. There are tons of smart, even brilliant, people out there who have the gifts and talents to go far in life. And sometimes they go too far and we recognize them as the annoying know-it-all in the room.

I’m a little bit of both.

But things are changing.

I went back to the alignment “truth” and took a second look at the outer layer; the one that I walked away from because I thought I had what I needed to move on. When I did, some kind of switch was flipped and a phrase floated into my field of vision. It was this: be patient with the work.

“What?” I asked. “What about my need to justify becoming a full-time writer who makes no money, leaving behind a very lucrative career at great cost to maintaining my ‘Look at me! I’m a success’ lifestyle? Certainly, this isn’t a suggestion to slow down, is it? It takes an efficient use of time, strategic effort, and a few smart investments to justify upending my family’s life and ending our tour of the restaurant circuit. There’s no time to dilly-dally!”

Don’t laugh. Even now, I’ve spent the last 30 minutes debating with myself whether or not to squeeze in a work-out before my hair appointment. Why? So that I can mark it off of my list.  Realistically, there’s not enough time to do a proper workout … a patient workout; one that will be complete, satisfying, and leave me feeling better than the one I could squeeze into a 20-minute window. A 20-minute workout will only feel like it didn’t count. Because it wouldn’t. And why is it important to mark it off the list? So that I can perpetuate the demanding and never satisfied belief that I have my act together. And that having my act together is going to pay off. Someday. Even if I went ahead with the 20-minute workout, I would know that it was only half-assed (even though I wouldn’t admit it). Hence, no pay off.

So, there you have it. To do the 20-minute workout would end up costing me. I would have missed the benefits of the patient workout, and demonstrated once again that I don’t have my act together. And I would have ignored what just happened, only to return tomorrow and repeat the pattern.

What’s really behind my little debate? Let’s go back to the floating phrase, “be patient with the work.”

What is it to be patient? I think it means surrendering to the needs of the other. But it’s not just surrendering, it’s entering in to the needs of the other. The “other” could be a person, a task, or a set of circumstances that have an essence of their own, a way to be engaged, and their own traits and nuances: layers.

Layers demand that you address them in order. There are no shortcuts. A layer also demands that you get to know it before moving on to the next one. Why?  Because there’s an order to intimacy. There’s a way to get knowledge.

As you travel through the layers, taking the time to know each as you progress, you might notice that something like humility has moved in, igniting a strangely counter-intuitive craving for patience (is that an oxymoron?).

Anyway, I have a theory: I think when you get this … when you see beyond the layer you left at the altar and stop “stopping short,” you will see and know things you never saw or knew before. Seriously. Oh, and you’ll do everything better, experience everything at a deeper level, and be a lot less stressed out.

The idea of cramming an unsatisfying workout into a 20 minute-window in deference to my achievement-oriented ego suddenly seems very ridiculous. The workout can wait for the next full and lovely hour to arrive.

Say, around 3 pm today. I’m pumped!

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