An Impatient Patient
“Patience” has been strangely following me around. I keep coming across quotes in books and things mentioning it, one of my students was wearing a necklace recently that said “patience” on it, I heard the song “Patience” in the cafe where I had lunch the other day. What’s going on? Is someone trying to tell me something–like stop being so impatient? I don’t know, maybe. It certainly seems to be a recurring thread in my life lately, and literally flashing before my eyes on an almost daily basis. Perhaps I need to pay attention and acknowledge the role that patience, or the lack of it, has in my life right now. Here’s one of the quotes I accidentally stumbled upon a few weeks ago–a really beautiful passage written by German theologian and writer Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot…Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting–that is, of hopefully doing without–will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment. Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them…For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, becoming.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945
Learning to have more patience, or any patience at all, I think, has always been a struggle for me, and more so during the last few years for some reason. I often wonder if having RA for so long has made me more of an impatient person? Living with such an unpredictable disease like RA can easily wear your patience thin in several ways.
Example: I’m having a pretty bad flare-up right now with both of my feet and ankles–especially the right foot and ankle, which are extremely swollen. Grudgingly, I’m taking prednisone again, which doesn’t seem to be helping very much yet. Wasting time icing my foot and ankle, lying on the couch, limping around the house–it’s all driving me crazy because I have things I need to do and get done. Places I need to go. Energy and motivation I need to sustain to work on my stuff: freelance jobs, photo projects, job applications, family obligations, living my life.
But, the pain and disability are here again and my energy and motivation have been replaced by fatigue, frustration, anger, depression, anxiety, and IMPATIENCE. When will this flare be over? When can I start to taper off the prednisone? When will my foot mysteriously shrink back down again to its “normal” size? Will it even go away this time? I want the flare to be gone and my feet back to normal right now. But, unfortunately, RA has a clock and time schedule of its own and I can’t do much about it except wait around, and try not to lose my sanity in the meantime.
Another example: Dealing with clinics and doctors and nurses, and getting put on hold on the phone constantly and then having to wait for someone to call you back–all of this can require an enormous amount of patience. Also maddening is waiting all day (or more than a day) to see if you can get the prescription refill you need and then never receiving the promised call-back or refill. Or having to explain yourself and your situation over and over to several different people at the clinic who don’t really seem to be listening or care–this also calls for much patience. Frankly, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of all of it. But what can I do? Nothing much except persevere, continue being an advocate for my own health care, and, well, get used to waiting a lot.
Waiting isn’t always a bad thing though, and I need to accept that and learn how to calm down and not get so anxious about things. This is easier said than done. And it’s not just my RA that I get impatient about, of course, but other things, such as relationships, career/job stuff, family, the future–those “deepest questions of life.”
So how does one learn to be more patient? What’s the best way to deal with the unpredictable frustrations of living with RA? With RA and everything else in life, how do you know when to wait and when to take action? I don’t know exactly, but I’m trying to learn and get better at it. And to remember that it’s okay to wait sometimes and that it can even be good for you.
“For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait.”