Patience is a virtue, but not one that has ever come easily to me. As a teacher I have learned to bite my tongue through uncomfortable silences, learned to let my students learn through trial and error. As a manager I have learned through my own trial and error that taking the time to train others to do new work really is better than doing everything myself. As a mother I learned to draw strength from silence during endless hours draped over the side of a NICU crib.
As a wife and as a friend, my patience is still a work in progress. I like to think my urgency to have and to do and to achieve everything right now right this minute is somehow one of my character fortunes rather than flaws, but I suspect it is as frustrating for my loved ones as it is for me. Because at the end of the day, every now and then at least, everybody likes to come home, sit down, take a deep breath, and sit very, very still. This, of course, is why my meditation practice and my running habit are so critical to my sanity and survival, because sitting still takes a lot of practice, and sometimes the only way to get your brain to sit still is by exerting your body in the most extreme way you know how.
Lately, though, the little patience I’ve learned for myself seems to be running out.
Last week my parents moved from the house they’ve lived in for fifteen years (twice an eternity compared to the typical moving habits of my family). My husband pitched his first two prospective clients for a new business he seems suddenly to be involved in. My daughter was accepted to a new school. The woman I hired to be my right hand was lured away to a dream job at a dream school. Everywhere around me there is change, everywhere around me there is movement. And all I can do is sit and watch it all pass me by. All I can do is wait.
Last week, as my parents unpacked boxes and hung photos and chipped walkways through piles of possessions, I dropped my daughter off at their new (half the size of their old house) condo, then got onto the freeway driving in what felt to be the wrong direction. Forty-five minutes later a day of nonstop motion commenced – talking, listening, nodding, gesturing, laughing, smiling – mental motion, more than anything, a constant movement in my imagination of what might be compared with so many memories of the life that still was and still is.
That job I applied for a couple months back – that job I thought maybe I was on the fence about even wanting – it turns out I made it to the final three. And it turns out I’m not so on the fence about it after all. I drove home from a ten hour day of nonstop interviews feeling at once exhausted and invigorated, feeling hopeful but worried sick.
One of the best pieces of career advice that my father ever gave to me was that a job interview is not a one way street – I’m interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing me. It’s taken me a long time to reach a point in my career where I can afford to be so choosy about what job I choose next. I’m happy where I am now, they pay me well, and my schedule is about as flexible as it gets for a regular workaday office gig. Despite the inevitable itch that sinks in after more than half a decade of sitting in this very same spot on my resume, I don’t actually have a strong desire to leave.
Or at least I didn’t think I did. Far from eliciting a stinging nostalgia for what I used to be, being back on the campus of my art school alma mater in a perfectly tailored blazer and downright preppy Coach pumps felt surprisingly natural. It felt right. And this feeling of rightness was confirmed for me in meeting after meeting with conference tables full of committed, talented, likeable and likeminded people (and when I say likeable, it’s in that quirky creative kind of way, and when I say likeminded I’m referring of course to the like-to-get-a-beer-together-because-maybe-we-like-some-of-the-same-stuff likemindedness than to the everyone-in-agreement connotation of the word). At the end of the day, all I could think was, “I want to work here.”
The next day it was back to work and back to business as usual, aside from the grilling I got from my supportive if more than a little scared boss. Business as usual, sitting on my silly yoga ball chair, signing off on file after file, making motivational small talk with my staff. Pretending that nothing at all has changed or ever will change. Pretending that this patience I am forcing myself to have might actually make the wait a little easier.
At the risk of sounding a little too self-helpy (but what the hell, it’s been that kind of week), there’s a concept that Brené Brown writes about in her book Daring Greatly that I’m trying very hard to focus on, maybe as a way of making the patience feel less like inactivity and more like thought control calisthenics, and that is the difference between being disappointed and living in disappointment. To be disappointed is to hope and then to be let down. To live in disappointment is to always expect the worst, and in doing so, to never feel the joy.
Last week I didn’t post because I didn’t want to talk about this experience (well, and also because I spend about a hundred hours preparing for and recuperating from my marathon of an interview, but that’s really just making excuses). Because I would rather expect the worst, assume I didn’t get the job, and not talk about it so I don’t pile public embarrassment onto the disappointment that I will already have to suffer.
There is so much that needs to happen between now and the potentially possible then. There is the feedback of forty people to be collected, there are references to check, there is an offer to be made or not made, a salary to be negotiated, a start date to be agreed upon, benefits to be considered. There is so much that could go wrong. But this sitting in silence, alone in my head, waiting here with all of my painfully poor attempts at patience – not only is it taking the fun out of it, it is adding to the angst.
So sit with me will you? Share in my uncertainty. Put up your feet and help me be patient with possibilities. There is no guarantee of what happens next, but right now, in this very moment at least, a little inaction might not be so bad after all.