Patience has never been one of my virtues, so this topic is particularly difficult for me to discuss. I mean, how can I extol patience in a world full of xenophobia, racism, illness, and tragedy? For me, patience implies waiting. Waiting for an upcoming election, waiting for a friend to arrive for a visit, waiting for the economy to improve. Ideally, this waiting happens quietly, with passive acceptance of the fact that a person’s (i.e. my) wishes will be granted, if not now, at least in the future. If I wait long enough and patiently enough, will people who I know are suffering, physically and otherwise, become content, healthy, and relaxed? Will political leaders become enlightened? (And I mean enlightened by my definition of the word, with all of its eighteenth-century implications, of reason and individuality rather than tradition and rules, i.e. borders and walls?) I don’t think so.
Since I know that there is at least a small chance that world peace may not occur in the near, or even the distant, future, no matter how patiently I wait, I have decided to approach this topic in another way. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives several accounts of the etymology of this slippery word, starting with the Latin the French patiencia, defined in both languages as a “calm uncomplaining endurance of pain or inconvenience.”
That must be me! (Trapped, as I am, in a house full of teenaged boys, with only online conversations about political debates to distract me). Hmm. Maybe I should keep reading! It is a good thing that my beloved spouse, David Haws, is around to talk to me about these issues and to remind me of the futility of losing sleep over them (and, really, I do lose sleep over this stuff). David suggests that the fact that I can’t control Donald Trump and his vitriolic rhetoric might actually be good, since watching Trump on the television is enough to raise my blood pressure, which counteracts some of my prescriptions that lower it…. I am also lucky that David is able to leave work a few times per week to drive me to an MS-specific water aerobics program at Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, very much needed to maintain my sanity and patience.
At this point, I should admit what is probably obvious already to readers and to anyone who has spent any time with my family and me: I am not the one who is patient. In fact, I am anything but patient. Luckily, others in our family aren’t as deficient in this trait. David, for example, spends hours every day helping people in my family and in various community groups, including, these days, teaching nephew Mark to drive and (over and over) convincing nephew Christopher that dropping out of school at age 14 is not a wise choice. When David was sick with the virus that we have all been passing around, my father remarked that Dave HAS to stay healthy so that he can drive us all where we need to be—appointments, dinners, parties, church, etc.
My son and nephews, despite my sometimes-impatient reactions to their teenage energy and activities, also show patience in their own ways. All of them have been patient with seemingly endless recent changes in their lives, including a sudden move for the nephews from Florence to Montevallo. Despite their teenage angst, which is always magnified by the bustle and business of our mixed family, I am grateful for the willingness of these boys (occasionally!) to stop annoying me when it is time for them to bring me snacks or to help me with various workouts on our Nintendo Wii…
I had hoped to interview these boys about their thoughts on patience for this message, but, alas, it was not to be. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Patience is alive and well at our house, despite my best efforts to keep it at bay.
– Anna Lott, PhD
Anna grew up in Alabama, spending her entire childhood in the same house where her parents still live today. Anna is a retired Professor of English and Women’s Studies from the University of North Alabama, where she charmed her loyal and adoring students for almost twenty years until a bad MS exacerbation convinced her that she should start spending her days playing games on her iPad, reading and writing whatever and whenever she feels like it, and watching the birds feed outside her window.