Saturday, May 22, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

Whenever I was a little child, and was being impatient about something - and I suspect I often was, if how I feel now is anything to go by - my grandmother - my Mum's mother - would say "Patience is a virtue".

It was a proverb coined, no doubt, by some old Victorian who'd been sent up chimneys as a child or made to sew a sampler, which to my mind was nearly as cruel.

There are lots of these samplers still about. I've always liked looking at them, because they're little pieces of social history. Little girls, who should have been catching tadpoles and running about outside, were made to practise their embroidery skills by sewing letters of the alphabet, Biblical quotations, and other details such as their name and the date they completed this torture. "Florence Jane Bentham, age ten, 14th May, 1858".

So I reckon that the likeliest source of this "Patience is a virtue" line was a coded message from some child who would have far preferred to embroider "I am, quite frankly, bored out of my skull. Death from tuberculosis, typhoid or other such popular nineteenth-century diseases? Bring it on!"

Anyway, all Grandma's muttering of this line to me in my childhood did not work at all. In some circumstances, no doubt, I'm sure that I can be very patient. I'm just at a bit of a loss to remember what those particular circumstances are.

Hanging about waiting for things to happen is not, I tell you now, one of the things I find easy.

Today I had promised to take my friend Connie (90) and my mother (86) to the garden centre for lunch. It's a lovely sunny day, and I didn't have to be anywhere else, so it seemed the ideal time to do it.

It's not really them, it's me. I look at a menu - I read it through very quickly, I'm a fast reader - and know what I want to eat within about twelve seconds. Luckily Stephen - who had come with us out of kindness - is the same.

So Stephen and I glance at the menu and he says "Cheese and onion toastie" and I say "Cheese omelette". And then Mum and Connie begin to think about what they might eat, and what every single item on the menu might consist of, and whether it might be too big, or too hot, or too spicy, and then they decide. Eventually. And then they ask what Stephen and I are having, and they consider whether those things might be nicer than any of the things previously selected, and then they turn their attention to the drinks.

Finally we order and some time later the food arrives and they marvel at the huge size of the portions and then they start to eat them.

Whilst they are eating, new universes are born. New life forms are created, evolve into other things, and die out. Rocks are made, and eroded into grains of sand.

Finally, they finish and they set off to look around the garden centre, and as I mentioned to my friend earlier on, this is like herding tortoises, only MORE DIFFICULT.

I love both these old ladies. Connie has, as she herself would say, "all her chairs at home". Although she's ninety, she's amazingly well and her mind is sharp as a tack. My mother is physically very fit though getting rather forgetful. But she still has insight.

"Thank you for your patience with us," she said when we got home.

That's the trouble. Although I may have given every illusion of being patient, of slowing down, of enjoying the sunny afternoon at the garden centre, inside I was screaming to speed up, and to get out of there.

I'm not sure whether patience counts as a virtue if you behave as if you're being patient but don't feel it. I think the virtue would be if I thought "Right, Mum and Connie, the next two hours are entirely yours, because in five years you might not be here," and just could slow right down. But I can't, so I ended up feeling really sad about it all, even though they had certainly enjoyed it. It isn't them, it's me. I'm living at too fast a pace, and I'm sorely lacking in patience.


Blogger Ailbhe said...

My teacher when I was 8 taught us the rhyme, "Patience is a virtue, have it if you can, seldom in a woman, never in a man."

6:21 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Ailbhe - well that's interesting, I bet that's where my Grandma got the quotation from in the first place. True, of course hehe!

6:50 pm  
Blogger Jennytc said...

Lol! When I visit my Dad near Bristol, we usually go for lunch on one day to his local garden centre. Fortunately, as there is only one of him, the herding is a lot easier and he does tend to make up his mind quickly about what to eat. I think it's a generational thing. Each one has its own speed and tends to get a little impatient with the preceding one. Sadly, we do tend to feel guilty when we catch ourselves doing it because, as you say, the previous generation won't always be there. But it sounds like you're doing a great job!

8:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think my son summed up this situation when he was about four: 'I've been waiting so impatiently'
Verification 'matedgie' the condition of appearing to be patient while screaming inside with impatience.

10:41 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Ailsa - thank you for reading my blog. And I think your son has summed up perfectly how I still feel about waiting!

10:58 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

"In some circumstances, no doubt, I'm sure that I can be very patient. I'm just at a bit of a loss to remember what those particular circumstances are."
Doh! Think work. Think role play. Being a patient is how you seem to spend a lot of your time! It's not only your mum who's becoming forgetful!

12:49 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I hasten to point out to YP that there is a difference between being very patient and being a patient.

Daphne, I think of Robert Burns's "Oh, wad some pow'r the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us" and I think your mother has it right. You are being too hard on yourself. Patience is, if nothing else, the ability to bite your tongue when you want to do otherwise. Or is that self-control? Never mind, it's still true.

6:03 pm  
Blogger Diz said...

Patience - like anything else - isn't really that praiseworthy if it comes easily.

8:48 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home