Take a Number Please

Every one of us has had to wait for something or someone in our lives. We wait at the doctor’s office, in line at the supermarket, gas station, movie theatre, even at home. We may not always have to take a number, but we wait just the same.
Because waiting is a fact of life, we’re taught early that Patience (yes, with a capital P) is a virtue. Good things come to those who wait; the commuter train that starts an adventure to the Big City, or the ice cream cone as a reward for being good (another word for patient in the child/parent relationship). “Be patient honey, we’ll be there soon” is a phrase we’ve heard or said or both numerous times. Patience is a promise—an assurance that as long as we’re willing to wait good things will happen. True? Not always. Life isn’t perfect. Patience is not always a virtue.
Think back….way back….patience can fail us in the most unexpected ways. “You’ll have so much fun being a big brother (or sister)! Just wait until the baby comes!” Or “Hang in there, ____ (insert teenage high school crush here) will ask you out. Just. Be. Patient. No one mentions that the new baby cries, poops, burps, and steals all the attention from what was once your spotlight. Or, you’ll turn down one too many offers to the prom only to find out that said crush has been asked by someone else. We wait too long to do anything and suddenly it’s too late. But we still wait. Sometimes because we need to, sometimes because we want to, and sometimes because there is no other choice.
According to George Jackson, “Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve fallen into that hole a time or two in my life, usually in a relationship that’s seen its better days. We know romances, friendships, and parenting require patience and perseverance through the rough patches. When the rough patches become the norm, do we risk it all and say something? Do we sit back and tell ourselves there’s still a possibility things will work themselves out? It takes courage to stop being patient and step forward. If we do, we may fail. If we don’t, we will fail. We don’t know until we test the waters.
Where did this all come from you ask? For the first time in a long time I had to “take a number” at the lab where I’d gone to have my blood drawn as part of my annual exam. They were “now serving 21” and I pulled “29”. Since the number only got me as far as registration and then back to my seat to wait for my name to be called, I began to think about how long some of the other patients (yes, it’s a noun as well…coincidence? I don’t think so) had been there. It was an easy segue to my own life and choices…even in my writing life. I flatter myself with the notion that I am one of the most patient people I know. At my age, I’ve learned that not everything happens at once, that sometimes you do have to wait. But. I also have to admit that I can be impatient to the point of grumpiness. It’s a balancing act.
There’s one more quote I want to share here…I’m not sure it has anything to do with patience, but it is interesting.

Good things happen to those who hustle.– Anais Nin


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