“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” – Elizabeth Taylor in A Wreath of Roses
Suddenly, there was brownout. Since there was nothing I can do when there’s no electricity, I decided to read the books that were filed at the left side of my desk. The 1000 Stories You Can Use by Frank Mihalic caught my attention. On page 101, I came across the story of the pearl:
One morning, an especially large dewdrop fell from the leaves of a tree right into the ocean. The waves took her along with them. She tried to free herself, but it was in vain. She was afraid that any minute she could be wiped out. But just then she heard a voice call out, “Hurry up. Come into my house; here you’ll be safe.”
Blindly, she followed the saving call, and before she knew what had happened, the door of the clamshell closed tight. At first the dewdrop gave a sigh of relief. But then slowly it dawned on her that she might be safe in this new house, but never free again. She would never again be able to reflect the rainbow colors of the sunlight.
She confided her worries to the friendly lady of the house. The old clamshell told her, “If you stubbornly fight against what the fate has in store for you, you’ll just find yourself suffering hopelessly and helplessly. But if you patiently accept all that fate has in store, you’ll be at ease.”
And then the lady of the house added mysteriously, “Then you will grow stronger from within yourself. And one day, you’ll be a thousand times more than when you feel off the tree.”
But the dewdrop sulked. Then she finally decided to follow the advice even though she didn’t understand it. She lived on silently and without complaining, completely turned in on herself as the grew inside the clamshell. She somehow felt that there was something growing inside her and giving her strength. She was happy about it and thought, “Good luck to the times that are past; today cannot last forever; and who knows what great thing tomorrow might bring?”
And then it came to pass that the clamshell had its shell opened, the dewdrop saw some white flowers floating around in the water. But they were not flowers; they were fingers of the pearl diver, which plucked the clamshell along with many others from the reef.
Soon, they were all laid out on the beach and the girl opened each of them very carefully. Suddenly, she jumped up with great joy, “Oh, look at the absolutely perfect pearl that I have found! It has the shape of a dewdrop and it reflects all the colors of the rainbow. It must be worth a fortune!”
They all looked at the precious pearl in her hand, as it lay on top of a lotus leaf. That pearl had started out as a very short-lived dewdrop, like the thousands of others around it. But through times, it had blossomed into what it is now.
“There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you,” Lemony Snicket (actually the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler) wrote in Horseradish, “and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.”
That’s what the dewdrop was doing. Taking her time and waiting. “A waiting person is a patient person,” Dutch Catholic priest Henry J.M. Nouwen once said. “The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
More often that not, we fret when we are waiting. We are always in a hurry. People get impatient when they don’t get what they want on the time they want it. But Richard Carlson, in his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff, gives some specific reasons why we need to be patient:
“The quality of patience goes a long way toward your goal of creating a more peaceful and loving self. The more patient you are, the more accepting you will be of what is, rather than insisting that life be exactly as you would like it to be. Without patience, life is extremely frustrating. You are easily annoyed, bothered and irritated. Patience adds a dimension of ease and acceptance to your life. It’s essential for inner peace.”
There’s more. Carlson adds, “Becoming more patient involves opening your heart to the present moment, even if you don’t like it. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, late for an appointment, opening to the moment would mean catching yourself building a mental snowball before your thinking got out of hand and gently reminding yourself to relax. It might also be a good time to breathe as well as an opportunity to remind yourself that, in the bigger scheme of things, being late is ‘small stuff.’”
The world is bigger than us. We need to learn to be patient. We need to calm down and give a second thought. Past is past. What has been done cannot be undone – and life goes on. “We are all damaged. We have all been hurt. We have all had to learn painful lessons. We are all recovering from some mistake, loss, betrayal, abuse, injustice or misfortune. All of life is a process of recovery that never ends,” wrote Bryant McGill in Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life.
So, what can we do? McGill suggests: “We each must find ways to accept and move through the pain and to pick ourselves back up. For each pang of grief, depression, doubt or despair there is an inverse toward renewal coming to you in time. Each tragedy is an announcement that some good will indeed come in time. Be patient with yourself.”
In Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami gives this timely advice: “This is one more piece of advice I have for you: don’t get impatient. Even if things are so tangled up you can’t do anything, don’t get desperate or blow a fuse and start yanking on one particular thread before it’s ready to come undone. You have to realize it’s going to be a long process and that you’ll work on things slowly, one at a time.”
When we think about it, there are many things that could happen to us if we only wait. “The world gives us plenty of opportunities to strengthen our patience,” stressed Steve Maraboli in Life, The Truth and Being Free. “While this truth can definitely be challenging, this is a good thing. Patience is a key that unlocks the door to a more fulfilling life. It is through a cultivation of patience that we become better parents, powerful teachers, great businessmen, good friends, and a live a happier life.”