Monday, November 19, 2012
Patience Is A FuckYou
This phrase litters my notebooks and journals. I'd hazard to guess it begins about half of those pages and can be found scattered in margins, in blocks in the middle, and as concluding sentences. I began writing it to myself when I was in Europe a few years ago. I think it was on the first day, when I missed the second of four modes of transportation I needed to reach my final destination -- in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, so getting to and fro is a hazardous experience -- and spent four hours at a coffee shop where no one spoke English and the toilet was a hole in the ground. The reason I even missed that train in the first place was because a) the ancient Italian guy who sold me my ticket didn't understand a word I was saying and b) because I had no idea how to navigate the platforms both marked and spoken on the loudspeakers in Italian (I got an Italian phrasebook and cd months before I left but didn't touch either until the plane departed New York for Milan. I didn't retain much over the screaming baby). Not to mention the fact that while they are marked and I eventually learned how to read which arrived where, the trains tended to change tracks at the last minute with the only indication being the previously mention loudspeaker announcement, unfortunately in rapid Italian. I missed a lot of trains that spring. I also peed on my legs a lot.
The thing about being in a foreign country, alone, with little to no understanding of how it operates or its proffered language is that when you get yourself in a bind, there's literally nothing you can do about it. You have to wait in a coffee shop, ignore your bowels because you can't figure out how to navigate the toilet situation and are simultaneously afraid of leaving your luggage unattended for more than 30 seconds and sit until you've developed a new plan. You have to risk making an ass of yourself running for a bus in a dress with a giant backpack and suitcase rolling after you, sometimes while frantically taking puffs on a cigarette or shoving a brioche down your gullet. But then again, I've never been good at simplifying a process.
Those two months were a strange cocktail of the slowest, most boring days I've ever experienced and the greatest, dizzying adrenaline rushes of my life. I tended to sleep an average of ten hours a night in the foothills, but then spent a week on less than 5 in Paris. The common denominator was that I never knew what would happen next. I got lost every single time I went to Milan, and once spectacularly in Turin -- YOU try going to a city that doesn't operate on a grid and tell me how you fair. Google maps, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. Several times I would stop people on the train, point to or mime their cell phone, pull out the one contact phone number I had and somehow ask them to dial for me while I concocted a plan for if there was no answer, and pray to God she would -- because I really never created a new plan anyways.
In all of the confusion and uncertainty that I experienced in my time there, I learned two things that I will never forget:
1) That I am capable of a hell of a lot more than I ever thought possible, given situations that I could never have anticipated and the sheer need to just make it work, SOMEHOW, and;
2) Sometimes there is literally nothing you can do. Sometimes your only recourse is to just sit, feed the barista espresso money, doodle aimlessly, and be fucking patient.
Now, the first one I'm ok with. The first one I love -- that I found strength in myself when everything looked like it was hellbent against me. That one is bitchin. The second one? FUCK YOU, PATIENCE! You don't even have to ask The Mother and she'll tell you that my greatest fault is my lack of patience. She'll also probably tack on the story about how when I was three years old I hounded her for a month to take me to the Ice House Mall to get my ears pierced. And then how when she did, I screamed bloody murder and let them close up days later. I was a fun kid.
This phrase has been creeping back up on me lately, though. I've been wound so tight over everything I can't control and feel like I'm drowning in, that I've forgotten what I learned while I was getting fat on pizza and gelato. That was a brief and poignant moment in my life that I truly learned and understood the value of patience -- not because it's a virtue or other such phraseology -- but because literally, sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do but sit down, watch things unfold and wait for the right moment to jump back in. To push anything just pushes it past where it's supposed to go at that point, and you're probably going to break it (just ask my stomach circa The Pizza Era). There is a fine line between laziness and patience, and I know that I am indefinitely skewed towards the latter. It's my tendency.
And right now there is a lot I'm uncertain of. I'm having a hard time getting grounded in much and I'm beginning to push both myself and others around because of it. I've lost sight of what at one time I had gotten really good at. Which is why I'm trying to let that nugget of past learning work its way back into my life.
Breathe. Inhale. Exhale.