Posts Tagged ‘patience’

Imperceptible Evolution

23 July 2012

Dear J-

In the month since the equinox the days have grown imperceptibly shorter; the main difference I’ve noticed is the sun doesn’t rise with the same alacrity as it did in the early part of the month. The twilit evenings stlll linger on and on in a perfect echo of the day, though, prompting figgy to ask that she not have to go to bed, as there’s still daylight outside. The thought echoes through generations back to my own childhood, asking restlessly and peeking through the curtains on a late glowing summer in Cheney, pressing against cool walls and iron rails in an effort to drive out the heat.

I remember that we used to swim every night in the neighbor’s pool, their children long since grown and moved out. I remember the feel of the pebbled concrete beneath our feet and the various inscects we’d find trapped beneath cover and water; I remember my parents reveling in the unexpected luxury of worn-out kids, telling us that we slept better with some chlorine in our hair, me dreaming all the while of that floating feeling, buoyancy supporting every inch by inch closer to the surface.

Mostly though I remember summers as a time when my parents always had more than enough time when we asked: can we? Yes. We can. We will. We did. It feels strange to have the same sort of interactions with our kids, as Calcifer plunges towards two and I can’t see how the terror could be any more, as he’s already found ways to torment his sister, who’s little more than an unchained ball of emotions at the moment. How do you make time for that? Moment by moment, taking out one distraction after another until all that’s left are you and these two little humans you have to lead by example and patience; would that I could translate the words to deeds so easily.



Queue Quota

15 May 2011



Dear J-

If you go to many of these tourist attractions you’ll soon grow to dread the lines and the testing of wills and patience. After a few times through the lines you find out what kind of person the kids are made of: are they stoic sufferers, voluble complainers, comic geniuses, or some kind of sociopath? The longer the line the better an opportunity. No one likes having to wait but is there anything you can change about it? Think about the difference between action and reaction. We can coach and cajole but there’s only so much learned personality you’ve developed at four and if it’s not happening right now, figgy’s not going to listen to your rational explanations in lieu of wish fulfillment.

She passed by the carousel initially and said she wasn’t interested but as the day wore on we kept circling back in decaying orbits until she declared that she just wanted to watch. Watching turns into wanting and two minutes (and two bucks) later she’s on a zebra ready to ride in circles. Glad times indeed; after a day that starts off extra-early thanks to Calcifer’s inconsolable fuss, she finally brightens the day with a smile and the sun comes out after a brief drizzle. Longer days lie ahead and more dramatic lines — we plan on hitting up the big theme parks in SoCal later this year — so the lessons won’t go unlearned.

We had a recurring zebra theme today in fact. The moment we walked in we watched a show put on by an animated zebra who explained that zebras were black with white stripes — you can tell because the nose is black. After she rode the zebra we got back in line for the tram to see more ill-tempered beasts (cape buffalo and zebra outside, figgy within) and eventually we came upon a baby zebra lying at its mother’s feet, either too tired or not able to stand, and it reminded me that no matter the sophistication of her speech or the depths of her tantrums she’s four and it’s too easy to start concentrating on the black and white of actions leading to consequences leading to reactions leading to escalations. Gotta nip that in the bud.


Echo Yell

15 April 2011

Dear J-

Friday lately means all sorts of different things, most importantly the start of the need for patience. This makes a lot more sense on a lot more sleep, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to deal with those situations with far more grace than yesterday. There are only so many things you can do with the willfully disobedient and the threat of taking away future priveleges doesn’t seem to carry much weight. If this was animal training (which we amply demonstrated how deficient our skills are) you’d do simple tasks and reward good behvior with gentle corrections for undesired ones, not punishment. Me personally, I’m too quick to jump straight to yelling and drama, which is no doubt entertaining theater but not helpful.

As the week wears on the sleep debt accumulates until you’re left holding a bag of snakes at work and home. The smart thing would be to restrict your activities and boost your efficiencies (for me that would include typing on a real keyboard instead of thumbing it) where possible, freeing up more time for naps, not TV or games or other such junk. You don’t realize what the toll of sleep deprivation is until you’re yelling at someone near you when what they’ve done isn’t particularly egregious. And if you’re yelling because of some long-simmering frustration, by all means, let that crap out and drain the resentment on your own time.

You have a right to boil over but remember what lessons you impart. When you see the people closest to you adopt your habits are you proud of the echoes in your life? The Star Wars films are not classical art, and they give wisdom out ham-handedly, but I’m sure everyone who watched The Empire Strikes Back remembers the scene on Dagobah: midway through his training and with a newfound confidence under his belt Luke ventures deep into a swamp cave where he’s confronted by no other than Darth Vader. In the ensuing fight Luke gains the upper hand and decapitates Vader, whose helmet then splits open to reveal … Luke’s own face*. Be wary of the battles yu fight, and do not trust where your body leads you.


* You could also take this as clumsy foreshadowing of the big Luke-I-am-your-father revelation.

Patient Zero

13 April 2011


Dear J-

If you read some of these medical drama-type novels where the antagonist is not some terrorist or ideologically-opposed character but a faceless disease — think hantavirus or dysentery — they like to trace the origins back to some hapless Patient Zero who serves the same cannon-fodder role as the anonymous Security redshirt on Star Trek. Imagine the agent’s call: good news, you’ve got the part, but unfortunately you perish in a matter of moments*. Likewise in our family we note with some dismay the emergence of symptoms that only mean sickness is coming our way sooner or later. Invisibly, though, we’ve come to resemble one another in subtle ways both flattering and not.

One of my most terrible character traits is a lack of patience: if there’s something I want I seem to find a way to wheedle until it’s mine, sooner or later. Well, it’s not so much wheedle as make everyone’s life miserable until I get my way, whether it’s as simple as badgering people to stop what they’re doing and help me with this or looking for something I’ve lost and getting the rest of the family involved looking. For what it’s worth I feel immediate shame and remorse but it’s a hardwired response: everyone stop, we’re not doing anything until I get this done. In the end you find it eventually but it’s the asking everyone else to help because of my impatience that drives me nuts sometimes.

At the same time like some kind of mental disease I see myself reflected in figgy’s demands: as crazy as I deem her she has learned** the lack of patience from me. From the abrupt silences to plosive exhalations and final dramatic declarations (“Fine! I’m NOT going to be your friend any more!”) all the tricks of dear old dad are on display. I don’t remember my parents acting that way so I suppose that makes me zero patience Patient Zero. The mirror is sharp and painful even when it’s only a truthful image of myself. As much as I do want to teach the next generation I’m always crippled with paralyzing fears that the lessons I give are poor quality and off message to boot. So if I’m Patient Zero I’ll embrace it and instead become the change I want to see.


* There are times when I think that as part of the break in this tradition that The Next Generation afforded, along with the swap of Command gold and Security red, they installed Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) as a charismatic, major-character Security chief. Of course they went and killed her off later that first season so that puts that to bed somewhat.

** Things she has also learned from me:
– how to curse at cars on the freeway
– how boys pee
– obsessive collection habits
– immersing yourself in technology to the exclusion of others
– poor sitting posture
– knee to the groin

Instant Appearance

15 March 2011


Dear J-

Just lately figgy has been chiming in after each shot taken and sometimes after certain picture storybook phrases that pique her interest: “Can I see can I see can I see?” Humans are by nature visual creatures and there’s no mystery in it really. Who doesn’t want to know just how that turned out? The moment frozen in an instant should last at least as long as you’re interested and the visual record may serve as an important goad for later recall of the mood or feelings. I know that I’ve spent time paging through old yearbooks when I thought no one else was paying attention, killing time with thoughts of time gone by courtesy of those old photographs.

But nowadays every digital camera can serve the Polaroid function without the shaking or packet of chemical goop. figgy takes instant review for granted and why not? Every camera she’s ever had the opportunity to experience has had the screen to show off you latest array of pixels shot, and the auto systens of today mean that it’s hard to screw up a photograph unless you’re really trying at it. The kids today aren’t going to know the agonizing wait of the fotomat (one whole hour!) or the embarassment of having a stranger handle your film and prints — I wonder if Robin Williams in One Hour Photo is as culturally irrelevant as the hula hoop and poodle skirts.

As we go forward we find that the technology that survives is the tech that makes things faster. There’s a browser on this phone that I neglect in favor of focused specific applications for Google Reader and Wikipedia, for instance. A revolution in transportation isn’t going to gain traction until you can show demonstrable time savings, but find a way and cars would go the way of film. And they worried that MTV would give our generation the attention span of SPAM. Sometimes I fear that the kids are never going to learn to delay gratification but we keep trying to take opportunities to counsel patience.


Paper Tiger

22 December 2010

Dear J-

I keep adding sites to Google Reader; based on the items I’ve already fed it, it pops out a list f recommended items, one or two of which I can’t seem t resist passing on or keeping a closer eye on. I realize that there’s little logic there — it crunches the items I’ve seen as interesting in the past along with popularity and linking rates combined with secret Google sauce but for some reason it keeps talking about both Android and CR-48, the Chrome OS-based netbook. Hey, no one ever accused Google of being subtle. I’ve run across Passive Aggressive Notes, where (I think) I saw a replly to a Facebook status (“Oh man I’m so busy lately”) that while over the top, rings true (“Everyone’s busy, get over yourself”). Other sites talk about the idyllic life of parents with calm kids who help out around the house, politely say ma’am and thank you, and pick up after themselves. I’m not sure I’m buying that vision given the whirlwind that is figgy.

She has become expert in reading our emotions and actions; I roar easily and volubly but with no lasting force as part of the changing moods while theVet, steadier in temperament, snaps less frequently but more decisively — if the line has been crossed, then there’s no taking it back. She had scheduled a tea with her sister next week; as figgy adores her cousin, they’d tenatively sketched it in for Monday so that they could go together, the hope being that figgy would see the example and behave the part rather than shock the rest of the tea patrons, theVet and her sister would both get a mutually enjoyable, relaxing tea, and Calcifer, along for the ride, would hopefully sleep (catch him between feedings and he’ll be all right; just before and the inconsolable hunger will surprise you).

Based on yesterday we had to pull the nuclear option and reschedule tea for when figgy’s in daycare; it’s our frustration and fear (no one wants to be those people — the parents of the crying baby in the restaurant/theater/tea) in that figgy is able to read us so well yet act in a way to spin us up further rather than for mutual benefit. I suppose that this is another transition to get over — not only has our attention been divided, I’ve returned to work and am missing a majority of the day. I don’t want to turn this into some place where readers can consistently hear me complain about everything — there’s an Andy Rooney for that already, and it feels like that’s all I’ve done — but the truth is that this is the part where we have to become unpopular with her in order to avoid raising a sociopath. Here’s where no becomes part of our vocabulary and specificity counts (i.e. you can’t just say “be good” — explain why the behavior is wrong, and what the right thing to do is, and be consistent and patient). It sounds good on paper. Let’s see how it translates to life.


Row Boat

7 October 2010

Dear J-

Patience and discipline are both like stopping a knife with your heart: it may not feel like the right thing to do, it’s not instinctual, and it’s going to hurt. Stick to a budget, for instance, whether calories or expenditures, and you’ll go hungry a lot, eyeing candy and consumer goods that are tempting but just out of reach based on what you did in the last month or two. I’ve been trying to refrain from both lately, as even with the bike rides that are becoming increasingly strenuous the later I get up, this gut and the pile of clutter continues to grow.

It works for other parts of your life — as they say, everything in moderation, right? Hence the self-imposed decibel diet. As figgy would put it, “No yelling today, okay? Just STAY HAPPY.” I’ve been watching my temper lately and I hope it’s making a difference. She gets frustrated as easily as I did when I was three, everything must be just so and so help you if you put things awry or askew. She has just as much control-freak tendencies as I do, difference being that at thirty-five, I supposedly have the ability to exert control, which brings us back to discipline and indulgence.

We make all kinds of bargains with ourselves mentally: oh, you know, I’ll get that done in a little bit. Once I finish this game. Once I have a little snack. Once I once upon a time. We sell our own indulgences and never realize that things are slipping; I’ve gotten through the homework assigned in class — 437 of 440 problems, if I count right — with a combination of late nights (this brought on by making the bargain of “once I get some uninterrupted time, whether it be getting figgy in bed or in front of the TV) and ignoring work around the house (room clean-up is proceeding at a glacial pace). Discipline needs priority as a guiding star, I suppose, but I’ve done more than I thought possible in a shorter time frame.


Timeshare Opportunity

21 August 2010

Dear J-

theVet is out of town this weekend and so my first day with figgy has been mostly successful — occasionally frustating, when the burden of communication has become insurmountable, or when neither of us choses to listen (we yell at each other quite ineffectively, as volume never manages to make the arguments any more convincing; you’d think I’d have learned that lesson after thirty-five years).  There have been great highs and lows today.  It is the roller coaster of childhood.

At one point I was convinced that she had broken the fan we use to move air around the house on hot nights and days like today:  figgy was slowly feeding the string of a balloon into the guard, which I stopped as soon as I saw it — but then, as I was kicking the balloon out of the way, the suction from the fan ingested the string anyway and popped it.  Seriously, it’s not like she wanted to did it with malicious intent — it’s one of those things that you do as a kid (for me it was pouring milk into the garbage to see what a stink it would make after a few days) but I read motive into it anyway and reacted accordingly.

It’s tempting for me, in light of the novel I just read (The Final Reflection, John M. Ford) to think in terms of passion and reason, logic and emotion:  Star Trek words for essential, inseparable parts of our whole selves.  But it’s equally misleading to think that we should let one side run loose all the time, neither dispassionate nor frothing shall we be.  If you say that today was full of opportunities, so will tomorrow be, and a chance to better the score, too.


Anger Management

4 January 2010

Dear J-

When I was going through driver’s education they called it DWI — driving while intoxicated; by the time I moved down here it was known as DUI, driving under the influence. It’s more appropriate; in the past few weeks I’ve noticed the specific influence being mentioned as generally alcohol, but occasionally drugs and prescription medication as well. As a nation we seem to be prone to operating under the influence of rage lately, though. From talk radio to newspaper columnists (I’ve never seen someone throw such a hissy fit over letters to a opinion columnist; Ruben Navarrette fails to answer the arguments and instead dismisses criticism as being the product of overprotective parents and therefore invalid) to road rage (remember when freeway shootings first became news?) we keep finding and justifying ways to fly off the handle at the slightest misstep.

Is it part of the general rude trend of society? Are we so inured to watching people behave badly on television that we’ve come to accept it as part of our lives? As the little brother part of the job was to torment and be tormented until erupting and being counseled patience by our parents. Now of course we have pundits and lobbying groups whipping us up into indignant fury to carry us to the polls with a vengeance: how many times have you heard phrases ending in “… and I vote!”? We like to think that we’re beyond the days of being five (“He started it/Did nol/Did so/&tc.”) but unfortunately it feels like we’re too easily manipulated into believing the worst in our fellow humans.

Anger is a powerful emotion, but it burns through like a fire and leaves me feeling hollow inside once it’s past. Actions taken out of rage are hastily, sloppily performed and show it. I know that I’m often left with remorse afterwards but I’ve already burned the bridges in my haste to react; if patience is the watchword of maturity, we owe it to ourselves to act our age, at least when treating our fellow people as, well, respectable folks.


Slow Lesson

1 August 2009

Dear J-

I suppose that if I see karma as being some kind of cosmic justice system I’ve missed the point; it’s not about smiting enemies, whether those I’ve held for long years or the yahoo who just cut me off on the freeway, it’s about knowing that good deeds are their own reward. Let the other guy be the jerk; I’m not the one who has to live with them or those actions, for the most part. I just tend to forget those calm words in the heat of the moment, but it’s not my job to enforce traffic laws, just to ensure that I drive safely and don’t put anyone into jeopardy, whether they’re riding in my car or not.

Some days I feel the fatalism more than others; perhaps, I think, perhaps it’s because I didn’t do this or that, maybe if I’d done things differently. It’s an excuse, like everything else. It’s more a question of taking responsibility again — the sooner I realize the truth behind serenity (accept the things I can not change, and the courage to change those I can) the sooner I can reject the rage that runs in a steady undercurrent and threatens to flood over me as a tsunami inundates the rational land.

Music or Gym 5068 -sm

Slowly, figgy’s teaching me what it takes; opportunities for patience, chances to turn from anger to answers and rewards, always rewards for the right way to handle it. I keep trying to remind myself that despite John Lennon’s reassurances, karma is not instant, neither effect nor reward. We may tote her around until our bones creak and our muscles fail; she may refuse to walk, or take a nap, or sit patiently for meals. It’s part of the compact we’ve made, and it’s the agreement we’ll keep; we may have miles and years to go, but we’ll remember everything, we’ll have to remember every lesson.