Many years ago I used to do a lot of work with natural dyes. The thing about most natural dyes is that you have to let the fibre steep in the liquid, sometimes for quite a long time, before you get a good colour. I found the waiting difficult, because I’m an instant-gratification sort of a gal.
Eventually I found a way to deal with the waiting without pacing, chewing my nails, poking endlessly at my dye vat, turning up the heat to make things go faster (it doesn’t work!) or doing any of a dozen other non-productive things. I decided to Go Do Something Else while I waited.
In hindsight it seems like a simple solution. A watched pot never boils, and all that. (A watched pot actually does boil, and at exactly the same time as an unwatched one. It just seems to take longer!) The do-something-else method helped me stop fussing over the dye bath. Fussing hardly ever helps, and as the adage about watched pots shows, it can change your perception of time, and usually for the worse.
Still, I was pleased with myself for discovering it. Doing something else in the meantime had two benefits – I didn’t drive myself nuts with impatience, and I got something else done, whether it was a chore or something fun and creative. With practice, I found that I also accomplished something else – a habit of patience.
It’s standing me in good stead now. I sent the completed “Swan Harp” manuscript off to the agent who had agreed to look at it a second time. A couple of weeks ago she told me she was beginning to read the manuscripts on her desk, and that mine was first. Since then I’ve heard nothing.
Now, I know that she still has work to do aside from reading my manuscript. And, yes, I’d love to have heard from her at the end of that week, or the end of last week, or to hear from her at the end of this coming week. I am not, however, eating my heart out over it, or losing sleep, or chewing my nails. I’m able to forget for hours at a time that I’m waiting to hear from her.
The first time a co-worker asked me if I’d heard anything about my book yet, and I realized that I hadn’t even been thinking about it, I was stunned. How had I managed to put it out of my mind? “Put it out” isn’t even the right phrase – I hadn’t made an effort, the whole idea had just slid away.
When I first heard the prayer, “Grant me patience, Lord, and right now, please!” I laughed out loud because it just seemed to fit so well. Now it doesn’t any more. I have my patience, and the fact that it wasn’t inborn, but acquired with deliberation and persistence, makes me all the more pleased with it. Like any other art, it becomes stronger with practice.