In November of 2011, I experienced the worst sciatica of my life—twisting, searing pain at the base of my spine that had me writhing on the floor in tears. Six months later, I am much improved, but my left foot still gets numb occasionally, and I awake with back and hip pain most mornings. In fact, I’ve had back pain in one form or another for over ten years now. When I first went to the chiropractor for this round of sciatica, after not standing upright for a week, I swore I would handle the pain differently this time. I would stretch. I would strengthen my core. That is the path toward healing.
The trouble is, I don’t want to be on a path toward healing. I want to be healed. Like, now. Because I like to feel young and strong and vital, not weak and vulnerable and uncertain.
Impatience is a general theme of my life these days—I’m impatient with my body, with my daughter’s body (she has been dealing with stomach pain, which we are hopefully on the path to resolving, for several months, and she is particularly vulnerable to other illnesses as well), with my life in general, which I just know is the one Dr. Seuss was talking about when he said I’d go where the Boom Bands are playing. I want to be the kid who’s gonna move mountains, and I’m tired of slipping down them all the time instead.
So this morning, because I know it is good for me, I was stretching. I think stretching is boring. Sometimes it is peaceful, but mostly it is hard to stop doing stuff that needs to be done so that I can do something boring. Anyway, I forced myself to go through the paces and, as I had my forehead on the floor in the yogic pose of the child, I found myself offering up an unexpected comment to God: “You want me to be patient, don’t you?”
The response (in my own mind, but not in my own voice) was swift and certain: “Yes, I do.”
I have been reading one of my favorite childhood books, A Wrinkle in Time, to my daughter. I was recently reminded of one of the reasons I related to Meg, the protagonist of the story, when I was a kid. When Meg is gently told she must be patient, she replies, passionately, “But I’m not patient! I’ve never been patient!” As a child, reading the book for the first time, and as an adult, reading the book to my daughter, I knew just how Meg felt.
But I have learned patience, again and again.
I learned it when breastfeeding my daughter, laying her down for a nap, and backing gently out of the room while holding my breath, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t awaken.
I learned it while lying in bed, staring at the floor, waiting for my eye to heal after surgery for a retinal detachment, frightened that it wouldn’t heal correctly and holding, close like fire, the knowledge that my vision was not in my control.
Each time I’ve learned patience, I’ve also learned humility. The two are inextricable.
And now it is time for me to learn it again.
This is where I am in my process—with my body, my child, my life. I like living in the energy of the sassy me, the get-up-and-go me, the already-triumphed-over-struggle me. But this me—the one who faces weakness and pain with patience and faith—well, I wouldn’t have gotten this far without her. And I cannot get where I’m going—where all those Boom Bands are playing—unless I slow down, breathe, and allow the process to be what it is.
Once more, from the top, with patience.