Have you ever chosen a word for the year? It can be an anchor, a goal, or a touch point of sorts. Last year I chose “joy” which turned out to be ironic, but also a challenge to find joy amidst the year-that-shall-not-be-named.
I didn’t enter 2021 with a specific word, but rather more of a mindset of positivity. Then as 2021 came tearing in like a hangry toddler looking for goldfish crackers, I concluded a general vibe wasn’t going to cut it.
Balance? Hope? Those were good options and definitely applicable, but they didn’t feel right. “Relax,” I told myself, “there’s no rule that you have to choose a word by a certain date, if at all. Be patient, you’ll land on the right one.”
Covid numbers started rising and it was clear school would not return soon to in-person learning. As a teacher and a parent that’s hard news. Not knowing how long this new lockdown would last or what it would entail caused a new wave of uncertainty. Be patient, there’s no point worrying about things you can’t control.
School reconvened online and I adjusted to teaching remotely. Our family found their “school” spots and we gradually got into a routine. However, technology lagged, links didn’t open as I’d planned, I got booted out of my own google meet (more than once), and I found myself frequently saying to my students, “thank you for your patience.”
On a rare trip to the grocery store someone accidently bumped into my cart as he navigated the arrows and people. “I’m so sorry!” he quickly apologized. “No need,” I replied, “It’s bound to happen.” The shopper ahead of me in line shrugged and nodded her agreement. And because I am the type of person who speaks to random people in stores I observed, “No point in getting upset, we just need to budget more time for these errands nowadays.” She whole-heartedly concurred and said, “We all need to have more patience.”
Patience. Waiting without getting riled up even if you’ve been waiting a long and tedious amount of time.
Haven’t the past ten months been tedious? They have certainly been cause to get riled up. And it often seems like we have been in an perpetual state of waiting.
Patience? Now? Come on. During this collective trauma? Patience when I literally and figuratively have 15 tabs open at once? Now, when we’re navigating a global pandemic and a Stay-At-Home order?
When I was in grade one our teacher let us bring in records to listen to during indoor lunches (yes, I’m old). One of my friends had an album with a singing snail and I can still recall the lyrics (no googling necessary):
Don’t be in such a hurry
When you get impatient, you only start to worry
That God is patient, too
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you.
My students need to wait for me when an assignment didn’t load properly or my screen won’t share. My sons need to wait when I am still teaching, but they are done for the day and why can’t I answer their questions and requests RIGHT NOW? Or later when I am preparing lessons and focused on that instead of the story they are trying to tell me.
Being patient is hard work. The more I think about it, patience is an excellent choice for this year. We all need to have it and we all deserve to receive it, too.
I need to be patient with myself. That is particularly difficult when I feel like I have too much and too little time all at once. Or when I feel I am in a fog and can’t focus; or I feel overwhelmed by the unknown. It’s easy to feel like a failure when a reasonable goal isn’t met and the only reason is “welp, it’s Covid.” I will quiet the voice who berates me “What happened to reading more and cleaning out that closet?” I can be more understanding towards myself when I intended to be present with my family, but the latest presser got my attention instead.
I’m committing to demonstrating more patience this year. Yes, even towards my husband when he saunters into the kitchen and blows out my scented candle for NO REASON. I will be patient with students who turn in blank assignments or don’t log in all day. I will have patience for those who are trying to navigate these past, present, and future months as best they can, even if we don’t share the same point of view.
Patience isn’t all we need, but it’s a start. We are mourning the loss of how life used to be and a future that is uncertain.
Be patient with yourself, friend. You deserve it.