“Patience” is the title of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta that Follen’s youth and children will perform this year. But it’s also about an attribute that I don’t have enough of sometimes: the ability to let it be, to step back and take a breath, to wait for something to evolve.
Earlier in my life and career, I remember being evaluated on the Myers Briggs behavioral scale and testing very clearly as an ENTJ. And the big operator in the rubric, as I recall, was the “J,” for “Judgement.” I just knew what needed to happen, and I wanted others to know, and I was not afraid to say those things…to be helpful, to problem-solve, to be the leader of the pack, to move things along to whatever fruition they might need. It was a few years later that, talking with a minister and Myers-Briggs analyst (the late Rev. Elinor Artman) she said to me, “you need to sit back and be quiet some times. And listen. And wait for the next thing.” That seemed darned close to impossible: how does a can-do person do that, particularly one who is so sure that they have the answer that will help everyone else?
But I tried hard to take Elinor’s words to heart, and I tried, more and more, to not always be the leader, the one who spoke first, the one who had the solution in mind. Sometimes, I learned, it’s better to watch, wait, listen for what others have to say. To be patient.
I am writing about this not only because I share it as part of my make-up and recognize that it may resonate with you as well, but also because it’s been one of those big reminders, these last few weeks, as I go through and recover from knee replacement surgery. I knew this would not be a fun time: knee replacement surgery is reportedly the most painful joint replacement surgery; it requires exercise, physical therapy, rest, pain management, and a lot of patience. Ideally the person having the surgery wants to get to leg-straightening measured at -5 to 0 degrees, and to leg bending of at least 120 degrees. And the down side is that if you don’t do the exercises and push through the pain, you end up with a stiff and partially-functioning leg: the stakes are high.
Patience has never been my ‘long suit’ in life. But I am getting better at it. I have recognized over the years of my calling and career, that allowing things to evolve, and even fail sometimes, is important, just as important as succeeding. That listening to all the voices in the room is important even when a few think they have the answer. That success can come slowly rather than fast, after long and hard work that is repeated, over and over, and evaluated and refined.
It is a lot like life, this knee recovery stuff. Exercise. Rest. Forgive yourself if you fall short. Try again. Breathe. Welcome the support of friends. Stretch. Live into gratitude. Again. And again. And again.
Deborah Weiner, Interim Director of Religious Education