learning how to wait
Recently, I have spent a lot of time contemplating patience: What it means, the ways it is tested, and the ways it is improved. Very simply, patience is the ability to wait without complaint. And very honestly, that is not something at which I inherently excel. Objectively, I have a lot of patience when it comes to small things: I don’t mind getting stuck in long lines, I can remain at-ease in stand-still traffic (that’s actually when my best car-dance choreography makes an appearance), and I can stay calm while groups of toddlers scream and throw crayons at my head (side note: how is their aim always so good when their coordination is so terrible?).
But with the big things in life, my capacity for patience takes a steep nose-dive. I can wait, I just haven’t quite mastered the “without complaint” caveat. I am not yet where I want to be financially, emotionally, physically, or romantically, and I’m not very patient about the time that it’s taking to improve each situation. I complain about my job(s), I complain about my depression, I complain about my body, and even though I’m still not sure if and when I'll be ready for a relationship, I do complain about how damn hard adult relationships are. Therefore, going strictly by definition, I am most definitely not a patient person.
For me, patience is a veritable challenge: one I want to learn how to conquer. I have a strong desire to do better, so I started thinking about what exercising patience would look like in my life. I quickly understood that the opposite of complaining while waiting for what I don’t yet have would mean being grateful for what I currently do have.
I have a strained bank account, but I am grateful that what I have is enough to take care of my needs and self-finance new music. I have a brain that is pre-dispositioned towards depression and dark, but I am grateful that every day it still fights to find the joy, humor, and light in life. I have a body that jiggles in places I wish it didn’t, but I am grateful that it still gets me from point A to point B with relative ease, and that I am getting stronger every day. And I have a history of failed relationships, but that is because I have a deep resolve to never settle for less than what I deserve, and I am grateful to myself because I know, one day, it will pay off.
Practicing gratitude counters my tendency towards impatience by forcing me to live in the present moment, which is a concept I desperately need to internalize. Philosopher Lao Tzu once stated:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
As someone who suffers from both depression and anxiety, this is an important, and enlightening, lesson.
In addition to recognizing my own impatience, I have also gotten better at recognizing the root of my anxiety. It is always due to my mind shifting towards the future. I imagine things that have not yet taken place, and then I worry incessantly about them until I can’t sleep, or I can’t make a decision, or I can’t bring myself to go to the party, or I have a panic attack.
But the basis of that anxiety stems from an irrational fear of a future that hasn’t yet happened, and a fear of things not working out the way that I’ve planned (attn. self: things never do, and that’s ok). What’s not ok is letting that fear hold me back from pursuing the things I love, and the dreams that I know I’m capable of reaching. What’s not ok is letting that fear make me impatient rather than grateful.
I am determined to carry this lesson with me through the new year and through the next chapter of my music career. I have been trying to release music for about four years now and, in that time, I have doubted myself constantly. I have let the obstacles I’ve faced make me anxious, fearful, and impatient. Now, as I’m on the precipice of finally releasing new music to the world, and consequently putting myself out there, that anxiety and fear seems all-consuming at times. But when I focus on gratitude, rather than the uncertain future, it reminds me why I am a musician in the first place, and slowly the anxiety dissipates.
I don’t write or perform music for validation from others. If I really think about the reasons why I do it, I realize that I don’t actually need people to like my music at all (although it’s really nice when they do). When I come back to the present moment, I understand that the reason I continue to write, record, and (finally) release music is because it’s an extension of my personality, and it comes as natural to me as breathing. If I ever stopped, I would lose a huge part of myself, and I would lose my ability to make sense of the world. And that has nothing to do with anyone else’s opinion of me.
With that said, I know that fear and anxiety will still fill me in the moments before I send my song off to be released. I am going to be thinking about the people who will listen: Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they share it? Will they post mean things about me online? Probably all of the above.
But, when my mind starts to wander to that 45-year-old man who never pursued his own dream and who now copes with the dissatisfaction in his life by posting mean comments to discourage those who actually are pursuing theirs, I am going to catch myself. I am going to breathe deeply and remind myself in that moment that I am not doing this for anyone else. I am doing it for me, because it is who I am and what I believe I am meant to do with my life and with my talent.
And on that note, I will not be afraid anymore to call myself talented. I will not be afraid to call myself brave. I will be grateful for that talent and for that courage. And then, I will click the mouse and release my song. It will all be very anti-climactic. Yet, it will be one of my most internally powerful moments.
In my mind, impatience, fear, and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Patience means trusting that things will eventually work out in the right way and in the right time, even if obstacles appear and the finish line is not yet visible. Anxiety means that fear has crept in and I no longer trust that things will turn out alright in the end. Living in the present moment by practicing gratitude is the antidote.
So, here’s to 2018: the year of being afraid but doing it anyway. I hope you take a chance on yourself this year and that when you start to feel anxious or afraid of the future, you instead think about how much in your present life you have to be grateful for. And I hope that thought makes you brave.
Don’t forget to love yourself,