19th c. British Lit / Essay / Uncategorized

On Patience


“He waits.” By greg. Taken January 17, 2006. Flickr, Creative Commons License.

I dislike quotes about anything involving patience. Virtue. Fortitude. Calmness. The idea that “patience is a virtue” is cloying, unremarkable. Cliché. In Chapter III of “Patience Nescot’s Narrative” she writes about her own issues with her namesake as well as the act of patience:

But then is not patience servile and cowardly, a shrinking thing that refuses to look facts in the face and recognise them for what they are? I could never do that; there were no graceful euphemisms about me; a spade in my eyes always stood confessed a spade, and there it was, to make the best or worst of it. (191)

How quickly we return to card playing and gardening. I guess it makes sense, although I rather it didn’t. Solitaire: one-player, seven columns. According to the Bicycle playing cards “more than 150 Solitaire games have been devised” (Web). A spade is a suit; a tool to dig in a garden or grave; a racist term; a fleur-de-lis; both a euphemism and allusion (OED). I have no patience for the places patience takes us. But I have moments where I secretly desire patience without a scent of rose; I would rather engage with a touch-me-not.  My secret want of a frustrating virtue is more to do with myself than others: my inability to wait in various situations involving another suit called hearts. In junior high school I “went out with” (which basically means we were close friends for a short time) a young man not from my own place, but another and I found that exciting. He was all my saved calendar images of New York City, and when he left soon after he came we wrote to each other during the course of a summer. I remember my father handing me a letter. “What does that mean?” His voice was firm, but humored as that seems to be my father’s way. He pointed to a pen-drawn image of a bleeding heart in the bottom left-hand corner of the envelope.

Lovely and sweet–                                    Our correspondence ended after that summer. I knew, or felt, we would never see each other again. I had no patience. (Have I learned nothing since the age of thirteen?)

If I were a touch-me-not I would be untouched, unless flicked or sipped only then would my seeds carry away. I would have no worry of waiting–waiting to hear or to see; wondering what this is and why everything must have a name and why do insist on naming things all the time. This want and desire to belong to someone who wants you in return, but you do not know if they want you back. Noli me tangere, Caesaris sum.

As a touch-me-not you come and go; I already do this, but if I were a true touch-me-not I would feel nothing. Instead, I recognize what I do not want to see–all that I am not by representation. But if I could hang from a stem like the deepest sunrise I would not have a need for patience because then I might give color to a season, if only for a short time and my concern with patience is no longer; instead life is dictated by the calendar. And, I could simply blame love’s abstraction than my own heart. I would not ache, or seek. Will seeking one day stop? Will the unknowingness ever go away? Instead of wondering, I end where I began:

And I am powerless to help him ; nay, even my love and interest are worse than useless now. And, after all, it is better so, for I know not if I should help him to his heart’s desire, even if I were able, not knowing if he would find it a blessing or a curse. (Dickens ed., 191)


Works Cited

Dickens, Charles, Ed. “Chapter III. Patience Nescot’s Narrative.” Household Words, A Weekly Journal, vol. 7, May to October 1884. London: Charles Dickens & Evans, 1884. Google Books.

“Solitaire.” Bicycle, a subsidiary of Newell Brands, Inc. 2018. Web. Accessed 26 Feb. 2018.

“spade, n.2.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, January 2018, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/185450. Accessed 25 February 2018.

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