Monday, February 8, 2010

A word for February: Patience

In this post last month, I took a close look at the one-word challenge: the exercise of coming up with a singular word as a theme for the upcoming year.

Having selected my word for the year, I wasn’t trying to come up with a word for the month, but a word keeps whispering itself to me each night when I stand outside our front door looking at the night sky and taking a last deep breath of cold winter air before locking the house up for the evening. Patience.

Patience during this long, dull, cold part of the winter. No Christmas holidays to build toward; none of the enticing hibernation of January. We’ve done our hibernating; we’re ready to get back outside, thanks. But it’s still so cold, with temperatures in the teens or twenties every day and a bitter wind blowing. The ice on our driveway is so deep and dark it looks like stone; it’s been weeks now since anything frozen melted. I wish it would go away: I’m tired of wearing three layers of outerwear for my daily run, and I’m not even enjoying the running anymore because the face mask that protects my skin from the wind hampers my deep breathing so much.

But still: patience. It’s the time of year for just waiting the winter out.

Groundhog experiences aside, another month or more of winter weather is still likely at this point. In early March, it’s reasonable to grow impatient for a thaw, for milder days. Mid-February, on the other hand, is still way too early to lose one’s winter endurance.

Besides, the days are rapidly growing longer. I drove home well after five o’clock this afternoon and the sky was still light, turning pink and purple near the horizon. Longer afternoons come well before warmer ones, but they remind us that the earth is making its journey toward summer and the sun’s presence is increasing.

There are other reasons to think “patience” right now as well. I’ll be patient with the writing assignments that are uninspiring, and I’ll wait patiently for those that need outside encouragement to find the right reader. I’ll be patient with Holly’s ongoing insistence on help getting dressed every morning, a task I so wish she would take on herself. Tim is already beginning to shed his yearly Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms, probably because of the longer afternoons; he responded to me with unusual good cheer several times over the past few days, and it reminds me that my patience with his darker moods pays off when they lift.

I have patience, too, as I wait for our strangely behaving guinea pig, who shares my office space with me, to meet whatever fate is best for her: she’ll get over her recent lack of mobility or she’ll give up peacefully. The vet said one or the other was likely, and I should just wait it out.

Models of patience are all around me this month: my mother is following medical instructions by patiently wearing bandages to cover stitches for recent skin surgery although in her case I would have shed the bandages days ago out of self-consciousness, and my sister in DC gamely tells me the aftermath of the biggest snowstorm that area has seen in centuries really isn’t so bad, thanks to the fact they still have electricity.

So I’ll be patient with the kids as we find things to do during their school vacation week later this month, and patient with the prospect of more snow later this week, even as I wish it would all melt away. Because there must be a reason that the winter air itself is whispering a word to me. I’ll listen, and make the best use of it I can.

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