Patience Is NOT my middle name.
As I age and am aware of the years passing, I still want to do so much, and my tendency is to hurry up. But this week, I was wondering if the path to more creativity later in life might actually require learning to wait.
Many have written, over time, of the virtues of patience:
The poet Rainier Maria Rilke wrote in his famous Letters to a Young Poet, “I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart.”
The writer Leo Tolstoy wrote, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
Even Elon Musk, the fast-moving founder of Tesla said, “Patience is a virtue, and I’m learning patience. It’s a tough lesson.” (I understand that!)
This week I interviewed the founder of the blog site “Later Bloomer,” Debra Eve, for my about-to-be-relaunched Vital Presence podcast. Debra shares stories of people, throughout history, who have blossomed creatively at midlife or beyond.
She inspires with accounts of artists, explorers, and writers such as:
The beloved folk artist Grandma Moses, who became the poster girl for launching a creative career late in life, when she started painting at age 78.
The poet Wallace Stevens, who was particularly prolific late in life, even though he never quit his day job in an insurance company. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry at age 75, just months before he died.
The artist Mary Granville Delany (1700-1788) who began her life’s work in her seventies, creating botanical prints now held by the British Museum. She is also said to be the founder of the art of collage.
The lexicographer Dr. Peter Mark Roget who embarked on his most important work after retiring from medicine in 1849. The world knows him for the Thesaurus that he published at age 74
The adventurer Alexandra David-Néel, who became the first Western woman to visit Tibet’s forbidden city of Lhasa when, at 56, she slipped into the city disguised as a sooty-faced male servant.
Check out the Later Bloomer website for many more fascinating examples.
Advice for later bloomers
When I asked Debra what advice she would give someone like her who is embarking on a creative venture in midlife, she offered this:
“Be gentle with yourself. Have patience.”
I knew Debra had been working on a book of her stories, but when I asked her about it, she told me that she was choosing to slow down the project. She’s not ready to quit her job as a legal assistant, and she’s OK letting the book project wait for a while longer, perhaps until she retires from a demanding, yet rewarding, job.
If a younger coach was working with her, he or she might try to pep Debra up with phrases like: “Take a risk.” “Don’t wait.” “Just do it.” “Quit your day job,” etc.
They may have not yet learned that patience is part of later-bloomer wisdom.
Transformation in a week or a weekend
During my 30’s and 40’s, I attended a lot of transformational workshops that championed thinking big, pushing the edges of possibility, transforming participants (in a week or weekend) and moving projects forward with urgency. Often “breakthroughs” came as you felt yourself being pummeled by a transformational two-by-four.
Today, I don’t need to go to a workshop to be pummeled. Life can do that for me, thank you very much. I can be gentler. I can let time transform.
As Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist) wrote:
“It is very strange that the years teach us patience–that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”
It isn’t easy
Like Elon Musk, I don’t come by patience easily. I’m learning that some projects, like the book I’m writing, have their own life and will take the time that they take.
Dang! I wanted to do it fast.
As I work on my practice of patience, I’d love to hear what you have learned. Have you experimented with stepping back and letting a project follow its own natural rhythm?
Where have you allowed the future to pull you forward rather than thinking that you had to do all the pushing?
I know it may take me a while to learn patience. Fortunately, I can wait.