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The Trouble with Patience (and one possible way to fix it)

Pearl, showing off his masterful “constancy” skills as he pounces on the tasty delicacy now!

A few months ago, a dear friend gifted me with a wonderful book called “The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully” by Frank Ostaseki.

Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten very far with my reading. It’s not because I haven’t tried, either.

It is mostly because each page makes me stop and think for not just days, but weeks….sometimes months.

Here is an example:

“The problem with the word ‘patience,'” said Zen master Suzuki Roshi, “is that it implies we are waiting for something to get better, we are waiting for something good that will come. A more accurate word for this quality is ‘constancy,’ a capacity to be with what is true moment after moment.”

See what I mean?

To be honest, I’ve always had a problem with the word patience. And in fact, my parrot, Pearl, who is one of the beings who I most admire and look up to in this world, has approximately zero patience.

To clarify, there is absolutely no patience tucked away anywhere in his featherweight 77-gram body.

Whatever he wants, he wants it now, “right away no waiting.” He is so present, so engaged, so marinated in each present moment that he simply cannot seem to understand the concept of even the most infinitesimal delay.

Therefore, in Pearl’s world at least, patience is not a welcome wait for something better later. Patience is the inexplicable putting off of something wonderful that could be happening now. 

Constancy, on the other hand, is a quality Pearl possesses in spades.

Constancy, with its associated qualities of dependability and consistency, absolutely requires us to show up in each moment of our lives in order to see what happens in the next “now” moment.

Consequently, there is no lazily zoning out. There is no absentminded time wasting as we busy ourselves with the least critical items ranked lowest on our to-do lists while we wait for “better, later” to arrive.

There is only now, and how much fullness and richness and tastiness and wonderfulness we can pack into each “now” moment as it shows up, one after another after another.

If you’ve ever looked at your non-human companion, be they a dog, cat, fish, reptile, bird or another species, and had the thought that they are having a much better and more enjoyable day than you are having, you already understand all about the fundamental difference between patience and constancy.

You are being patient, sucking it up in this moment towards some future assumed good that as of now remains simply a theory – one future possibility among many.

Meanwhile, your pet is being constant, bounding around the living room, chewing everything in sight, snoring away in a sunspot, scarfing dinner and looking around for seconds.

Is it always possible to choose constancy over patience? Truly, I have no idea. As I mentioned, I’ve only just started reading this book, and thus far I haven’t read anything about if this can be done and, if so, how to do it.

But I do know that the author’s message in this particular chapter simply says, “Don’t wait.”

Here, I assume he means don’t wait to live. Don’t wait for “later” to do anything at all that matters to you. Always remember that just as patience makes no promises, so too is later just a concept until it turns into right now.

He also seems to be saying that patience is way overrated, that it is perfectly okay to be impatient, but just try not to lose your constancy to impatience or anything else.

If this interpretation is correct, it makes me very, very happy.

(For the record, Pearl is very happy too.)

Today’s Takeaway: Do you find yourself kind of coasting through certain aspects of your daily life, not really engaged or present for whatever reason? If yes, why do you think you do this? Does it work for you? How do you feel about the terms “patience” versus “constancy?” Does one resonate more than the other to you?

The Trouble with Patience (and one possible way to fix it)

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2017). The Trouble with Patience (and one possible way to fix it). Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Nov 2017
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