Determined to keep a safe parking space for parade weekend, I chose not to drive yesterday. My schedule was light which made it less of a burden to embark on the long journey to my coaching via public transportation.
My walk-subway-bus adventure was completed in just about an hour. I pushed my way into my coach’s music building, quickly used the bathroom and bubbler, then hopped downstairs to the practice rooms to warm up.
I charged into one of the smaller rooms and slammed the door, tossing my bag on the floor as I touched the piano keys. I found a good note on which to begin and started singing. My first few scales were breathy and out of tune. I couldn’t even out the sound. I could feel myself getting angry.
Remember, I had just spend an hour lugging my music books on the T and had walked at my usual neurotic-New-Englander pace to the music building. I was out of breath, my temperature was adjusting to the building, and I still had marks on my shoulder from a heavy bag. My first reaction was to allow concessions to none of those things. I wanted to be perfect right away.
I’ve never been very good at being patient with myself. Working on a difficult piece recently I had one of my signature tantrums when I couldn’t get a phrase right. “It’s OK,” my teacher said, “this is hard.” I replied with an exasperated “Then I should have worked harder!”
One would think that by now I would get it. So many things in my life have taken time – improving as a teacher, becoming a happy person, training my voice, learning to run, being more positive. Even though I can see these gradual changes in the past, I don’t want to deal with such a slow tempo in the present. Transition isn’t for me, just get me there.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin famously referred to time as “grace and circumstances acting on your own good will”. I’m still trying to live in a spiritual space that welcomes the vagaries of circumstance. Grace I have faith in, my will I can control, but that last wild card gets me every time.
Even as I write I see myself forcing, trying to manipulate maturity to suit my desired pace. Very little happens overnight, and even on the mornings I’ve woken to overnight change, the results have worked themselves out over long stretches of transformation. So this morning when it’s time to warm up maybe I’ll wander around the practice room, stretch a little, and have some water. Then I’ll start trying to be perfect again.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.
And so i think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ