If you can wait
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise… — Rudyard Kipling
If I had to name my top five favorite poems, “If” by Kipling would definitely make the cut. Every line is challenging and full of manifest wisdom. Though I have loved the poem since my youth, I find that different lines of it are most applicable to me at various times in my life. The verse above, however, has remained relevant for as long as I can remember.
Can you imagine how the world might be transformed if everyone– leaders, politicians, executives, family, clergy, entry-level clerks, students, even children– lived up to the principles contained in just these four lines? While each of these lines sets a high standard, the fourth is perhaps the most challenging of all. How difficult it is to remain humble while refusing to return evil for evil! How hard it is to remain ethical in a corrupt world, without inspiring resentment and jealousy in those who project their own manipulative tendencies onto the action of others.
According to almost anyone’s reckoning, time passes ever more swiftly, yet we grow increasingly impatient at even the slightest bit of waiting. Surely the waiting Kipling refers to here would be measured in weeks, months, maybe even years. Often, though, I don’t even want to wait a day for something I deem important or time-sensitive.
During the years since Jeff died, no small part of my sadness and agitation are the result of grief taking far longer to heal than I had expected it to take. Many days– maybe most of them– I have to remind myself that I must focus on just the day or hour right in front of me. My mind, though not what it once was, seems agile and demanding compared to my aging joints and exhausted limbs.
Growing older can bring with it a sense of urgency as the sun sinks gradually into the horizon of our long term picture, but the ability to wait gracefully becomes even more important than it was in our youth. As I look to my third full year of widowhood, my resolution (to the extent that I have one at all) can be captured in Kipling’s words above. I want to wait patiently, without agitation. I don’t want to give in to the liars and haters. I want to stay humble and grateful, short on advice and long on understanding. If I can manage all that, I won’t need to worry about much else.
As you look toward 2019, what aspirations fill your heart? Whatever they may be, I wish for all of us a year of greater peace, fewer distractions and abundant joy.