What Queen and I Have in Common (Besides an Affinity for Spandex and Big Hair)

Newsflash for any of you new parents out there: three year-old kids are not particularly patient. My son is not only no exception, the good people at Webster’s are likely this minute carving out whitespace to make room for his picture next to its entry for ‘impatience.’ I’ve found it takes a great deal of effort to remain calm and in control of the situation when my son demonstrates his maddening habit of going from zero to intensely agitated in about three and a half seconds. My wife and I have been deliberate about discussing patience with him and instructing him to say “excuse me” when we’re talking and he needs our attention (so far this has resulted mostly in him shouting “Excuse me, Mommy!” and proceeding immediately to whatever interjection is currently bouncing around his little head), but, as you might imagine, it’s a work in progress.

The irony of his impatience, of course, is that it tests mine relentlessly. I fail constantly to heed the same directions I give him about how to speak and act when he feels like he desperately needs something to happen that minute. Take a deep breath, I tell him. Speak softly, I tell him. Don’t whine or shout, I tell him. Wait for a few seconds before asking the same question again. If you don’t get the response you want, it’s ok to be upset, but it isn’t ok to yell or fall on the floor or hit or say unkind things. I can proudly say that it’s been a long while since I’ve thrown a tantrum on the floor or hit somebody because I was upset. As for the other stuff? Uh, no comment.

Besides the thought that I, at 27, can’t seem to follow the same protocols for behavior that I fully expect my three year-old to have mastered, the most depressing thing about comparing my own impatience with my son’s is that mine is so, so much more foolish and destructive. It isn’t just that I’m impatient in traffic or while waiting for food at a restaurant or with my students, it’s that I’m impatient with life itself (the most insidious symptom is what can only be termed an impatience with God, both plain dumb and psychologically dangerous).

About a month ago, when the MacArthur Foundation announced their “genius grants” and the Nobel Prize in Literature was handed out, I came close to writing a joke post about all the awards I hadn’t won in the preceding years and how upset I was with this. I could never make anything out of the idea, and so I moved on, but I think if I really scraped away all the ironic distance and self-protective sarcasm, I would’ve found an ugly kernel of truth buried underneath it all. There is a part of me that sincerely wants those things. Not after years of dutiful work and perseverance, but, like, right now. Never mind that people like Junot Diaz (who was awarded a MacArthur Grant this year – and totally deserves it) have written tremendous story collections and novels and put in the incredibly hard work of crafting and publishing them. Never mind that at 43, he’s  sixteen years older than I, and is still considered a “young” novelist. I, just like Veruca Salt (or Queen; take your pick), want it all – and I want it now.

This is, perhaps, a disease of my generation. Confronted on all sides by the “overnight” successes of the young and gifted, we assume that we too should naturally, by rights – without much more than a couple of brief periods of barely sustained work – be granted similar triumphs (before 30, if you please). We even look at our parents’ generation and assume that fresh out of college – never mind, once more, the assumption that college is a birthright too – we should have the cars and houses and televisions of people who’ve put a good fifteen to twenty more years into adulthood than we have. We’ve had this discussion at the TTAF compound more than a few times; we know it’s true, but it doesn’t stop those comparative impulses.

So every afternoon when I go into the basement of my friend’s parents’ house (they’ve generously invited me to use the space as a writing refuge), instead of looking forward to an hour of uninterrupted writing time – time that I’m logging because I know it’s the only way to make my professional, artistic goals become reality – I find myself too often silently complaining (This is perhaps inaccurate. “Complaining” gives the impression that there is a clear voice in my head expressing pointed thoughts, but it’s more just like a vague, ever-present feeling, a blanket laid over my unconscious mind.) about how frustrating it is to write every day and not feel much closer to the kinds of successes that I covet so pitifully. I hope that this comes across as shameful as it really is. If you’re thinking, ‘Ah, don’t be so hard on yourself,’ then you’re being too kind. See, I’m the kid standing between conversing adults, shouting and falling on the floor and whining because I can’t get their attention. I know that throwing a fit won’t work, but I just want so desperately to get noticed without having the discipline, without putting in the time that it takes to really warrant it. I tell myself all the time that it may well be ten years before I get a novel published (it may be twenty or thirty or never, but I’m trying to keep myself sane here), but I don’t know how much I actually mean that. I think mostly I just want to appear to myself to have the patience I know it’s going to take if I’m going to be a better writer, and a more recognized one.

Maybe that distinction doesn’t matter. Maybe in this case, like in so many others, behavior will transform into belief, and if I keep writing, day after day, keeping plugging away, workmanlike, then one day I’ll look up and it’ll feel like a career just happened.

Take a deep breath; speak softly; don’t whine or shout, I tell myself.

Be patient.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Various Things

Follow TTAF

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

We want to hear from you, leave your thoughts below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: