As a writer and reader, I regularly ponder the phenomenon of literary purpose. When I read, for example, I instinctively pause at least once a page to ask, “Why did [author] choose that [word, diction, metaphor, et cetera]?” My own writing undergoes the same dissection, though on a more scrutinizing, borderline-neurotic level.
Therefore, I read and write at a glacial pace — I’m talking the rate of a snail with a limp here. With the nagging question of purpose forever present (and forever slowing me down) in the literary sphere, I find it seeping into my life beyond the keyboard and page, with like effect.
Lately, I’ve been consumed by the purpose of the relationships in my life. “Everyone you meet will teach you something.” Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, I agree. But there’s a key element missing from that uncomfortably neat little quote: patience.
Now I’ve never been patient. I check the oven every two minutes (or fewer) every time I bake. If I post something I feel is clever and/or funny on social media (let’s be real, it’s probably another old video of Andy Roddick ranting at an umpire or a fruit-themed pun or something equally show-stopping), I check said site every minute or so for a while to see if anyone acknowledged my brilliance.
I hate being patient. As more new people have cycled in (and out) of my life in 2014 than any other year, I’m constantly in pursuit of whatever it is they inevitably taught me. And it’s not enough to simply ponder it; I feel compelled to document and physically represent it. For the purpose of this post, picture a sampler. You know, one of those quaint, stitched wall-hangings that offered wisdom like, “Haste Makes Waste,” during the colonial era.
I need a quote for my hypothetical sampler. (I’m kidding about the embroidery, for the only aisle I can tolerate in a craft store is the one with the oversized dinnerware — I mean, who doesn’t need Bigfoot’s margarita glass?) Hypothetical embroidery aside, the harder I tried to derive and document meaning from my relationships, the more unfulfilled I felt.
In early 2014, I probably would have embroidered something like, “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” Pensive décor for my wall, of course.
Now, though, I’m trying to let learning happen more naturally; I’m trying not to force it. An updated version of my hypothetical sampler would likely read, “Be patient. Buy that giant gravy boat from Michael’s. And if you follow nothing else on this sampler, leave all future crafting to the innately crafty.”