Being a doctor makes one very good at waiting. Well, maybe not good, but it gives one a lot of practice. Waiting for lab results. Waiting for patients to get out of surgery. Waiting to get authorization for insurance companies. Waiting for specialists and consultants to get back to you. In medicine, there was a phrase we used to use; the tincture of time. It often referred to seeing a patient with uncertain symptomatology. Many times, the best one can do is nothing, just have the patient come back a few weeks later. Often, the symptoms will resolve on their own, or become something more defined. Without a clear path ahead, sometimes the best one can do is wait.
There is a parable of sorts about this. There were two physicians travelling together, long, long ago. Master and student, wandering together and helping who they could. They came across a man who travelled with them for a ways. Learning that they were doctors, he freely discussed several of his aches and pains, his myriad of symptoms becoming a topic of conversation for miles of the journey. The younger doctor, wishing to prove his knowledge, expounded on the therapies and treatments that he felt would help many of the man’s problems. The man barely seemed to hear. During the day’s journey, the older physician talked freely as well, but about anything but medicine. Family, the weather, the best fishing spots in the region; simple conversation that passed the time, every topic seemingly inconsequential. That night, around the campfire, they all continued their discussions, but the older doctor finally decided the time was right to discuss medical matters. Now, in the flickering firelight, the man listened in rapt attention to the elder physician, duly noting every bit of advice that fell from the old man’s lips. The younger doctor listened, as well, noting that the advice was identical to what he had told the man earlier that day, but now the man acted as if he were hearing the wisdom of the gods.
The next day, the man bid the two doctors farewell and they went on their way. Once again in each others company, the younger asked his mentor why the man had ignored his own advice, yet listened so readily to the older physician. The wise doctor said to the younger physician, “there was nothing wrong with the advice you gave to the man, but there was one ingredient that you left out of your prescription. Time. He needed time to hear what was being said. Time to say the things he needed to say. For him to hear you, he first needed to feel that you were hearing him.”
Now I’m learning that being an artist makes one very good at waiting, too. Waiting for gesso to dry. Waiting for inspiration to hit. Waiting for my paint to be the right consistency. Waiting for a customer to get back to me. Waiting. I suppose every profession has its waiting. And I don’t mind it so much anymore. I much prefer waiting for my prints to be ready to waiting for my patient to die. Also, I usually have three different pieces going, not to mention writing blog posts and having a piece of meat brining in the fridge, so there’s that. That’s for listening and I hope you have as little waiting in your life as possible.