Patience is not my strong suit.
I’ve joked about it often but it remains true. And life, as it does, tests me in an effort to teach me the benefits of this virtue I’m lacking.
The only souvenir I wanted from this trip around Ireland is a knit woolen sweater. This is not an unusual choice so every single gift shop we’ve stopped in has them stocked. Some of the prices are outrageous, some are a little better. Some shops had a wide selection and others very slim. I saw a few things I liked and kept checking in with myself and Jim as well. Apart from aggravating my husband with sweater questions at every shop, I was losing patience with the search especially as our vacation entered its second half.
Every stop was the same. “Jim, what do your think of this one? Is the price too high? Is this a good style?” and so on. To his credit, Jim kept his patience and told me to continue to wait until I found the right one. In the past, I would have just bought something and inevitably chosen in haste. I was begrudgingly persuaded, mentally kicking the grass in my impatience.
Why are you so impatient? I asked myself over and over. Turns out, I had some irrational idea that Ireland would run out of sweaters before I got one or that the “only ones” left when the time came would be ones I didn’t like. Irrational, like I said. Fears can be like that.
I checked within myself and considered these fears. They are the work of the mind, not the heart. The mind is the one that worries and has to come up with all the answers. The mind frets about “how” and “why.” The heart, on the other hand, is without fear. It is trusting, strong, and wise. It’s not easy to separate the mind and the heart in life’s big situations and that’s why we are given smaller lessons for practice. Today, I am practicing patience with a sweater. Tomorrow it might be something else. I worked to untangle the two and examined their disparate voices. That’s when I found the irrational fears and had a laugh. I sent the fears packing with love and told my mind to take a vacation along with the rest of me. I detached from my mind and my desire and decided to just let things come to me. There will be a sign, I told myself.
I didn’t suspect that there would be an ACTUAL SIGN but indeed there was. Just as soon as I finally put it all to rest, and I mean within minutes, I saw a sign for a shop while exploring Galway city. “The Sweater Shop! Best prices and sales!” the sign declared. Thinking that that was just an effort to sucker tourists, I nonetheless looked to the left and saw the shop. I decided I might as well check it out.
I finally found a shop with great selection and plenty of room to spread out and consider my options. The prices were better than I’d seen anywhere else. I tried on a few things and found the sweater I wanted. Jim even found one for himself. The shopkeeper was a lovely lady who gave us a discount on top of the much better prices and took care of the tax free purchase we are entitled to as non-E.U. citizens.
Later that evening, as we sat in the middle of nowhere under the stars, the sweater kept me warm as I held a wild cat and chatted with our host. He said that when something has remained as unchanged as the Irish woolen sweater for hundreds if not a thousand years, it’s for good reason. He’s certainly right. The nights have been getting colder lately and wool has this amazing ability to keep warm but not hot, to breathe and adjust with you. I hadn’t needed its warmth until that night and the timing was, as always, perfect.
I now have my perfect souvenir that I will wear forever. The Emerald Isle will go with me in the dark green woolen sweater I found, along with a lesson in keeping patient.