Intelligent, circumspect and considered
Anthony was a deeply contemplative man. The father of a dear friend, he was well known for driving his tractor right past the gate to his own farm, so deep in thought was he. Intelligent, circumspect and considered, he owned two chess sets – one for everyday games and one set up apparently mid game, as if the competitors had merely stepped out for a break.
The latter was in truth a game underway – an ongoing chess game being played between two friends across the oceans. Anthony’s childhood friend and he were bound in comradeship by a love of chess, and even when his friend left to become a priest they continued to play games when he returned on holidays. When Anthony’s friend eventually moved to California, as many did before him, they remained in constant communication by letter.
Bishop g2 to c6++
Every week a letter would arrive with the latest news and instructions about which move the Monsignor wanted Anthony to make on the chessboard. The Monsignor’s move was completed, tactics and strategy were contemplated and a reply written, complete with local news and instructions for the next move to be carried out in California. And so it went, back and forth. Weekly letters with news and unfolding chess moves. Over each year two full games of chess were played patiently, one letter at a time at other ends of the world.
During the annual visit home, the Monsignor and Anthony visited each other’s houses on alternate nights playing their game and catching up. When it was time to leave, the game was merely continued by correspondence. And so, once again, two chessboards an ocean apart. Such a lovely testament to friendship and of course… to patience.
Reflections on a virtue
Patience. Now there is something I have been reflecting on. Wishing to be bestowed with it in abundance, I have been wondering if you can in fact acquire more of it. How do those lucky people who have it naturally make being patient look so easy? It sometimes feels like a fatal flaw to be impatient. I like to think that some good things have been born out of it: perhaps an invention or two; a shortcut taken which led to the discovery of a new land; the curing of an illness or the creation of some extraordinary culinary delight when patience wore thin! Maybe this is the song of the deluded. For patience, we are told, is a virtue, which means that we all should want it, even if we don’t have it.
Treating patients with complex pain states can require even more patience than normal. A failure to explain pain in a way that makes sense to the patient can lead to frustration. Surely patience is one of the foremost components in a good relationship with our patients, allowing us to listen effectively, gain their trust and gradually challenge long held beliefs. Every aspect of the interaction from initial assessment, to building up a clinical picture and giving space for the patient to tell their story, all require it.
On that note, how many of us can say we are patient all the time? Have you ever considered those who left and did not return? The ones who slipped through the net when they did not improve in line with expectations? Did they sense your frustration and go elsewhere? If the clinician is impatient, how must that feel for the patient who is living with the pain? It certainly seems obvious that patience is fundamental to a good therapeutic alliance and so perhaps a short reflection on its merits for us all, may not be a bad thing.
Blanaid is a practicing physiotherapist in Dublin, Ireland. Her professional interests include Chronic Pain, Epidemiology and all things brain related.
This blog was first published on noijam.com on 22nd April 2016. https://noijam.com/2016/04/22/an-ode-to-patience/