Delayed Gratification. The words sparkle with tension.
I was eleven or twelve and wanted to wear stockings and makeup. Absolutely not, I was told. Pouting got me nowhere. Mouthing off, while within my constitutional right to free speech was, frankly, stupid.
There was only one thing to do. I had to plan for my thirteenth birthday and the lipstick that I would plaster across my wide mouth.
When I was sixteen, I had a list of things I would do once I was eighteen: date who I wanted, go where I wanted, smoke cigarettes, and drink gin and tonics. I would plaster my face with makeup, wear short-short skirts and become famous.
Now, the truth of the matter is that at sixteen I was not emotionally ready to do any of those things. I was a rather young sixteen, and, frankly, dating would have gotten me nowhere except in awkward situations with boys who were even more awkward. I wanted to do, in the immediate moment, what “all” the other girls were doing. Today, as I think about the pregnant high school girls I knew, I am thankful that none of those changing voiced, raging hormonal fellows were lining up at my door.
Sociologists call it “impulse control.” I was bred on delayed gratification. I am intimately familiar with delayed gratification. I know impulse control—sometimes to a fault—like I know my own breath.
Perhaps this is why I am more than a little frustrated with people who whine about the political process and want change overnight with no effort on their parts (vote in the last election; thoroughly study issues and history?). It’s the same impulse that whines for the money, the new car, the jewels, or the lover immediately, without putting in any effort. Perhaps, in either case, they are not ready.
I remember how long it took me to finally begin writing every day. I remember how I chided myself because I wasn’t discovered (yeah, lightning in a bottle) and because I did not feel the need to jump through the many hoops and changes required to become famous. I remember how I showed little understanding or compassion for myself as I tried to fit into my own skin and, at the same time, figure out where I was trying to live the life of another. The creative business is hard work.
I’ve spent many evenings looking up into the night sky, trying to hear stars breathing because I did not have the inner muscle required to jump with both feet into the roaring fire of the creative business. With the wisdom handed down from my parents and grandparents, I now see that I just wasn’t ready. Through the miracle of what I will label Grace, I was protected until I was ready and able to accept the consequences of whatever it was I wanted to do.
A popular actress once said to me, (when she saw my yearning for creative success in conflict with my fear to do the work) “God’s delay is not God’s denial.” For the rest of my life I will send her blessings for her compassion.
Just like wearing make-up and high heels and perfume and nylons didn’t fit my psychologically state as a sixteen year old, the business of show business and the world of a creative professional was the wrong fit once upon a time.
There are those who will think my parents were too rigid, and on many other issues, they absolutely were. But on the issue of waiting until the right time, I can tell you that they were wise. I learned that time, inevitably, clears out the trash and shows you what you really want and who you really are. And how to get what you want with self-destructing.
Patience, process and the right time. Delayed Gratification sparkles.
“God’s delay is not God’s denial.”