I stopped praying for patience a long time ago.
Seriously. No more.
I used to pray for this virtue in some kind of misguided attempt to become a sweet, quiet, and utterly patient pile of grace.
The polar opposite of the fiery mass of intensity that I more likely lean towards.
I should be more patient, I’d think, during these moments of WTF, biting the inside of my cheek to blood sometimes, considering how I might actually crawl out of my skin before I become documented proof of spontaneous combustion.
Eventually, I realized that praying for patience did a couple of things for me:
- It made the insides of my cheeks hurt all the time. (Brutal.)
- It brought all kinds of patience-based learning opportunities my way. (A euphemism for “things got really fucking annoying.”)
I’m impatient. It’s just a fact. Maybe it’s a flaw. I’m impatient with myself, with my son, with the person talking too long to the barista about the weather, inputting passwords always, and other minutiae. Things drive me crazy, and I want my life and problems to be all Solutions and Clarity by yesterday.
My lack of patience has made me impulsive. My lack of patience has made me snippy and rude. It has made me hasty.
But, it has also made me brave.
It has taught me boundaries.
I’ve been wholehearted more times than I’ve been halfhearted.
Sometimes I leap at just the right time.
I’m not making excuses. Or suggesting it’s okay to walk around the world sighing audibly so the cashier will move along, or tailgating people, or shaking fists. I’m not even suggesting it’s good for you to get yourself all riled into a cheek-biting tizzy at all. (It isn’t good for you.) A commitment to kindness – to yourself and others – always wins.
I am saying that when you get sick and tired of trying to amputate the parts of yourself that aren’t the embodiment of perfection, there are alternatives.
You can reframe and redefine them instead. You can work with, instead of against, yourself. You can figure out how your impatience can be impetus for your progress, and use it constructively instead of destructively.
For example. If you are habitually sighing audibly in line at the coffee shop… You don’t have to stop feeling impatient to stop being a dick.
You don’t even have to stop feeling impatient to make a whole other choice. Like choosing to think of something else, or breathing.
And furthermore, you can even use your impatient feelings as a trigger for you to remember to be kind instead. Groundbreaking, I know. But what if feeling impatient was the reminder to say something nice to someone, or do that whole pay-it-forward-by-buying-the-next-person’s-drink-thing?
I got a free cappuccino that way the other day and my heart is still a puddle.
See, the fundamental change needed is not as much in who you are, it’s in how you choose to act.
Or, perhaps, that you are in fact choosing your actions.
It takes an ability to take an unflinching look at the way your behavior is debilitating or hurting others, and then being smarter than your habits.
It takes having coping mechanisms that allow you to be responsive versus reactive in these situations, so you can make best case scenario choices.
Creating an environment of vitality and health, maintaining a strong and flexible body, and a clutter-free living space is an excellent launch pad for your access to free agency, setting you up for coping mechanisms galore. An environment that is capable of containing all the things that you are. Even the parts that might seem less desirable. It’s important work, acceptance as well as integrity.
It’s important to also remember that, sometimes, a thing like impatience just is what it is. And can even be righteous and warranted.
Sometimes the greatest kindness is full blown impatience with, say, injustice or bullshit.
I adore what Meryl Streep says here:
“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism, and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me, and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty, and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.”
Hell, yes, Meryl. Hell yes.
So, here I am, feeling pretty chill while I careen around with intention, sometimes with less patience than I’d like.
And, one of those intentions, as always, is connecting to you. Even if just to say, “Hi there. You’re doing okay and you aren’t alone.”
Hopefully you’re feeling that.
Until next time.
image by me.