a strategy for patience

a reader wrote saying she’s struggling with patience.  she didn’t elaborate (maybe she got fed up?), so here’s my overall advice.

think of wanting something like going to the deli counter.  plucking the paper ticket from the machine records your request.  now you just need to trust you’ll be taken care of.

you could pass the time by reaching into the gross barrel of dill pickles, grabbing bread, or squeezing fruit.  alternatively, you could hover around the counter, scrutinize other peoples’ selections, and get frustrated by how slow they are. 

i prefer the former.  in essence, the secret to patience is…doing something else in the mean time.

if this sounds cavalier, consider the alternative—suffering.  willing the person to call you back, the construction to be completed, the food to cook quicker.  because the root of impatience is expectation.   this should’ve been done by now.  why didn’t you read my mind, understand, and obey? 

forget the shoulds.  distract and fool yourself into avoiding the suffering of impatience by going back to the deli counter of life and consciously deciding how you want to spend your time.

despite my tough love, i feel your pain.  i’m as guilty as the next person of silently shaking my head and muttering under my breath at morons.

in recent years, i’ve taken to deep breathing with long, Carrie-Mathison-esque exhales.  (i told you my love of Homeland is intense).  i like to think this loosens my jaw, which clenches when i’m irritated. 

even as a kid patience was tough.  i got yelled at for it and i’m sure having an impatient kid is annoying.  but another thing about childhood—and yes, this is absolutely my defense—is your lack of responsibilities.  the fewest in the world, basically.  all we had to do was breathe, not take our clothes off in public, and stay out of the street. 

back when i split my week between preschool and my grandparents’ house on days off, i clearly remember standing in their basement, aware of having nothing to do.  it’s hard to imagine but it’s the truth.   

my grandfather puttered with tools and listened to CBS news radio.  my grandmother folded laundry.  she gave me a few dishtowels to “fold,” but we both knew my limits and i sensed it was a fake offer.

pride intact, i resorted to carrying a dust-caked box of pastels from the 70s, left over from my mom and aunts, up and down the length of the basement.  it was ok.

so yes, you can be an impatient adult, but isn’t there something constructive you could be doing?

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