Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a patient person, and I am guessing many of you can relate.
We all get frustrated having to wait in line, we get angry at other drivers when they’re not driving fast enough (even when we’re not in a hurry to be anywhere)—and the list goes on, no?
My relationship with my two toddlers has shed some light on my impatience. After all, they have a completely different relationship with time, which is natural.
Many mornings when the three of us need to leave the house at a certain time, I have had to breathe through cycles of watching the older of the two take off her shoes while I am helping the younger put her shoes back on, then watching the younger take her shoes off again while I put the older daughter’s shoes back on. This often continues until I figure out a way to distract them into doing something conducive to our mission of somehow just getting to our car.
My first real sign that something within me needed to shift came while playing the game where I asked my girls what sounds various animals “say.” I thought I would experiment and ask my youngest, “What does Mama say?”
She replied, “Mama says, “Let’s goooo!!”
Wow, I thought.
Okay. Message received.
Of course, I could blame my impatience on my parents, my society, my world, but no—this is all on me.
I have recently gone through a few difficult years.
I have had to somehow maintain my sanity, optimism, compassion, empathy and energy during a years-long, highly contentious divorce process, during which I have sometimes felt that my entire world is out of my control. This, along with recovering from a fall where I suffered a traumatic brain injury, has taught me some priceless lessons about patience.
I did not willingly learn how to handle this at first.
There were many meltdowns on the phone with close friends and moments where I begged the universe for fast results in legal matters and healing.
In a lot of ways, I was shouting my, “Let’s goooo!!” message to all that is greater than, and external to, myself. And for a long time I was confused, because from my limited point of view, I saw virtually no results.
I grudgingly walked the path to acceptance and understanding.
I eventually began to understand the paradox that exists in our controlling both nothing at all and absolutely everything, via our perception and relationship with our own experience.
When we are suffering, we often attach our perceived ability to heal to various situations and outcomes we truly feel we need.
I wanted my divorce and my court case to be resolved so that I could finally move on with my life. I attached my own healing, and also my sense of freedom, to these outcomes.
We so often want what we want, and we want it now.
Similarly to how I would try to hurry things along with my daughters, we often try to hurry along our lives, and we place so much weight on outcomes, as if we were holding our breath, waiting.
And waiting. And hurrying. And waiting. And hurrying.
We wait for—and hurry toward—situations that are nothing but make-believe. We fail to acknowledge how we are responding and relating with our power to enjoy our present—just as it is.
Our present is all that ever really exists, and if we are following through on our opportunity to have a healthy relationship with this, there is never any reason to wait, nor is there anything that needs to be hurried.
This has been a challenging journey for me, perhaps the most difficult of my life, but I clearly see now that I needed to experience these lessons for myself.
True patience is presence, but it is not only presence; it is realizing our own ability to choose our perception of our presence.
Anyone can be present for suffering, but sometimes we can choose to see that, even if things feel unbearable, there is always some gratitude or beauty to be found in the present moment.
We all have desires for our future; this can be healthy if and only if it doesn’t impinge on our loving others, loving ourselves, breathing and experiencing where we are.
These transitions themselves are all an illusion, because every single moment of our lives is in itself a transition, and within every one of these moments lies our opportunity to control our relationship with what is.
This is allowing.
This is flowing in an empowered manner, choosing how we relate to circumstances and how we can choose joy and gratitude amidst it all.
Acceptance is not complacency, nor is it letting our lives just happen to us; rather, it is taking action from a place of peace and understanding.
Right action always occurs in right time, and knows no urgency.
Those moments on the roadway. Those moments with children, who in fact can be our greatest teachers. Those moments where we face challenges regarding our health or relationships.
These are the moments where we are accountable only for how we respond.
This is choice, this is accountability, and this is power.
I sometimes find myself wondering how many moments I have missed because I have been trying so hard to wait patiently for something else to happen, or have been in such a hurry. Now, when I find myself feeling a sense of grief for the past, I try my best to choose to replace it with gratitude for all that is.
I can choose to see the playfulness in my daughters, and I can gently guide them along with a different sort of energy. And when this is difficult, we can have grace for ourselves, because after all, we are still human, and humanity is a practice.
I have learned that true patience is not merely refraining from the “Let’s goooo!!” It is gaining everything by means of a gentle, graceful and compassionate letting go.
Author: Katie Vessel
Editor: Toby Israel