When I was younger and didn’t know the definition of a word, I would always seek an answer from my father.
He was intelligent and well-read; as a writer, I valued his knowledge and experience.
I would stand in front of him as he commandeered his nightly post at our dining room table and wait for my answer. A smoky haze would dance underneath the hanging, stained glass fixture, which illuminated his Parliament cigarette that sat burning in the ashtray.
Anticipating his response for what felt like hours and fidgeting uncomfortably, I hoped that he would give me the answer just this once. But it never happened. Instead, in his condescending voice, he said, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”
In typical teenage girl fashion, I’d cross my arms and stomp back up the carpeted steps of our split-level to my room, grab my shiny red Webster’s, and search for my answer. At the time, I did not see his actions as helpful. I saw them as cruel, and I despised him for withholding information from me. I loathed the man whom I believed thought he was better and more intelligent than I.
Now, however, I see that man wanted me to learn.
Maybe that was his odd way of showing me love, for he was never an affectionate man during my adolescence. He always had a way of making me feel inferior rather than building my confidence.
But you know what? Despite my teenage angst and struggles with my dad, I am grateful for his dismissiveness now. Had he not pushed me, I possibly would not have developed such a love for words and writing, and every day, I look at the heavens and thank him for it.
I still have a dictionary and a thesaurus that sit on my desk. I prefer the nostalgia of finding the appropriate alphabetical section, flipping through pages, and scanning each column for the word.
To most, however, the process has become a nuisance.
Gone are the days of old-fashioned dictionary searches, as Google and dictionary.com have now replaced them. And coincidentally, gone is the patience of society as well, for who has time to flip through pages when one can have an answer in 0.1 seconds?
Although I love to take my time while looking for words, I also seem to have lost my patience in all other areas of my life.
Perhaps, I’ve never been a patient person, though I believe I have been evolving recently. That was until this week when the universe decided to bring me back down to Earth and humble my perceptions of personal advancement.
For someone who had been feeling pretty confident lately, the universe made it clear that I’ve still got a tremendous amount of work to do, especially when it comes to being patient.
You see, I have been waiting to hear back about something I feel incredibly passionate about, and with each day that passes, it has been getting harder for me to control my impulses and thoughts. My impatience continues to grow, despite my ability to see everything for which I should be grateful.
I even posted a meme about patience last week as a reminder to myself to chill, but as I read the words, “everything will come at the right time,” my jaw tightens, and the muscles between my shoulders tense up.
Rather than helping me relocate my Zen, the meme made me want to scream, “Oh, horsesh*t!” out of sheer and utter frustration.
Sometimes, I find it extremely difficult to understand why I can’t have what I want when I want it, like right now.
I know, I know. I sound like the bratty little girl from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” stomping her foot and demanding, “But I want it now, Daddy.”
The fact is, I am impatient.
I dislike waiting for answers. I rarely wait on someone else to do something either because, most times, it takes too long. I have found it’s so much easier to do it myself in my lifetime. Unfortunately, in life, we can’t always do everything ourselves, which leaves us in a vulnerable position—one in which we have to rely and wait on others.
I’m aware that I have this character flaw. I do try to control it, and outwardly, most times, I appear to do so. Yet, the greater struggle for me is navigating the internal conflict, when my impatience and low self-worth evolve into pure anxiety, which borders on panic.
When that happens, my mind becomes riddled with endless questions, answered in worst-case scenarios, and until there’s a solution, I tend to stay in that place and ruminate.
During those times, in scarce moments of self-reflection, I ask myself what’s wrong with me? Then I question myself, “Is it me? Or have I been conditioned to behave this way?”
In a world driven by immediate gratification, Google, bandwidth speed, cell phones, and floods of social media, how can I be expected to be patient?
Between a less-than-functional childhood, which resulted in low self-worth and insecurity, and living the past 20 years of my life with the internet, I don’t stand a chance to have a healthy relationship with patience.
I recently read the book The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck. Early into the book, he discusses the development of delayed gratification in our childhood. He defines delayed gratification as “a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.”
Peck points out that those with delayed gratification deficits would most likely be able to trace their experiences back to childhood, where they’d discover unresolved feelings of abandonment, lack a sense of safety, and conditional love.
He explains that for children to possess the ability to delay their gratification—have patience—they must have parental figures who demonstrate their ability to do the same. In addition, not only are the parents responsible for exhibiting self-control, they are also responsible for instilling a sense of self-worth in their children and a sense of safety.
As an almost 50-year-old woman, who has been chasing her Zen for the past six months, I can confidently say that I survived my childhood but came away empty-handed when it came to a sense of safety and self-worth.
But I beg you, please, do not mistake my recent insight for a lack of compassion and love for my parents. I know they did the best they could with what they had, and I dearly love them both.
At some point in one’s life, character flaws must become an individual’s responsibility and not something that can be blamed on others, which is why I am working so hard on understanding myself and questioning my actions and feelings.
I want nothing more than to be calm and patient, but I expect the changes to occur immediately, in a complete contradiction.
When I stand back and analyze myself, I chuckle at the absurdity.
I realize that reprogramming my mindset is a must. The problem is that in the moment, I forget where I am supposed to start, what with all my overwhelming emotions. Perhaps, I should Google how to be patient?
Kidding. I am kidding!
Rather than seeking guidance from Google, I decided to search my soul. Here are a few personal beliefs I’ve used in the past to help me through my moments of impatience, although I failed to utilize them this week and regret it terribly. I do have all intention to use them moving forward and feel that perhaps they might be of benefit to you, too:
1. Beauty can be found in anything if we look long and hard enough.
I need to take the necessary time to get to know myself. Making peace with the fact that it may take me a long time will remove my sense of urgency and allow me to enjoy the journey. Self-exploration is not a race, and with each nook and cranny, if I take the time to sift through, I will discover the beauty and cultivate a newfound love for myself.
2. Everything in life is temporary.
When I become impatient, I must remind myself that the answer or outcome will come in time. I also must remember that anxiety and panic are fear of the unknown, and the easiest way to navigate the unknown is to confront it. Acknowledging that I cannot control the outcome of an unknown puts the power back into my hands, and it’s in that precise moment that I have to stop, breathe, trust the universe, and let my fear go.
3. All things are possible with God.
It has taken me my whole life to realize that God has always been there for me, but at my moments of impatience, I sometimes forget to turn it over to Him. I have to remember I am held and protected by God and worthy of love and respect, not only during times of struggle but also forever. He will always have a bigger plan for me than the one I want in my immediate future.
I may not have all the answers right now, but I’m willing to accept that it’s okay. Maybe the trick is not to complicate things and recognize that the answers lie in keeping it simple.
I remember my dad bragging once about getting 100 percent on a philosophy exam in college. He told me the question was simply: “Why?”
He found great amusement in telling me his answer was just as simple. He answered, “Why not?”
That was my dad, and I loved him.
He may not have instilled patience in me growing up, but he did succeed at one thing. He raised me to persevere, and until I master the ability to be patient, I can assure you, I won’t stop trying.