Finding My Patience (Yes, it was lost)

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you I am not a patient person most of the time.  Traffic gets me frazzled faster than anyone else I know, waiting in lines makes me a little crazy, and sitting still is definitely not my strong suit.  So imagine my surprise when, on my retreat, I found myself simply sitting on a bench watching water drip in a bird garden.  I’d also had moments of not wanting to move from my camp chair, or watching fish, that I reflected back to when I made the realization.

Apparently I do have a secret well of patience.

The key to finding this source is control.  After much consideration at the bird bath, I realized that the difference between waiting for birds to come to the water and waiting in an airport security line was that I had no time pressure weighing on me with the birds.  The difference between sitting in my camp chair here and sitting (frustrated and unhappy) on a beach in the Bahamas was that here I had chosen to sit in the chair.  I had full control of when I got up, when I left, and what I was doing, whereas the Bahamas moment was enforced by a cruise ship and a cancelled excursion.

Traffic and lines get me knotted up and stressed because they impinge on my ability to be punctual.  Enforced idleness, because a companion has chosen to linger or something is preventing me from leaving, irritates me because I have no choice in the matter.  I have to wait, I have to sit, I have to fill time, not because I’ve picked it, but because it is being forced on me.

This new understanding of myself is both a revelation and a challenge.  I know the source of my impatience; now I must find a way to choose to wait for others, either with me or around me.

I discovered a corollary of this when I returned home.  External stress, unrelated to the moment, can also make me very impatient.  If I’m tired from a day at work, I have no patience with traffic.  If an upcoming task makes me worry, I’ll get angry with my dog for taking too long to sit.  Again, knowing this about myself may help me improve.