I’ve thoroughly disliked Patience for a long time. We've simply not had much in common. The main reason for this that I can tell is that I am not patient. And Patience is.
While Patience can sit nicely at the stoplight, I am quickly turning right to avoid it, zipping through a parking lot in hopes of conserving 10 seconds. And to avoid sitting still. It’s called efficiency. Trust me.
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While Patience can listen to the same story from the same person for the third time this month, I laugh and say, “Oh yea, you told me about that one.” Just helping them save face, you know.
I remember distinctly becoming infuriated at this so-called virtue, this slow, meandering lifestyle where one is never in a rush, never so passionate about something that one must completely by-pass all conversations and shout at slow, simple drivers in an effort to be somewhere, somewhere else. What use is there for Patience if I cannot get what I want, is more or less the thought that I thought that day. And that was pretty much my attitude about the whole thing.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not Type A. I am not terribly goal-oriented, not in an aggressive sense anyway. I can actually sit on my couch doing absolutely nothing but thinking and looking around at nature from the living room window. And I feel great about it. I can do this for about 30 minutes or so until guilt sinks in or I begin to wonder about hits on my blog. But when I want something, when something just needs to happen, look out world.
This week I’ve decided to intentionally and aggressively target my worst enemy, the arch-nemesis of my entire existence: anxiety. Until my early twenties, I had no idea that I was walking around with the symptoms of a very nasty case of anxiety: the ever-present pit in the middle of my stomach, the surge of adrenaline in social situations, the feeling that there is something very invisible and very heavy laying on my chest when I wake up in the morning. All the signs, and yet all the signature oblivion of someone who is not ready to deal with her junk.
Over the years, with prayer and counseling and lots of other stuff that required tears and looking into the inner depths, I’ve gotten significant relief from this monster. And yet it looms, making decisions for me, motivating awkwardly rushed conversations as I panic about how I should be somewhere that I’m not. Being a people person does not help. I feel every conversation is important; learning to prioritize them has been a true miracle.
But one night recently, in the throes of developing my latest attack strategy on anxiety, something occurred to me. Anxiety is often motivated by impatience. And impatience is motivated by selfishness.
It’s true. Impatience is often selfishness. It’s my own agenda that I’m putting before everyone else’s. It has put me in situations where, for example, I wait until the last minute to do something out of prioritizing a more desirable activity, and suddenly I am forced to rush. The hurrying brings inevitable fear, and a heightened irritability at anything or anyone that gets in my way. In anxiety, there is no room for error. No room for slow traffic or a person who needs to talk. Just get out of my way - I got somewhere to be. So selfishness equals impatience which somehow – I don’t understand emotion math – results in anxiety.
So there you have it, my latest ah-ha moment. Patience and I are discussing the terms of our relatively new friendship. I am actively working to think and move more slowly, to give myself more time when taking on a task, to recognize when I am starting to feel anxious and adjust my breath and my approach to the situation. I may not be a master of my environment, but I can be a master of myself. Everyone knows this, but it takes so much discipline to live this way. It takes Patience.
The best part about this new friendship, though, is that I very much like my patient, slow self. I like the speed of my thoughts and the pace of my life. I like the fact that I can actually give people the invaluable experience of being heard. And after all, being heard is what we all want. So Patience and I, although I am quite clumsy, are now walking together. You should see the fruit of this when you talk to me and hopefully in other relevant situations. If you don't, please point it out. And if you do, I will try to slow down and, patiently, hear you.