Nora is at an age where she is slowly starting to understand the concept of patience. It’s still a frustrating concept to her, but we’re making some great progress. The ability to accept delay, difficulty, or annoyance without getting upset or angry is a tough skill to master, and one that many adults struggle with too.
Especially today, when the internet and the speed at which things are often available are at a pace that leaves us with little time or need to wait.
Fast food? They have timers in the drive-thru to ensure food is getting out as quickly as possible.
Hi-speed internet? Each year they seem to come up with a way to make it even faster and I still remember the days of dial-up…
Braces? They have hi-speed braces now where you can get the perfect smile in just months!
The art of patience is something that we really don’t deal with as much anymore. And when we ARE forced to wait for something…we get anxious about it. We get angry, upset, and try to control the situation. It’s a stress response to a situation we cannot control. Traffic jams, slow service, internet down, someone is late…etc. etc. These are all external factors that can have a potential impact on us.
I remember when I used to get stuck in traffic jams, especially on our way to go get Nora from daycare, I would lose my mind! How dare these people slow us down! We wouldn’t get home until later and I’d be in a sour mood the entire evening. All because of a little extra traffic.
What was being impatient giving me other than needless stress, anger, and a negative shift in my mood?
Getting annoyed and frustrated wasn’t doing me any favours, and the unnecessary stress was wreaking havoc on my cortisol levels, not to mention the impact on those around me.
How we experience impatience can feel different for everyone, but there a few key components that tend me to be the similar. For many of us, we experience impatience as something that is external to us, something is happening “out there” that is causing a delay. But really, that feeling is coming from inside, it’s our response to the circumstances.
We typically feel impatience when we are not getting our way – when external events or people are not conforming to our expectations. I expect there to be no traffic, I expect Nora to want to wear this outfit today, I expect my partner to be on time…
And if there is one thing I’ve learned in recent years, it’s that life happens…
Things are hardly going to work out as expected. Plans will get sidetracked, others will not live up to our expectations…if there is one thing we can count on, it’s for things to happen when we least expect it.
Our first choice (e.g., no traffic jams, people going through the checkout line in a timely manner) is not often the choice that ends up happening. So, how we manage this is where we DO have the choice. We can get upset and angry over the delay or we can try to make the best of it. Traffic jam? Listen to that podcast you’ve been meaning to check out or strike up a conversation with the other person in the car.
Practicing patience is also a practice in self-compassion. It is being kind to yourself in the face of circumstances that could cause unnecessary stress and/or frustration. It is choosing to let these situations slide off your shoulders and instead finding peace in what you can control.
Now, this is obviously easier said than done, right? Of course. I’ve been in traffic jams recently and I still get frustrated, especially if I know I’m going to be late for something. This is why I call it a practice in patience versus just being more patient. It takes practice…all of the time. Every single time our patience is tested (and that is often multiple times a day), we have an opportunity to practice.