When I was in fifth grade we were taught a unit on “Virtues.” We had a textbook and all, covering topics from charity and kindness to humility and patience. We learned about each of them; what they meant, what it looked like to embody them, what it looked like when someone lacked them.
My best friend often says, semi-sarcastically,
“Patience is a virtue.”
“One that I lack.”
I often reply, with painful honesty.
I am many things, but I have never been called patient. In fact, to the contrary, throughout my life I have been reminded over and over again of my lack of patience. I want results and I want them now. If they aren’t coming naturally I will find a way to speed the process through my own control. It is a habit that I am well aware has often, if not always, resulted in something along the spectrum of a somewhat-bad situation to true disaster.
I have written many times of my need to slow down. To relax, breath, let go. In short, I need to learn to be patient. By definition, patience is the ability or willingness to suppress relentlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.
I detest that delay.
As I look back this Sunday, as I often do at the end of the week, I can break its events down into multiple different patience-imprinted slaps in the face.
It started when I came across a quote earlier this week.
A moment of patience in a moment of anger can save a thousand moments of regret.
Wow. In addition to my lack of patience there is my fiery personality. It makes me fun, bubbly, entertaining, but in an argument, it makes me an absolute beast. When the two combine I become a beast who isn’t willing to back down, cool off, wait it out, and revisit a topic at a later time. It prevents arguments from becoming an opportunity to change and grow. It instead makes them emotional assaults on myself and whoever I am arguing with.
So all of that post-argument regret is on my own shoulders? It could be prevented with a deep breath and a moment of pause? Wow. Maybe I do need to be more patient?
The invisible hand swung down across my surprised and stinging face.
I have a few friends experiencing hard times or transitions right now. I try to be sensitive, supportive, present for them. But secretly, and please don’t tell them I told you this, the instinct in my head is to say “Good God, my friend, get over it already!”
Some friend I am right? Here I am, attempting to be supportive, yet screaming quietly “Just be patient, it will get better!” when I, the advice giver, am completely unwilling to patiently wait out the hurt with them. To let them take as long as they need to heal and recover, to feel whole once again. Some friend I am, right?
The invisible hand swung down again, and slapped my self-righteous face.
And then I made a mistake. The ICU is fast paced, you learn to move fast, think fast, act fast, chart fast, pee fast. The list goes on. This speed has transferred itself into my daily life. The mistake was minor, there were no negative consequences, it could have been worse, but it wasn’t. I walked away with the most damage having been done to myself. But it was a close call, and it left me shaken, embarrassed, scared, upset, frustrated. “I understand. I prefer to be perfect too.” my sister in law replied when I told her. I can’t say for certain that the mistake would not have occurred if there had been more time, but, I am certain that most mistakes are preventable with a little extra time given to them.
This time the invisible hand swung at me twice, completing a full slap and reversing for the backhanded reminder that patience doesn’t only protect myself, but others as well.
So this weekend, I am trying to be patient. As I write, I am set up at my desk, sun shining through the windows, coffee within reach. I rarely write this way anymore, too impatient to set up a workstation for myself. I am almost embarrassed to say how much easier it felt to write from this spot today, another reminder of the importance of this patience thing. There is corned beef cooking on my stove, for over five hours as instructed! Talk about patience… watching and smelling that for five whole hours!
Between paragraphs I rewarded myself with a break. I slid my mouse over to Instagram where I was immediately faced with an image of this verse from the book of Proverbs,
“Better to be patient than powerful;
better to have self-control than to
conquer a city.” Proverbs 16:32
And this time, instead of one hand, there were two. And instead of a slap, they cupped my face, gently and tenderly. A voice whispered,
Slow down Kate, be patient. Suppress your annoyance when confronted with delay. Embrace the delay.