Patience

This year has been a challenge. Changes blew through, bringing a different schedule, more intensity, and a shift in focus away from where I want to be. The election brought dissonance and division and the general society has been difficult to tolerate. I turned off the news and frequently found myself turning to music as my chosen distraction on the way to work. I took a step back from social media. In fact, in the past month, I have chosen to observe for a while. Just observe.

One point I have taken from my observations: it seems patience is a trait that few people possess nowadays. We are not nice to each other as we go about our daily business, and I think it’s because we are wrapped up in our own lives. We fail to look outside of ourselves, put ourselves in another’s shoes, and recognize that each of us, in whatever way possible, is trying our best in that given moment.

Case in point: recently, I was in line at the local CVS. I was behind the woman who was next in line. But the customer at the counter had left her wallet in the car, and she apologized as she ran out of the store to get it. This tiny little wrinkle seemed to throw the next-in-line-woman into a tizzy. She began sighing. Loudly. She shifted from one foot to the other. She tapped her foot on the floor, and she turned to me and rolled her eyes, most likely in an attempt to pull me in to her impatience.

Meanwhile, I was feeling sorry for the woman who had run to the parking lot. I could so see myself leaving my wallet (my keys, my brain…) in the car—even though I’ve never done so—that when the impatient woman tried to pull me in, I smiled sweetly while I clutched my tissues and my M&Ms. The forgetful woman was gone for two—maybe three—minutes, but her brief absence certainly annoyed the woman behind her in line. And when we are impatient and not taking advantage of the downtime to enjoy the moment’s pause, time tends to pass more slowly.

This small instance of impatience is one of many I have witnessed in the past few months. I have to wonder: what is the hurry? Why are we so unable to relax and support those around us rather than rush past them with little care for anything outside of our own lives?

Before I judge or become impatient, I am going to take a deep breath and imagine what the other person might be going through. Maybe she forgot her wallet because her first and forever best friend just passed away, and she is trying to hold it together. Maybe the person who is still stopped in front of me at a traffic light that has turned green has a job that just isn’t paying the bills—and the bills are due. Maybe the woman whose cart is in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store is distracted because her grown child is an addict, and she is at the end of her rope.

Patience. It is one of the best gifts we can give to the world. And one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves as we navigate the world. Take a deep breath and give patience a try.

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Challenges #atozchallenge

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Years ago, when I was facing a difficult time far from my family and support system, a minister said to me, “Bloom where you are planted.”

In fact, we all face our own unique challenges, and oftentimes, we forget that. We snap at the cashier at the grocery store who is moving too slowly because she has just returned to work after surgery. We honk at the teenager stalled at the intersection in front of us because we don’t realize he hasn’t quite adjusted driving a car with a manual transmission.  We sometimes get so caught up in our own lives that we forget others are dealing with their own struggles.

On my way to work this morning, I had to make a stop at the grocery store. Of course, I was running late. And it was snowing. I picked up the three items I needed, and I found myself debating which too-long check-out line to pick. Did I mention it was snowing? Because of the weather, the early morning shopping crowd was larger than usual.

I chose a place in the express lane. At one of the check-out counters, an older, somewhat disheveled man was loudly conversing with the cashier. He wasn’t angry, exactly, but he might have seemed so to a passing observer. He was questioning the charges. Each and every one. And as he did so, he was holding up the line.

I turned to survey the shoppers in my line, and I flashed an amused smile at the man directly behind me. He smiled back. “What do you think he was when he was younger?” he asked me.

“Hmm. That’s a tough one,” I responded, turning back to the man. I observed his gesticulation as he opened his wallet and displayed the contents (or lack thereof) to the cashier. She nodded and talked in a manner that was soothing but authoritative.

“School teacher?” he asked.

“No,” I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”

“College professor?” he asked.

“That’s possible,” I responded. “Absent-minded type.”

“Sculptor!” he said, this time definitively.

“Yes! I think that’s it!” Truly, this man could have been just about anything.

“Guess the occupation,” the man then said to me. “It’s a new and amusing way to pass the time in line.”

“Well… that’s all well and good,” I told him. “Until someone looks at me and says, ‘I wonder what she did when she was younger.’” We both laughed.

Sometimes, the best way to handle challenge is through humor. Sometimes, the challenges we face make us stronger, and we are able to bloom more beautifully.

 

C