Do you remember that campfire skit, the one where one person plays the master and the other person plays a jackass? They are walking through the desert and the jackass, thirsty as all get out, keeps asking the master, “When are we going to get some water?” and the master intones with the same reply, “Patience, Jackass, patience.” They go on like this until someone in the audience who is tired of the monotony yells, “When are you going to get to the punchline?” and the master yells, “Patience, Jackass, patience.” I’m kind of like that audience member. I want the punchline now. I want to know if my son will get a scholarship to the college of his choice. I want to know if my workshop proposal will be accepted. I want to know what the MRI is going to say (nothing drastic, don’t worry.)
About seven years ago, when it took two years to get a new prosthetic leg made, I learned a lot about patience. Usually legs take about 3 months to make, start to finish. Not for me – not that time. The fact that the whole process took two years was no one’s fault; my residual limb is just hard to fit. My mantra at the time was, “I can’t learn about patience if I get what I want when I want it.”
Patience is a mixture of qualities, really.
When it took so long to get my leg made, I projected into the future, wanting something I didn’t yet have. I also ruminated over the past, yearning for the comfortable legs I had back then. Neither made me happy or content. Patience meant I had to have a healthy dose of staying present to the moment, even when that moment was less than ideal.
Because I was fearful that I wouldn’t get what I wanted, patience meant I had to throw in a huge dollop of trust, trust that life would unfold in the right time and for my highest good.
The Control Queen in me wanted to know what was going to happen, wanted to know what was going wrong with making the leg, wanted to know how to fix it. Two years of this was enlightening. I saw my pattern of wanting to control life. Understandable. I knew what happened when life was out of control, after all. I was completely out of control when my Dad drowned on a fishing trip; I was completely out of control when I was hit by the car. And, making this leg made me feel out of control again. When I really looked at my desire for control, I understood that I had to throw in a healthy dose of acceptance – of where I was, of the process, of life.
Perseverating on my leg-making process made me internally focused. I found that reaching out to others, either by providing a kindness or making time for family or friends, got me out of my isolated, solitary experience and, at the very least, distracted me from my impatient thoughts.
As much as I wanted to whine about the experience, I knew it would make the situation worse, not better. So I added a good measure of self-control into the mix. I whined to my husband. And sometimes to my kids. But other than that, I learned that patience is being uncomfortable without being a big, fat cry-baby.
I could see how I was causing my own suffering: my projections into the future, my fear, my need for control, my self-involved feelings all were aspects of my suffering. Patience is feeling all of that and getting through each day knowing that not only do I have control over those feelings, but that they won’t last forever.
So, I will learn about my son’s college acceptances and possible scholarships all in good time. I will find out if my workshop proposal was accepted – or not. And the MRI results will come when they come.
By staying present to each moment, I can more easily trust and accept all that life offers.
How about you? How does patience – or impatience – show up in your life? What have you learned from patience?