Wednesday, February 22, 2012

on harmony. no, wait, I mean patience.

This month has been about harmony, but I’ve been so immersed in patience that I’m not going to pretend to write about harmony when, in fact, I’m writing about patience. Because I know you’ll see right through that. (And who has the patience for that?)

Before I get started, I should tell you that I see patience as a skill, and a two-pronged one at that – there’s long term patience and short term patience. And I’m pretty good at short-term patience. I don’t get too bent out of shape by standing in a line or waiting for the train traffic ahead of us to clear. Because there’s little to nothing I can do about the situation, and my anxiety and frustration isn’t going to fix it. And even if getting all worked up would change the situation, it’s rarely worth the effort. So I read my book, or hum a tune, or look for cute boys and let the situation resolve itself.

Same thing with teaching. When I’m with a student or a client who doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say, I don’t get all huffy and defensive and try to force them to understand me, simply by saying it MORE SLOWLY AND LOUDLY. I take the time to find out what they don’t understand, and then pitch it to them in a way that makes more sense to them. Our mantra at my old company was “if you don’t understand me, that’s my fault.”

Long-term patience, however, has always been my Achilles’ heel. Because I see myself as an agent of change, as capable of writing my own future, when I’m faced with a long-term patience situation, I feel like there’s something I CAN do about it. So I want to get going and do whatever it is the situation seems to be demanding from me. And I start to mutter curses and shuffle around like an angry crazy person with a big bag of smelly cans and bottles on the subway.

You know, because that totally helps.

I’ve been in a number of situations this month that have forced me to see the parallels between short-term and long-term patience. When other people – lovers, family members, bosses, roommates, whoever – are making decisions, there really is little I can do to hurry them up. As much as I want to pick up the phone and say, “I’m ready, let’s go!” it’s not necessarily going to help the other person make a decision. Will it tip them positively in my favor? Maybe. Maybe not. And so the waiting becomes an extended act of short-term patience.

Now, I don’t want to say that patience is about sitting back and not making things happen, because I don’t believe that and it’s not the way I want to live my life. But I do think it’s about taking my little greyhound of a mind off the racetrack and putting a friendly little bulldog or chihuahua on the loop instead. Something more entertaining to look at and run with while I breathe more and stress less.