Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Patience, grasshopper......

Patience. It's something often counseled but too often hard to find when you need it.

It is in short supply in many peoples' cars, to judge by their driving and the road rage you see all of the time.

I find it can be in rather short supply inside of me, as well.

I'm impatient about finding a job (I can't believe I've been out of work so long and haven't had an interview in almost 2 months). I'm impatient with some of my volunteer organizations which I feel are poorly run and where I am under-appreciated (one thing I have the most trouble dealing with is anytime I feel like I'm not appreciated or respected--get me feeling that way and I become angry and defensive--a bad combo). I am sometimes too impatient with my husband. I try not to be but it's so easy of a trait to fall into that it is easy to slip.

Most of all, I'm impatient with myself for not doing the things I need to do. I have a novel to write. I have tasks I've promised people I would do for my volunteer groups. I have a house to clean and organize. I have so many tasks which need to be done and I'm often frustrated that I am not making fast enough progress on them. I'm frustrated at myself for procrastinating on some things, letting other things slip entirely, and letting obligations push off my writing.

I think there are two solutions:

1. I need to make progress on some of the things I am most unhappy to not be making progress on, to let up on the guilt I feel about these projects. And then I need to give myself a break on my past transgressions. It does no good to beat myself up over this. I need to figure out how to learn from my past but not to dwell on it.

2. I need to practice the fine art of patience with others around me. This often means reminding myself that I can't read peoples' intentions. This is what messes so many people up in driving. They'll say "that guy just cut me off" or "that pedestrian walked so slowly that I missed the only traffic opening" or "nice signal, buddy! did you see that guy change lanes without signaling?" And they'll act like the person did it deliberately at them when the driver complaining does the same things--not signaling far enough ahead every time, walking at a normal pace in a crosswalk without thinking about the needs of the driver who might have to wait a few extra seconds, or moving into a lane in order to get where they are going despite some person not really wanting to let you in. When YOU are doing it, it is needed--you are in a hurry or you forgot or you had the right of way. When SOMEONE else is doing it, they are in the wrong and getting in your way or are an awful driver.

This happens because we forgive ourselves the little lapses because we have a narrative that explains why we did this but we can't forgive the little lapses in a stranger because we have a narrative where it is done TO us. I see this all the time in others. I'm actually a very patient driver but I see others who are not and it bothers me, especially when I know that the behaviors they are upset with are ones they do as well.

Meanwhile I am impatient in other circles. I do the same things in volunteering that others do in the car. Someone does something I find annoying in my volunteer group and I get irritated as if they did it TO me--specifically to annoy me.

I think in both cases we are too busy being the center of our own universes. We create narratives to explain the behavior of others and accidentally place ourselves as part of the explanation for their behavior. Honestly, the other person probably is busy thinking of their own narrative and aren't thinking of us at all.

We are each the center of a tiny bubble and as we interact, the edges of the bubbles ripple when we come in contact. We each translate our interaction based on being the center of the universe. We can be a lot more patient if we see others that way. Each person we come in contact with has a crazy, busy life and so much going on beyond our own concerns.

That stranger who was rude wasn't even really thinking of you but of the sick child back home. That driver who didn't signal may be rushing to work, worried about layoffs. We need to cut each other a little slack. Sure, we shouldn't be rude and we should use our signals when we drive, but when others don't, it doesn't hurt to think that maybe they have something bigger going on and not blow up as if it were a personal affront aimed directly at us.

I aim, starting today, to cut others a bit more slack and to do the same for myself. That doesn't mean I excuse or condone bad behavior but I'm not going to subscribe evil intentions or bad character to every little thing either.

I'm going to practice a bit of patience with the world, including myself. I can't let every little thing gnaw at me. It will be better for everyone if I learn to let a few things go.

1 comment:

  1. I've noticed that people are in a hurry almost everywhere they go. When I drive to work they speed past me as I'm going the speed limit. I personally hate being in a hurry, so I always get up early so I don't have to rush.


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