Patience is like a muscle. You either use it or lose it.
Every once in a while, I choose a “theme” or “topic” of the week, something I want to work on in my own life, whether it’s a purely internal mental challenge, or something to do with my relationships and the world.
This week I decided I really needed to work on my patience.
With a long commute to school everyday, I’ve been getting really stressed out and irritated because people don’t know how to drive!!
There’s always that girl who is too busy texting to pay attention to the road, the guy who decides to go 40 above the speed limit because he has a fast car, and the person who decides to hold up traffic by not merging even though I’ve left a space the length of two cars in front of me and then decides to flip me off for God knows what reason.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
But the thing is, I can’t control the way other people act, and though these situations can irritate us all and leave a bad taste in our mouth for the rest of the day, we have to figure out a way around them.
I decided I didn’t want my drives to school to put me in a bad mood all day, and because I can’t make people drive the way I want, I had to start rearranging the way I viewed my commute and the other drivers on the road.
I realized that my frustration wasn’t going to make them better drivers (or at least more considerate ones), and certainly wasn’t going to make me feel any better.
I’m reminded of the “This is Water” video and how we tell ourselves stories about the other people we encounter, whether in a grocery store or on the highway. It’s much easier to call them a jerk in your head than it is to remember that we’re not the only ones living here.
We aren’t the only ones with stress and difficult situations.
We’re not the only highly-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, over-worked, over-stressed humans, and maybe that’s worth taking into account.
By Wednesday, I had gotten out of my bad-mood-driving-funk and felt back to normal.
I started leaving a few minutes early so my stress wouldn’t add to the overall stress of driving, and it helped me be more patient with others because I wasn’t in a hurry myself. I also started letting the little irritants go and being more forgiving of the other drivers on the road.
On Thursday, a friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time got back in touch with me. It was a most welcome surprise because I didn’t think I’d ever hear from him again. A long time ago I had to let go of the idea of us ever seeing each other again, let alone speak, so patience came into play for me while I refrained from getting in touch with him.
That evening, I made a cup of Vanilla Spice Energy tea to power me through a night of studying for my stats exam, which I had the next morning. As the water boiled, I opened the tea packet to find the words, “Patience pays” printed on the tag.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
I don’t believe in coincidences.
At work again was serendipity, reminding me that what we put into this life is what we get out of it.
Sometimes letting go is really difficult.
Letting go of people, situations, memories, old habits.
It’s all a challenge, one that we encounter daily.
Sometimes we let go only to have people come back to us.
Sometimes we let go and have to move on.
Patience is difficult in the moment, especially for some of us who have a little more fire inside, but it’s also worth it in the end.
I was happier this week once I started taking a step back and diffusing myself from these irritating situations that are meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
And I was rewarded very simply but beautifully at the end.
Are you a patient person?
What do you do to help exercise your “patience muscle”?