Never underestimate the power of patience and its relationship to your happiness. Often times focusing on actively being patient can bring us the calm and peacefulness that we’re looking for in a stressful situation.
Patience can feel passive, but I have found that it’s anything but. It can feel like we’re just waiting around for things to happen and usually we have no control over the problem that is causing us to be impatient. In those cases, the ONLY thing we have control over is ourselves and how we choose to deal with what is most likely annoying, frustrating, disappointing, and what can feel like it’s never-ending. The beauty of choosing patience is that we DO take control of the situation and that doing that act can also provide us with some much needed perspective to help get us out of our own heads.
Case in point - yesterday I was waiting in line at the grocery store and it was one of those times where I had just picked the wrong checkout line. I don’t know if the cashier was new to the job, or just exceedingly slow, but as I stood there, it seemed like everyone around me was whizzing through their lines with lightning speed. With the person’s cart in front of me still 2/3 filled with groceries between me and my freedom, I began leafing through a magazine and fought the urge to pull out my phone to help pass the time. When I replaced the magazine and saw that the customer still had at least a half a cart to go I started to feel irritated. And annoyed. And just a tiny bit angry that I had chosen this particular line and that it was taking so bloody long. I hadn’t been in a rush before, but for some reason, since it was taking an absurdly long amount of time I began thinking of all of the things that were waiting for me to do, and that only made me all the more perturbed at my current circumstances.
As I continued to stand there, trying desperately to heed my own advice, (and not do things that only make waiting worse like tapping my foot, checking my watch and audibly sighing) i happened to glance over to my left, where I saw the cover of People magazine, which bore the photo of Kobe Bryant, who had been killed unexpectedly and shockingly in a helicopter crash the week prior. Seeing his big smiling face there in full 2D color immediately snapped me out of my annoyance and allowed me to see things through some necessary “perspectacles.”
It now felt like a gift to be able to stand in a grocery store line, in 3D, being able to purchase the things I needed to feed my family. I instantly recognized and acknowledged the privilege of having access to healthy food, electricity with which to cook it, and a home to unpack it all into. Most importantly, I also realized the miraculous feeling that I was not currently grieving the loss of a loved one as the completely unprepared family members and friends of the 9 human beings killed in that horrible flash of a moment were doing as I was standing there.
I suddenly had all the time in the world. When it was my turn to be checked out I greeted the cashier warmly and I asked her how she was doing. Do you know how she responded?
“I got up today, I’m still here, so I’m doing great.”
I looked at her, smiled, and responded, “That’s the best way to look at things, isn’t it?” She replied, “One customer made fun of me when I said that. She said it reminded her of something her grandmother would say.”
I personally think we can and should be grateful for every moment we get to spend on this earth. Every single person who is no longer alive would probably give anything for the chance to stand for a long time in a grocery store line. Why? Because, very simply, it would mean that they are still alive. They are still breathing, walking, anticipating, enjoying, trying, laughing, and loving; and they would also be very happy in the knowledge that when they finally got through that tiresome snail-like line, there would be more breathing and walking, and laughing and loving and living to do on the other side.
“Genius is eternal patience.” -Michaelangelo
Patience is one of the hardest things to teach our children and I believe it’s one of the most difficult things to learn. But if we can make the choice to actively choose patience over irritation, composure over annoyance, and endurance over instant gratification, I think that happiness and contentment follow easily every time we make that choice. And the great thing about that is, each time we practice patience, we get better at it.
Choose patience = Choose peace = Choose happiness.