I would not hold myself up as an exemplar of patience. I can get pretty cranky about waiting for an action or response, or being inconvenienced when trapped in someone else’s clueless zone, or dealing with another’s inability to get to the point. It’s time I will never get back.
So I’m not the gold standard for counseling a little tolerance with life’s inevitable delays, which are not — contrary to what you might believe — designed specifically to annoy you.
That said, given everything that is going on in the world now, and the onrush of holiday season chores and expectations, it seems that patience is a particularly valuable asset. So is appreciating that we can be on either end of the equation: as the one who is impatient, or the one who is engendering impatience in others.
Some definitions of “patient” include calm, tolerant, understanding, persevering, constant, and not hasty or impulsive (admittedly, cribbed from the dictionary I always keep at my desk). Those are admirable virtues, if only we can practice them — no small challenge given the provocations were faced in uncertain times.
Large and small, those tortured moments confront us every day. In line. Online. On hold. On the clock. On the road. At the workplace. We may believe we are plagued by dawdlers, incompetents and obstructionists. As if all of us get everything right all the time (note to the typo patrol: you try reading every word in this paper every week, on deadline, and never ever not even once missing a mistake).
We might need to draw on the better angels of our nature to be patient with retail, restaurant and service industry employees who may be overworked in an understaffed environment; postal service workers and delivery people; medical professionals who are taxed to the max; snowplow drivers working long hours in difficult conditions; school bus drivers keeping our kids safe; airport workers trying to move thousands of people through; call centers that consign us to the hell of endless music loops.
Managing emotions and expectations isn’t easy. But there’s nothing more pointless or less effective than getting angry at people who are, with good intent, trying to take care of you. The circumstances that may cause us to feel delayed or inappropriately attended to are usually not of their making, and they’re doing the best they can. Little snit fits don’t do a thing to assuage exasperation, unless you get off on berating people, or dramatic sighing, or animated muttering.
At the same time, you don’t have to just throw your arms in the air and give up. There is a lot to be said for perseverance, constancy and seeing things through to their desired conclusion despite roadblocks. You are your own best advocate, and may need to be (calmly) insistent — and most of all, polite. It doesn’t cost a thing but buys a lot.
Sometimes it’s more difficult to be patient with those around you. It’s been said, with a dose of irony, that some people are not cursed with self-awareness. You probably know a few, and they are not all psychopaths. They’re just ordinary people who seem not to register the impressions they make or the effect they have on other people or events (refer back to “clueless zone” in the introductory paragraph). They can seem so self-absorbed that they simply don’t seem to notice, or to be bothered by, the fact that they are holding up a line, dithering over a decision, dominating a conversation, or causing a disruption. You might call it cheerful indifference. Or, less kindly, if you are not in a tolerant mood, attention-getting manipulation.
While you are being patient with others, don’t neglect to be patient with yourself. That’s not self-indulgence. It is an aspect of mindfulness to take a deep breath, go through some perspective checks and suspend irritation even when it seems justified. And try not to be someone who others get impatient with. You don’t want to be that viral Karen (or the male equivalent) who everyone thinks is an entitled jerk.
Aggravation is a natural human response. It’s also tiring and unproductive. I’m trying to be more aware, considerate, gracious and understanding, to be grateful and thankful when things go well, but I’m only human. Be patient with me.