Imagine my surprise when I woke up, only to discover that life is not a bed of roses. Life is more like a messy teenager who spends the night, steals all the covers and throws them on the floor when she gets too hot.
At least, that is what my life is like. Just when I think I’ve got everything figured out and think it’s smooth sailing ahead, suddenly a tempest breaks, the sails collapse and I am dead in the water, overcome by the enormity of the waves.
Okay. I realize in retrospect that the description seems a little overdone. It’s not all doom and gloom from where I sit, but sometimes life is hard.
We all have those moments when we feel like we are down and getting kicked in the teeth. Who among us has not felt overcome by the enormity of life?
And for me the question is, how do we pick ourselves up and carry on? Where does the patience to persevere through life’s trials come from, and how do we tap into that when we have reached our last nerve?
I remember standing in line at a “fast” food restaurant back when my children were small. I was very pregnant. And by that, I mean I was as large as a house. Holding a crying toddler on one hip, taking orders from my teen-aged kids on either side, and balancing as another crying child tugged on my leg, I prayed for patience. Impatient people glared all around me, not only because of the swirl of noise encompassing me, but also because of the delay, as grim-faced cashiers seemed to take extra long to prepare food, and the orders seemed extra complicated.
It was in that instant of chaos, that I had an epiphany.
We do not magically receive patience. It is in those moments of utter pandemonium, deep depression, or sheer desperation that we have a choice. We can choose to respond to our circumstances with criticism, anger and outrage, or we can choose patience.
This applies to myriad life circumstances, not just standing in line, surrounded by screaming children. Frustration happens every day. Coworkers can be annoying (except, of course, my own coworkers, who exhibit unusual patience with my idiosyncrasies). Traffic lights, bad drivers, and icy roads can irritate. In any given day, most of us are faced with a litany of challenges to our peace of mind.
It is in these moments, when we are tempted to be least patient, that our request for patience is actually answered. We are patient because we choose to be. We endure because we choose to continue putting one foot ahead of the other. We persevere through trials because that is what we choose to do.
It is not easy to choose patience, but it is still a decision you can make consciously. When faced with those things that cause you to grind your teeth, try taking a deep breath. You don’t have to get all ‘Zen’, as I do, but you can breathe deeply. And just for a moment, try to see things differently.
Those kids aren’t screaming just to annoy you. Unless they are, in which case, they are still screaming and you can still practice patience. Your coworker isn’t chewing ice just to be irritating, maybe she feels tense and chewing ice helps her feel less stressed. The traffic didn’t change deliberately to make you late.
None of what’s happening around you has anything to do with you. And when you accept that things happen regardless of your peace of mind, you can choose to be patient.
We can all be patient. We can all persevere. We can all endure. What it takes is a decision, followed by one step.
One step at a time, we will all get through to the end.
Deborah Demander: Writer,