It is said that patience is a virtue. It is a necessity. Patience shows up so often as we move through life. When commuting, you need patience for the people who do not understand that the left lane is for passing not for driving under the speed limit. When shopping, you need patience for the people who are slower than you or more indecisive. When working, you need patience for those who may not know what you know or process information differently. When dealing with family or friends, you need patience because what is important to you may not be them and visa versa.
Patience comes in all ways and all sizes. I saw something recently that really jumped out at me: Practice the Pause
Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.
The Pause is patience in motion. We have all had those moments where we have judged too quickly and harshly. We have made assumptions that are not fair or right. We have accused before knowing facts. We have reacted harshly and quickly and said things that can never be taken back. So often the people on the receiving end of our lack of patience or pausing also react. And their reaction may be as damning as our action.
My parents are in their nineties. Having patience and practicing the pause is something that you have to do and work at when you are with them or trying to help them. First and foremost there is confusion at times, things change quickly today and they aren’t equipped for that. They are also dealing with their own internal confusion and fears and those take over at times.
My mother especially has never been a very patient person. She reacts quickly, has a temper that flairs easily and then immediately takes whatever the situation is and makes it about her not being good enough, smart enough, etc. Watching her age has really helped me identify where some of my patterns come from and has helped me release many. I know I want to be happier than I think she has been and I don’t want to harbor all of that self- hatred that I see ooze out of my mom at times.
Yesterday, we were having a discussion about the days that my Aunt was going to be alone over the next few weeks and who would be around to help her. I had worked out a schedule with my sisters-in-law to help and between us and one other cousin we were able to cover the days that my Aunt’s grandchildren and son couldn’t be here. My mother became very angry and confused. She thought we meant that we thought she couldn’t help my aunt. Her warped sense of time as well as her own health had her believing that this was 2 years ago when she could do a lot to help my aunt and could walk back and forth between the houses. She cannot today.
My aunt’s way to handle was to try to explain and get upset. It was sad to watch them both grasp at what was reality and what was not. My aunt was in tears and my mom was yelling. I actually practiced the pause. I didn’t get upset, I didn’t try to explain what would only get my mom more upset.
I didn’t react. I calmly told her that we were only supplementing her help. She needed to get back to my dad each night and we were then going to just help my aunt get set for the next day. I realized sitting there that this cannot be easy for any of them and my losing my patience was not going to make it any better. That pause and gentle heart were what calmed her down and the situation. This is a time when hearts need to be open and gentle. The pause requires love and kindness both for you and for the person who you are reacting to. The pause requires you to see heart to heart not action to action.
Situations teach us lessons. The situations that are the hardest are helping us grow as we learn. Patience has never been something I practiced well, I have always been someone who reacts quickly and harshly. I have been working on this for a long time.
As I sat with my mom and aunt yesterday I realized that this is why this lesson has been important to my life. As I watch them grow old and as I realize what they can and cannot do anymore, my patience for them, for their reactions, for their inability to adjust or adapt quickly is tested.
And I practice the pause more and more. And I do so with an open and loving heart.