I'm stuck on a packed train in the morning. I can smell the morning-ness on other people. The smell of freshly showered with the mingling of coffee breath. It's raining outside (as usual), so we can't crack the windows open without having the rain pelt our heads from a usually fast moving train.
The irritation and impatience is palpable. Eyes are rolling. Deep exasperated coffee-laced sighs appear to be fogging up the already foggy windows. Nobody is pleased.
The woman who is sitting on directly next to me looks like she's about to leap out the window from frustration. "I can't believe this is happening again!" she says a little bit louder than necessary. "This is very irritating." Her irritability is coming off of her in great big plumes and penetrating the strained quiet that we are bent on maintaining. I can't stay quiet much longer.
"Well, what are you going to do?" I say.
"I can't do anything about it! I'm not happy about this!" she replies. She's getting visibly more purple.
"That's exactly it. You can't control this situation, so you have to wait it out. Like the rest of us. We're all going to be late to work or school and we can't do anything about it. So there's no need to get mad about it." I respond.
I've said my piece now.
The thing is, minor and major inconveniences are part and parcel of our daily lives these days. From email that loads far too slow, to missed buses, to missed deadlines. And my favourite: people not doing what I asked them when I asked them.
Any combination of these can lead us into emotional states that range anywhere from minor irritation to out and out rage.
Lately, I've been sensing the constant current of irritation that comes from encountering minor inconveniences daily. I've had to pull away from others because of foul moods. And I've taken to supplementing my diet with far too much comfort food as a result.
But because I believe that everything comes with consequences and trade-offs, my very human, albeit miserable behaviour has been to nobody's benefit, least of all, mine. In a bid to "fix" something that I know I can fix, I've had to remind myself that patience is the well from which creation, curiosity, and contentment spring. I've had to remind myself of these things:
Nothing happens without patience: We fail in life. All the time. And if we're lucky, we fail a lot. Patience is linked with knowing that the good things take time to happen. Of course, there are things like perseverance, grit, courage, all linked with the good things. But without patience, we're apt to throw our hands up.
Patience requires gratitude: Being trapped on a crowded train is to nobody's taste. It helped to remind myself that I had a job to go to, that I didn't have to walk to, and an understanding team that was familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the public transit system
Patience comes with acknowledging the fine line between what you can and can't control: We can't control everything that happens to us. We often can control whether we choose to see things one way or another. This isn't a bid for positivity (I wouldn't preach that!). It is however, worth understanding that our reactions may need to be in proportion with the situation.
Patience requires regular practice: Lord help me sometimes it's just easier to imagine smacking someone upside the head from the absolutely asinine thing that they just uttered. We all have those moments. Reminders to cultivate patience are crucial in those moments where resolve is being tested and nerves are being frayed. These are teachable moments.
We have very human tendencies to get quite grumpy when things don't go our way. It's the seedy underbelly of being a creature with forethought and introspection. But what is our weakness is also our strength. We are given the incredible power to understand our own actions and the fact that we are complicit in the outcomes that they produce. I'm making a promise with myself to have more patience in my life. Time is short; I'd rather spend it in a state of awareness rather than in a fog of my own undoing.
PS: If you want to read some good things about patience, here are some of my favourites:
Kafka on Love and Patience (Brainpickings)
Four Steps to Developing Patience (Psychology Today)
On Irritability (The Book of Life)