Patience can be a Superpower

When I was at work not too long ago, I had to keep a patient waiting for quite some time. Not only was I having computer issues, but I had to give my attention to another problem as well. When I finally called the patient back to the room, I apologized for making her wait so long. I was completely blown away when she calmly told me that it was no problem, and that if there was one thing that she was good at, it was being patient. Being a very impatient person myself, I was intrigued and I asked her to tell me more. She described how even as a child, it never bothered her to wait for things and she was always told that she had the patience of Job. The more she told me, the more convinced I became that patience was this woman’s superpower.

I didn’t give the virtue of patience much more thought until this week, but these last few days have been rough. It all started with having to work two extra days. All of the things that I had planned for my days off were instantly wiped off the schedule. No running. No lunch with my friend. No art projects. I wasn’t happy about it. And because getting called in to work is a constant problem, I was tired of it. And I lost it. For the rest of the day I was grumpy and unhappy. I managed to ruin my only day off and I ruined the day for my family and friends as well. As I lay in bed that night, I realized that I needed to do something to get out of the funk that I was in. I pondered what I should do. I wondered if I had an anger problem. But the more I thought about it, I realized that it boiled down to my lack of patience. I looked up the definition just to make sure I was on the right track. According to the dictionary, patience is “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.” Yes, I definitely needed patience.

I found an interesting article called “The Power of Patience” by Judith Orloff, M.D. (You can read The Power of Patience here.  According to Dr. Orloff, there are a myriad of things that happen every single day that result in frustration. We often react to that frustration by being irritable, alienating others, feeling victimized or just plain driving ourselves nuts. That was definitely true for me — I had managed to do all of those things in just one day. Dr. Orloff believes that when we learn how to transform frustration into patience, we can become empowered. Patience reduces stress by helping us take control of our response so that we can resolve situations effectively. Rather than thinking of patience as being a passive state, we should think of it as an active state of waiting to make a move when the time is right. Dr. Orloff says that we should put ourselves in situations where we can practice patience, such as a long line at the grocery store or the DMV. I didn’t want to go quite that far, but I was open to practice patience if the need arose. Well, as my week wore on I found plenty of frustrating situations that I allowed me to practice patience.

The day after I read the article, I had a repairman that was supposed to arrive sometime between 8:00 a.m. and noon. I had to be to work by 1:00 in the afternoon, but I was hoping that I would have enough time to go for a run after the repairman finished his work. Long story short, the repairman showed up at 11:45 and there was no time for a quick run or anything else. I was very frustrated, but this time I kept things in check. I expressed my displeasure at the situation, but I didn’t take it out on my family, and I ended up having a pretty decent day. Just like Dr. Orloff described, I felt empowered and was happy with my success.

The week was winding down, but the challenges kept coming. There were the art supplies that got stuck in Portland due to snow. There were the running shoes that were still MIA after ten days. And there were was the email that I hadn’t received a response to in over a week. I chose to be patient in each case. I purchased the art supplies from the store and planned to return the other items when they arrived. I went on my run in my old shoes and tried to feel optimistic that my new ones would arrive soon. And as for that unanswered email, I made a pleasant phone call and was promised a response to my request within a few days. I felt really good about my choices to be patient. I couldn’t change the situations, but at least I didn’t ruin my day or make any enemies. So far I am feeling good about the power of patience.

It’s a new week now, and unfortunately I am still having to practice patience. I have to work an extra day again this week. My shoes are still not here. And I still don’t have that response to my email. I sure with that patience was my superpower. But at least for today, I will keep practicing patience.

Image: Chuangchoem

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