As a child I was terribly impatient. As a teenager I was just as impatient. As an adult I was impatient as well. I liked the fast pace of New York City and being surrounded by other people who were as impatient as I was.
When my first child was born, he overwhelmed my senses. I couldn’t rush him, I couldn’t push him along, I couldn’t make the milk flow from my breasts faster than he was willing to eat. I couldn’t get ready and leave the house in record breaking time. Life slowed down to a different pace. An unfamiliar pace.
I still consider myself impatient. Deeply terribly impatient. Even as I slow down and spend time examining an acorn with my oldest child and wondering at how the acorn must open up to let the little tree out. Even as I examine a spider with my middle child. Even as I snuggle up to my curly-haired sleepless daughter who wants to play at three AM.
I spent a lifetime being impatient, wanting to take the shortcuts, wanting to be faster. I spent a decade walking like a New Yorker, weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic and bemoaning the ridiculously slow pace of the tourists.
Somehow I’ve become the person who has empathy for those terrible drivers who incite road rage in others. Somehow I’ve become the person who smiles at the baby no matter how many times she’s woken me up. Somehow I’ve become okay with being interrupted no fewer than fifty times when I try to speak a single sentence. Somehow I’ve become okay with it taking 20 minutes to move the laundry from the washer to the drier because the two year old wants to carry it over piece by piece as I imitate a sports announcer-type-person in various cartoony voices.
Somehow I’ve become patient.
All because of a choice I started making five and a half years ago. A choice I had to make hundreds of times each day at first. A choice I used to have to breathe through and stubborn myself through because I was the only one that was going to be patient with the child in front of me.
It is rapidly becoming my nature.
Impatience has a sort of bitter gritty satisfaction like the tension of caffeine. Patience is an entirely different feeling. It is subtle and mild and a comfort rather than a thrill.
I like it. It serves me well. It stretches time out even as age compresses time to the point where days fly by. It gives me space to react to things and experience things fully and build memories that will stick around for the rest of my life, whereas the years spent impatiently are fast to fade from my mind.
It creates in me the ability to sit by the bedside of my dying grandmother the day before she passed, and simply spend time with no expectations and no rush. To stroke her forehead and tell her that I love her. To not need her to be who she was all my life, but to be for her who she needed me to be in the moment. It creates in me the ability to understand the facial expressions of thirst, of hunger, of fear and of love, and it allowed me to speak to her of the things that she needed to hear spoken before she passed. It allowed me to sit by her bedside for an amount of time I would once have rushed. It allowed me to share space with her and offer her love without needing to take anything in return as her half of a conversation. It allows me to have peace in the passing of a woman that I loved deeply for just less than thirty two years of my life. My daughter carries her middle name “Marie” for many reasons.
It creates in me the ability to forgive what might have once been unforgivable.
It creates in me the ability to apologize for the little things that I did not mean to do, but that were done. “I’m sorry that I accidentally pinched you with the zipper. I didn’t mean to, but that doesn’t change that I did, and I’m so very sorry.” It extends this ability to other adults in my life. I can apologize freely to my partner, to my parents, to friends whereas before I struggled with this even though I would say the words I’d try to protect myself from their meaning.
Being patient with my children has taught me to be patient with myself as I try new things and fail to meet the expectations that I have for myself. It has taught me to be patient with myself when I am anxious, when I am sad, when I have a hard time focusing. I can tell myself “It’s okay”, and I can get it done. I can re-frame goals and meet them instead of stubbornly sticking to them on an impossible timeline or wanting to give them up.
This was never my “nature”. This started off as a choice I forced upon myself. A “fake it til I make it” thing that I never truly believed would become a part of me, and that I thought I’d simply maintain until my kids were grown, and I could “be myself” again.
No.. I’m not letting this go. This is where peace and happiness are to be found. In the slowing down of a rushed world. In patience found with others even as I wish I could move faster.
It lets me breathe. Love. Feel. Enjoy.
I like this patience that is rapidly flooding the core of my being. I like that it grows with each day in an impossible way that makes me understand exactly how empty my lack of patience left me all those years.
What started out as a gift I wanted to give my oldest son.. Has turned out to be the greatest gift I could have ever given myself.
Kids have a way of turning things around on you like that. <3