“How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” ~ William Shakespeare
If patience is a virtue, then I must be very wicked. Last Friday morning, within hours of posting my Friday Morning Message, I observed my sinful behavior and realized that this week’s topic was already decided. I would have to write about patience. But it took me a while before I recognized how petty I was being in a situation I had no control over. And perhaps it was that lack of control that had added to my extreme frustration and impatience.
A teacher is in charge of the classroom, and as such, is able to control the rate at which subjects are covered. Last Friday my colleagues and I were in a workshop designed to teach us a new software program which will give us greater access to a virtual world of charting and patient care. We were in a good mood. Not only were we without students all day, our road trip to Greenacres (the place to be) had been full of laughter and jokes. We disputed the actual GPS and marveled at the skills of our driver (born in 1976, not before, like the rest of us) as she skillfully changed lanes while arguing with yet another human GPS on her cellphone. When we got there we were greeted with coffee and homemade crumb cake. What could be better?
And then we went into the classroom. I have to confess that I was bringing some baggage to the class. They had given us homework before the class, and I don’t know about you, but I am a hands-on learner when it comes to computers. Don’t show me screen shots of what I am supposed to do, with carefully modulated voice and a floating cursor monotonously detailing the steps and options. I soon started doing other work while letting the program work on in the background, so I got my required check-offs on the list of requirements. Yes I cheated. Ho hum.
But sitting in the classroom, listening to the very friendly and charming trainer go through the steps: ‘No, don’t turn to your computers yet, watch the slide show’, I found myself getting angry. I was fidgeting and whispering to my classmates, rolling my eyes and generally engaging in all the unacceptable classroom behavior of my own students.
It took me a while to step back and recognize what a bad student I was being! I had to calm myself down by sitting in a meditation like pose and doing my breathing! And confront the fact that I am a very impatient person. It’s not like I don’t know this. I usually take stairs over elevators (when not toting a book bag) because I can’t wait the few seconds for the elevator to come. I try to anticipate what a phone call is going to be about as soon as I see the caller’s name. And then try to answer the question without it being asked.
In the classroom setting I have worked hard to overcome this inclination to want to cut to the chase. I recognize that my students are coming to the classroom lacking many of the basic skills they need to quickly grasp new concepts, and I try to hold back, wait on them, to be empathetic and compassionate to their struggle. For the most part I keep my impulsiveness under control. As a nurse you are trained to respond compassionately, demonstrating imperturbability even as patients unload their anxieties, frustrations and fears upon you.
So when I demonstrate a lack of serenity, an inability to breathe and just chill, I see my co-workers looking at me with raised eyebrows. Is this Beth? ‘Are you ok?’ they ask. It rarely happens, but when it does it gives me an opportunity to look at my behavior, and try to see my frustration from another angle.
The trainer last Friday had a room full of adult learners (who are teachers) who may all be at different levels of computer literacy. She knew that if she let us go at our own pace there would be those who would be lost while others got themselves into all kinds of trouble. And when I began to see the situation from the eyes of the trainer, and the other learners in the room, I began to calm down. When we see the world only from our own perspective, the ego takes over. When we see the world through compassionate and empathetic eyes, we can relax and go with the flow.
It’s all in how you look at things. Many years ago I laughed at the Buddhist teaching which suggested that when someone makes you angry, instead of reacting, you should think to yourself: ‘Thank you for giving me the opportunity to exercise patience’. It makes perfect sense to me twenty years later! We need to practice patience, much as we practice any new habit. And when we exercise our patience, we demonstrate compassion.
This Good Friday morning, I hope you are able to enjoy a peaceful day and weekend. However you spend your time, make sure that you begin with yourself. Part of our quest for perfection begins with impatience with our own human-ness. When in doubt, breathe. Pause and reflect before you react. Is it really that big of a problem? Or are you agitating yourself unnecessarily, sending up your blood pressure and your stress levels.
“Patience is a kind of love. A love that is its own explanation in bewildered circumstance. It is an old, old woman placing a wrinkled-parchment hand against the cheek of a reckless child. Because her heart is too wise to make room for reproach. Too full to find place for offense. ” ~ Pavithra Mehta
One Love Family! Namaste!