Patience, I remind myself, as yet another month goes by where it feels like I haven’t made the progress I need to.
Patience, I remind myself as I see those in front of me.
Patience, I remind myself as I crumple up yet another half-finished to do list.
Patience and kindness. These are the keys to living with any kind of serenity. I have been impatient seemingly since I was born, attempting to arrive far ahead of schedule. My mother nearly went into labour barely halfway into her pregnancy. My life could have been over before it even started, all for impatience.
My instincts have tended toward impatience all my life. I began school early, grew tall early, tried to be a little adult early.
I don’t know how to sit and wait without it feeling like I’m being suffocated. I don’t know how to not feel guilty about wasting time because there truly is so little of it, all uncertain, and I have so many things I would like to accomplish before this world and all its trappings cease to have meaning for me.
Logically, I know that it would be unhealthy for me to spend every waking moment trying to cram meaning in wherever it can possibly fit into my day. Logically, I know that overwork leads to fatigue and misery. Logically, I know that harming myself in the short term will not necessarily translate into me achieving my goals faster.
What emotion gives me to counteract that logic is an overwhelming feeling of insignificance and panic over it. I don’t want to die without my life having meant something. I don’t want my opinions to go unheard. I don’t want to fade away. I want vibrance and chaos and beauty, and I want it all now, for who knows when they will breathe that final breath?
These things I want, I believe they will make me happy when I attain them and this happiness will make up for the pain and agony of attaining them in the first place. I believe that it will all be worth it in the end – and why shouldn’t I? It is what countless books, movies, fables, and other forms of media have taught me. Hard work pays off.
Except, it doesn’t always. Hard work is admirable but slogging will leave lingering damage. I know this. I’ve written about it, talked about it, vividly experienced it. Then, when I know intimately how dangerous a fire I’m playing with, why am I at such risk of being burned?
Because. I know logically. But in these moments of impatience, it’s not logic that dictates my actions, it’s panic. Panic is a hard pest to eradicate – and I would know. How then do you get to a state of patience, where you’re understanding of your own flaws and limits and make effort to accommodate them?
The first step is recognizing the unhealthy patterns by paying attention to what your body’s telling you. If you’re constantly sick, constantly tired, craving coffee like no one’s business, and downing energy drinks? It’s safe to say that something has gone wrong with the way you’re caring for yourself and you need to take a step back to assess and evaluate.
Mindfulness and honesty are key. You must call yourself out on your own bullshit and make an active effort to remember, when it seems like you’re the only person lagging behind, that it’s not how or where you start. Neither is it about how fast you get to the top.
It’s about sustainability and unhealthy working hours – plus unreasonable deadlines – are no way to get to sustainability. They’re just a lovely way to burn out in a huge fire with tons of smoke but little substance.
Having patience with yourself is hard – but it’s worth it. It’s worth taking little breaks to ensure you don’t ever spin out of control and shatter into a thousand pieces. It’s worth having a moment of absolutely nothing to safeguard the many moments of good, empowering work you have waiting in the future.
It’s worth being gentle, because this world is filled with enough uncompromising harshness. So be patient, with others, with yourself, with everything. Be patient when it’s hard, those are the moments in which it’s most needed.
Be patient, and don’t call it weakness. Be patient and call it what it is – strength.