It took me a long time to learn how to be patient and I figured it out in a few moments. Even though I have to continue practicing how to be patient, understanding it’s importance took less than 20 minutes one afternoon at the post office.
Before that day at the post office, I did not know how to be patient. It seemed like no matter many times I tried to will other people to move faster and get out of my way so I could get on with my busy day, it never worked. Instead, I just got frustrated.
I got annoyed with the slow drivers, the people who wanted to write a check at the grocery store, co-workers who weren’t prepared at meetings, and the list goes on and on. Why couldn’t everyone move at my pace? The question I should have been asking was, “why am I in such a hurry?”
My hurry melted into patience one December afternoon at the post office. There was a big line, only one person working, and a woman in front of me who decided to take her time picking out the perfect stamp. I was running late (per usual). Note: I wasn’t running late because I was moving slowly, I was running late because I over-scheduled myself (per usual).
I learned how to be patient in less than 20 minutes.
The woman finally chose a stamp and after she made her purchase she turned around and recognized the woman behind her (the one in front of me) and they started to chat. Here’s where instead of completely losing my mind, I learned how to be patient. Overhearing their conversation changed everything.
It went something like this.
- Woman who purchased the stamps: I haven’t seen you in a long time, I was sad to hear your husband passed. How are you doing?
- Woman in line: It’s nice to see you. I’m doing ok.
- Woman who purchased the stamps: Did you hear about my husband? He died this month.
- Woman in line: No I didn’t, I’m very sorry to hear that.
- Woman who purchased the stamps: Yes, I’m here trying to pick out the perfect stamp to put on the thank you cards I’m sending to everyone who has helped me since he died.
They went on to talk about their painful last days, both losing their husbands to cancer. They apologized for not staying in touch and agreed to check up on each other. Then, one said to the other, “Now we can move forward alone, together.”
My eyes welled up. I was so embarrassed. Knowing how to be patient never crossed my mind because of my very important, busy day. I’m sure you’ll understand when I say that I will never forget those moments in the post office but I have no idea what happened during the rest of my very important, busy day. I don’t know what I had to mail. I don’t remember what my meeting was for or who it was with. It wasn’t important. It didn’t matter and now, I don’t lose my patience about things that don’t matter.
3 practices to encourage patience
I still lose my patience from time to time, but I come back more quickly when I remember standing in line at the post office that afternoon and with these practices that encourage me to be patient. These practices will encourage more patience in your life. When you forget to be patient, use that as a way to practice how to be patient by being patient with yourself.
1. Take care of you. It’s easier to be patient with others when you feel well and cared for. When you are stressed out and overwhelmed or sick and tired, your body doesn’t know how to be patient. While there are many ways to prioritize self care, what always makes the biggest difference for me is prioritizing less. Let go of things from your home, your to-do list, your calendar and your brain. Simplify everything and make space for healing.
2. Adopt the pace of nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” By taking walks, hiking, watching the sunrise and noticing flowers growing, I remember that the most beautiful, magical things in life go at their own pace. As Jamilla Reddy suggests, “move at your authentic pace.” In other words, don’t rush yourself when your body wants to move more slowly. Don’t hurry when you are low on energy. When you rush yourself, you will naturally rush others and we all know how that ends up.
3. Humanize your interactions. Aside from slowing the pace of my own life, what helps me most when it comes to remembering how to be patient is remembering that people are people. When someone is taking too long to pick out stamps, she isn’t someone out to get me, or ruin my day. She’s a broken-hearted woman who lost her husband, picking out the perfect stamps to thank people who love her.
So before you get mad at that slow driver, or you are about to take your frustrations out in email because a small biz or blogger disappointed you or you feel angry at the person with 20 items in the 10-item only lane, really see them. Before you respond to that super annoying post on social media, resist. Have compassion on the inside that looks like patience on the outside.
All year, but especially now when things might be a little more hectic, let go of the hurry and frustration. Be patient and kind. We are all in this alone, together.