Patience is Painful
by Robert C. Jameson
"Patience? What are you talking about? I don't have time for patience! I want what I want, and I want it now! In fact, I don't want it now. I need it now!" Sound familiar? Things to do seem to just keep piling up, and yet time just keeps moving. There's not enough time to do everything we want to do—the car in front of us is moving too slowly, the store clerk is nowhere to be found, we're on hold waiting for an operator, we're not old enough yet, we don't have enough money to get that item, it's not the weekend yet, the baby isn't here yet, the car isn't ready, and some day I'll have all the things I want.
I remember when I was turning 8 years old, I was promised a puppy for my birthday. I was so excited. Every day I would ask my mom, how many more days until my birthday party, and could I please have my puppy early? She said, "You only have 13 more days until your birthday, and no, you can't get your puppy early. You just have to be patient and wait." Those 13 days lasted forever. Eventually I did get my puppy, and life became full of throwing a ball and taking long walks with Skipper.
Seven years later I was ready to get out of high school even though I had three more years to go. Life will be so much better after I graduate, I told myself. Three more years of being under my parents' rules and having to study subjects that had little meaning to me was a terrible thought. Yet my dad told me that these were the best years of my life, that I was to be patient and enjoy my "freedom."
After I graduated from high school I joined the US Coast Guard. I signed up for 4 years. Wow, I thought, I'm finally free to live my life! That thought lasted about two weeks, though, and then it was, what have I done? Four years of "Yes, Sir! No, Sir!"? I talked to a friend and he said, "Hang in there. It's only four years. Be patient. You can do what you want after you're discharged." I couldn't wait to get out. Those four years did not bring the adventure or freedom I had hoped for.
I was finally discharged from the Coast Guard and thought I could finally do what I wanted to do: I wanted to go to college and get my BA. During my college orientation, I discovered that I had to take courses in specific areas in order to graduate. I thought, wait a minute—I thought I could study what I wanted. I thought I was going to be free to do what I wanted to do. My counselor told me to be patient and that after my graduation I would be able to get a job and do what I want to do. Four more years of delayed gratification were in front of me. Four more years of being patient while doing what other people told me I needed to do.
What is it about being patient and having patience that is just so difficult? Well, if you look it up in a dictionary, you'll discover that the word "patience" comes from a Latin word, patientia, which means "to suffer." So, if you are asking me to be patient, you are asking me to suffer? I have to defer my gratification until some time later? That's painful; that's suffering.
So, what's the way out of this suffering? I discovered the way out of this –dilemma was just to be present. If my mom and dad, along with all of those other people, had only told me to be present, then I could have avoided years of pain. I now tell people, "Don't ask me to be patient, ask me to be present."
If I'm truly present, then I'm experiencing the bliss of the moment. There isn't any anywhere to go but this very moment. It's in this moment that I can take action steps toward my goal, and if I'm present in this moment, each action step can be filled with joy and peace. I don't have to delay my gratification, because I'm enjoying the process of moving through time toward my goal. I don't have to wait for my birthday, my graduation, or my discharge from the Coast Guard to be happy and free. There is so much magic in this very moment. Each breath I take reconnects me to what the real meaning of life is. Accomplishing my goal is nice and important; however, as strange as it may seem, getting the end result is not the experience I'm looking for. The bliss of each moment is what I'm looking for, and patience is not part of the process. Suffering is not required. Being present is the key.
How can we discover the present moment? The simplest answer is for us to connect with our five senses. Ask yourself, what am I hearing? What smells can I pick up? Describe in detail what you're seeing. Notice what you're tasting, what you're feeling. Is the air cool as you inhale and warm as you exhale? Touch your heart with your hand and feel your heart beat. When we focus on these small details, the present moment shows up. The magic of the world begins to reveal itself. Joy and peace are present. You are present. It is truly all here now.
Robert C. Jameson, MFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist who focuses on helping clients understand and overcome issues such as anger, hurt, depression, anxiety, love, relationships, boundaries, and limiting beliefs. During his years of private practice, Mr. Jameson found it useful to give many of his clients "homework" in the form of handouts to support their work while in session. The Keys to Joy-Filled Living was born from his handouts of tried and true exercises and techniques. For more information, visit www.thekeystojoyfilledliving.com.