If I knew then what I know now about patience, I can’t help wondering whether the trajectory of my life would have been different.
Not that I’m at all unhappy about where I’m at… it’s just that for many years, I confused patience with passivity, and in those instances either waited with stoic forbearance for a person or situation to change, or obediently allowed someone or something to make my decisions for me. Patience, I was to learn, was something entirely different.
I actually became aware of the difference between patience and passivity several years ago as I was power walking on a treadmill at the gym. It came in the form of an epiphany…an “aha moment,” while I was eavesdropping on a conversation between two women on the treadmills to my right. As I recall, it was pretty mundane stuff, until one said to the other, “Yeah, I’m just killing time until I have to go to my next meeting.”
All of a sudden, it felt as though I was struck by lightning, and the words “killing time” began to reverberate in my head in an otherworldly voice that sounded like a cross between the Great and Powerful Oz and Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments: “killing time…Killing Time…KILLING TIME,” over and over…louder and LOUDER. Then in a split second my life, from early childhood, flashed before me.
I remembered how impatient I would become in those days or weeks between waiting for a birthday, or a party or vacations or holidays; and how that carried into my adult life: in romance, in business…from the time I boarded a plane to the time I landed, those hours in air had no value; between dates—killing time; waiting in a line for anything—a waste. It was as though that “in between time” was a void…a black hole.
As my mind continued to race, I felt an energy that had a life of its own… crystalizing seemingly disparate thoughts into a single cohesive mind-blowing concept. I understood the value of a single moment, and how each one was of equal importance…precious. I realized that I was the custodian of my moments…and they were not unlimited…not to be wasted, and that it was the journey and not the destination that was important.
Then a profound sense of calm washed over me as I returned to my body from wherever I had gone. I was still on the treadmill, walking; the same ladies were still to my right, chatting; and only a few moments had lapsed since my epiphany. I felt changed, but I didn’t know how.
As the days passed, life in New York presented me with ample opportunity to be impatient, but it wasn’t happening. I even got stuck on the runway at JFK for hours waiting for a storm to pass, but instead of getting antsy I made friends with the people in my row and the time passed quickly.
Since that day, I have been called a human Valium, a human Prozac and have been told I have a calming effect by people who don’t even know one another. I’d like to say I have evolved to the point where I never get impatient, and am no longer passive, but that’s not the case…although, I do have a true north that helps me get back on track, and at least I know the difference between patience and passivity.