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.

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Nancy Mendelson

Nancy is an award-winning producer/director; has had numerous articles published in trade and mainstream media; is a member of the Writers Guild of America, The Players; serves as an Adjunct Professor at NYU, and is an experienced speech writer and media coach. Having lived an incredibly diverse life, she is passionate about sharing her experience and life lessons with others.

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