By Troy Headrick
It’s not even close to January 1st but I’m making a resolution nonetheless. I’m resolving to become a more patient person. The way I want achieve this goal is by establishing a daily habit of practicing patience.
Those of you who regularly read my blogs know that I’m an American who spent nearly two decades living abroad. Since July of 2015, the summer I ended a seven-year teaching stint at the American University in Cairo, I’ve been back in Texas, the state where I was born and raised.
I’m still in the process of learning how to be an American again. I’m often surprised by how hard it’s been to readjust to a culture that once was so familiar. One of the more unpleasant discoveries I’ve made is that I find I’m angry a lot and terribly impatient. These two are less of an issue when I’m living in other places. I wonder why that is?
The idea of establishing a daily routine of practicing patience came to me this past weekend. I currently live in San Antonio, Texas, but needed to drive an hour to the north, to Austin’s international airport, to pick up Azza, my Egyptian wife, who was returning from a month-long visit with her family in Cairo. Because of the time of day the plane was arriving, I knew I’d have to drive during rush hour, the time when the entire populations of both cities are liberated from work and make a mad dash towards home and freedom, thus creating a vehicular logjam on streets large and small.
So, before leaving for Austin, the idea came to me that I would practice patience during my drive. I wouldn’t let the heavy traffic or bad drivers or anything whatsoever get to me.
I had the opportunity, almost immediately, to start practicing. The interstate leaving San Antonio was crammed with every shape and size of automobile and truck. Actually, the interstate was more of a parking lot than a thoroughfare. So, as we inched along, I felt my anxiety and impatience begin to rise. To combat it I began to talk to myself—a technique I’ve often used, over the years, in many situations—to tell myself that I was powerless in such a situation. The only power I had was deciding how I was going to react to all those frustrations.
Almost instinctively, I began to breath in and out very regularly and slowly and deeply. I also told myself that I wanted to try to generate, if at all possible, a calming feeling of “letting go.” While doing these things, I found that my eyes kept darting to the clock on my dashboard, so I made myself stop doing that. I’m firmly convinced that impatience is harder to overcome the more one obsesses about time. As time loses its relevance, impatience can lose its hold on the individual.
These techniques started working and I began to feel more relaxed. I repeatedly told myself that I would get to the airport as soon as possible, not a moment earlier. Everything was as it had to be. This is related to the “letting go” feeling I mentioned a few paragraphs back.
Generally speaking, I was able to keep my cool for most of the trip to the airport. I didn’t say the entire trip, though, did I? After all, I’m just starting my practice, and I’m very aware that I have some work ahead of me. I’m trying to affect a deep transformation. Making a profound change of this sort takes time and unflagging effort.
What thoughts are out there about impatience and how to combat it? I’d love to hear your ideas.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy: Blog & Art.