Patience in Practice
Patience is a virtue, so they say. The path to getting something you want or becoming something you’d like to be can be long and tiresome. I know that I personally grow frustrated and annoyed with the process, especially when it feels like it’s taking longer than expected.
I wanted it yesterday.
It’s funny how quickly it feels like I can become an expectant kid, craving that big slice of chocolate cake I was promised after completing a list of chores. I put in my time and did some work, so why don’t I have my reward yet?
I catch myself thinking this way about a number of things in my life, but one in particular that I want to touch on is the expectation I’ve placed on my self-work process. A few months back, a good friend of mine went through a break up that acted as a catalyst for radical self-reflection, examination, and subsequent internal work. Shortly after the break up, we had a conversation about how she was handling the situation and her new-found self-exploration practices. She mentioned a hesitation she had to indulge in activities that seemed to be counterproductive to the work she was doing. When we dug a little deeper, she noted that she got caught up in the ‘doing the work’ portion of the experience and that she forgot to allow for space to still enjoy herself. It got me thinking that I, too, can get caught up.
It shouldn’t be all hard work and no fun.
I take my personal work very seriously. It’s taken a while for me to cultivate the practices that I have, and I’ve certainly wanted to abandon them at different points throughout the years because of the amount of emotional labour needed. I’ve realized that it requires dedication in showing up for myself and putting in the time and energy. When things are going good and the positive effects come out, I feel on top of the world and that I can take on anything. However, things still happen (frequently) that rock me to my core and threaten to poke holes in my well put together practices. The solidity of my self-esteem comes into question and I feel myself becoming negative as well as frustrated with myself. Why aren’t I able to handle challenging situations like a rock? I do so much work to prepare for them, after all, shouldn’t I be able to not be effected by now?
When I reflect on these moments, I realize that I’m getting caught up in it. I assume that because I’m putting in time and energy into my practices that I’m suddenly going to be a very neat, solid, and put together human being, ready to take on anything all the time. However, there is no ‘end’ in doing personal work or in getting to a place where I’m prepared for absolutely everything. The point in doing this type of work isn’t to learn it once and move on. Deciding to do the work is simply that - deciding, over and over again, that this is something that I see value in. In making that decision, I need to practice patience for myself and the fact that there will always be things that bother me. I’ll forever find myself in new situations or interacting with new people that challenge me. I’ll even still be challenged by the situations and the people that I currently already know!
If I allow myself to feel it, there’s an element of fun in knowing that I’ll continue to learn and grow in different and interesting contexts.
It’s like the ultimate test that I’ve kind of studied for but I definitely don’t know all the answers to. I can ‘prepare’ all I want, but I’ll never be fully ready because there’s no way that I ever possibly could be. The most that I can do is be aware of myself, what I know, what I think I know, what I know that I don’t know, and understand that there are things I don’t know that I don’t know. How can I learn from these experiences? How can I use what I know and apply it to what I don’t know? How can I turn something that I don’t know into something that I do know? How can I encounter something that I don’t know that I don’t know with awareness and perspective? The biggest piece while tackling these questions is patience in the practice. It takes time to learn and grow. But that’s perfectly okay. There’s no end to the process, so there’s no need to rush through it to get to the other side.