Sunday, at yoga, the teacher instructed us to set an intention for our practice that day — specifically, she asked that we each focus on something that we need this holiday season. As I stood, eyes closed and hands over my heart, I knew immediately what I wanted — patience.
My life is currently in a space of flux. Typically, for me, this happens with lightning speed. Life changes are not dithered over in my world. I make a decision, I execute said decision, and I move forward. Simple as that.
Except when it’s not all in my control. Then it often comes To. A. Screeching. Halt.
Right now there are a couple areas of my life that require a measure of patience and acceptance that does not come easily to me. In one area, I am only partly responsible for the outcome, and in the other, I have no say whatsoever. In either case, I cannot rush to the conclusion. I cannot extract a guaranteed outcome. I cannot peek into the future and get a hint of what lies ahead.
No, I simply have to be patient.
Which isn’t simple at all.
I found myself last night lecturing my 9-year-old about patience as she was whining that she absolutely, positively CANNOT wait until Christmas morning to see what Santa is bringing her. She had herself all worked up into a grumpy mood because she is terribly worried that she won’t get her heart’s desire (an electric scooter) on Christmas morning. And so, as every good mother does, I lectured her on the value of enjoying the journey — in this case, the Christmas season — and not rushing through it to get to the end. I reminded her that this is her favorite time of the year, what with all the yummy treats, the Christmas carols, the decorations (nothing Bryn loves more than a little bling all over the house), and the delicious anticipation of Christmas morning. I was able to smooth her cranky mood, and we cuddled in the big chair, watching a favorite Christmas movie.
But after putting her to bed (“What are you grateful for tonight, Bryn?” “Christmas, of course!”), I fixed myself a cup of steaming tea and reflected on how hard it really is to follow the advice I had so blithely delivered to my daughter. It is so very easy to believe in the concept of The Journey Rather Than the Destination, and so much harder to live it every day. “If only someone would tell me it was going to end well, then I could enjoy the waiting time,” we lament. But that defeats the purpose, does it not? The whole idea — the whole challenge — of embracing the journey is to do so without certainty in the outcome. Learning to relish the moments as they come, as an end in and of themselves, rather than simply a means to another conclusion, that’s supposedly the elusive secret to happiness, right?
Reflecting on my advice to her, I was made aware of how much I would be missing were I to give into the anxiety and fear surrounding the potential outcomes to the unresolved parts of my life. I can easily imagine my stomach in knots and my throat constricted as I, like my daughter, hold too tightly to my fear that I will not achieve my own heart’s desire. Indeed, earlier this weekend, I briefly felt irritable and out of sorts, possibilities and scenarios swirling around in my head. But I quickly snapped out of it. Because, as we all know in the logical parts of our brain, no amount of fussing and worrying will promote anything beneficial; indeed, it could wreck the only pieces over which I have any control. My head knows, with complete certainty, that the only positive path lies through the door marked “Patience.”
I know this, but it still pisses me off sometimes.
Sometimes we just have to wait and see.
As a rule, I am terrible at waiting and seeing. But the alternative for me at this point is to ruin my favorite time of the year (and possibly more) by being grouchy over issues beyond my complete control. And I would once again be sacrificing what could be wonderful, precious moments to nothing more than speculative fears.
So, instead, I am focused on being present and patient. I know from past experience that sometimes the slowest moments afford the sweetest memories. I have been grounding myself in the conscious decision to be present in all the preciousness unfolding around me right now… Christmas cards to friends I haven’t had contact with all year, a holiday party with work colleagues that are my only reason for smiling during the work day, snuggles in front of the fire with my girls as we catch up on each others’ days, and special moments with friends that remind me what’s important to me and why. All of this, I would be missing if I were caught in the anxiety and insecurity of the unknown outcome.
Perhaps this contentedness is nothing more than borrowed time and in a few weeks or a month, I will be sad and frustrated by the outcomes as they play out. But perhaps not. And until or unless that happens, I refuse to relinquish my Christmastime to anticipating such sadness. If it is to happen that way, it will. But at least I’ll have some nice days in the meantime. And if it doesn’t happen that way — if all that is churning along resolves itself positively — then I won’t have to look back on this short period as I do so many others and castigate myself for foolishly rushing past the wonder of the in-between to get to the endgame.
Whether your anticipation rests on the delivery of presents by a jolly man in a red suit or something a little less legendary, patience can be very, very difficult. But it can also give birth to some pretty special moments to cherish, no matter what.
Video bonus: If you’re old enough to remember this song, you might be surprised at how well it’s held up. Enjoy….