The Key to Patience

I just discovered a simple formula:

Patience = Acceptance

This came to me as I began to experience a lack of patience recently. Having a chronic illness has forced me to spend a lot of time waiting … at doctors’ offices, on the phone with health insurance companies trying to straighten out a bill, and at home when I cannot do much of anything.

Awareness Comes First

I’ve been doing quite well with it, but lately it has disappeared and I find myself very edgy and irritable instead. For instance, the other day, my husband was shuttling me around to do a few errands. He wanted to stop somewhere to check out a car. The thing is, he isn’t buying a car. He just wanted to see it and sit in it (and test-drive it, as it turned out).

I was bitchy about it and he reacted. This man has patiently and without complaint been shuttling me around for over two years, sitting at doctors’ offices with me or finding a McDonald’s somewhere to hang out for hours at a time.

So there I was, stuck. I apologized and took a deep breath, releasing all the anxiety and tension on an out breath of acceptance. I still wasn’t happy but I was quiet about it and just gave myself over to the experience. We were there far too long for my liking, but I actually enjoyed the test drive and once I wasn’t fighting it, being there was not like pulling out fingernails. And I was grateful that my husband helped me have awareness of a character defect while I could still do something about it in the moment.

Use Whatever Tools Help

The funny thing is that when I have my drawing pen and notebook with me, I can sit patiently for hours (I once waited for nearly two hours for AAA to come pick up our old car when it broke down an hour from home without the slightest qualm). But lately, I have left them at home, not anticipating having to wait.

It seems ridiculous to me that my level of acceptance and patience is dependent on something external. Yet, why can’t I use a tool to help me practice patience? Isn’t our entire program based on tools?

Acceptance is the Key to the Lock of Impatience

If acceptance is the key to all my difficulties, then I guess I should be grateful for any tool that can help me achieve it. If I accept a situation, then I am not in conflict with it.

What comes to mind is the Big Book story, “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict,” that speaks to this exact topic on page 449 in the 3rd Edition and page 417 in the 4th Edition:

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.

Using Patience as a Spiritual Practice

It is a powerful spiritual practice for me to work on patience while waiting. It is easier than practicing patience with people. The more I practice when waiting, the easier it is for me to have people patience. What I mean by that is that I tend to get very impatient when interacting with others and often cannot catch it in time because of the pace and escalation intertwined with communication.

But when waiting, I can become acutely conscious of what impatience feels like internally and breathe into it, pray about it, and stop fighting the feeling. Acceptance.

Complacency is the Enemy of Spiritual Growth

Lately, I guess I kind of forgot about my practice. So I’m happy to have been reminded. Complacency is the enemy of spiritual growth as far as I’m concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer it, but I know that pain is what propels me into spiritual growth. And because I surrendered to acceptance at the car dealer the other day, I have been finding myself more patient again when communicating.

So the next time you have to wait on the phone or elsewhere, why not try meditating or using your breath or reading a book or drawing as a way to work on being present without being miserable.

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