Today is Friday, the day I spend with my elderly mom. I leave home at 10:45, head over to the garage to pick up the car, and drive the 45 minutes or so to Brooklyn to the European Hair Center, where mom is getting her full head of brilliant white hair coiffed and her slender nails painted bright red. There she is, carefully dressed all in gray with a lime green, magenta, and navy silk scarf peaking out from the top of her gray tweed swing coat. She is looking elegant as she walks unsteadily over to the car. I help her in and off we go to Del Rio’s, the local diner.
“How do I look?” she asks.
“You look great. I love your hair. Who styled it?” I say.
And so it goes until we get to the diner, where we are seated at a generously sized booth at the window. I know what she wants to eat. It has been the same for the last 4 months or so.
“My mom will have a waffle with bacon. And decaf coffee with half-and-half, but she wants her coffee when the waffle comes, not before.”
I order for myself and we wait for the food to arrive. The conversation is pretty much my responsibility.
“Tell me something,” she says.
And I begin telling her whatever I can think of that will be of interest…any interest at all
“What else?” she says time and time again.
I do my best to keep it going. I attempt to engage her in what has happened during the week, telling her about my friends’ goings on and our plans for the weekend, and what my week has been like. When we are finished eating, our usual routine is that she pays the check and I pay the tip.
“Which card do you need?” she says.
“The red one,” I reply.
Two minutes later she asks, “Do you need my card?”
“No, mom, you already gave it to me.”
I go to the cashier to pay. I hand mom back her card. She opens her wallet and thinks hard to figure out exactly where it goes. The effort shows on her face. She puts her wallet away and slowly and carefully closes the clasp on her purse.
“ Did I give you my card?” she asks.
“Yes, mom, you did.”
“Are you sure,” she queries. “I don’t remember.”
Then it’s off to Marshall’s to check out the shoes, then to the supermarket for a short list of food items. At the cashier, she takes out her wallet and hands me her Waldbaum’s savings card and the red Visa card, which I hand to the cashier. When our transaction is completed, I hand back her cards. It takes time for her to open her purse, take out her wallet, return the cards to their rightful places, put the wallet back, and close her purse. The line is long and I can feel the impatience of the people in back of her as they crane their necks to see what is taking so long.
“I will be the pattern of all patience; I will say nothing.” ~William Shakespeare
Today standing at the check-out counter at the supermarket, I realize that the kind of patience that I am feeling and how I am showing up is different. Used to be that when I sensed the annoyance of the people behind my mom I would become impatient and urge her to move faster or try to take over what she was doing to get it done. I was looking patient on the outside but I was jumpy and tense on the inside, all the while thinking “Let’s move this along, let’s get this done.” But I am in a different place now. I don’t care about the line of people behind my mom. I let her take all the time she needs. I am calm and supportive. She is showing up as best she can. My patience is now coming from deep within me. It is authentic because I have made the shift.
“ I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.” ~Margaret Thatcher
How to Become Patient
1 Figure out what makes you impatient. What sets you off? What situations are your triggers? Being impatient often starts with feeling anxious, worried, or frustrated. Take a few minutes to jot down your triggers. Think about this: What is at the center of what you are having trouble accepting? What sets you off time and time again? Look for the pattern.
2 Being aware is key. For a couple of weeks, keep a journal and jot down every situation that makes you impatient.
3 Then, start dealing with your impatience. When you feel it coming on, stop what you are doing, close your eyes and take a few really deep breaths. Pay attention only to your breathing. This will slow you down and help you to shift.
4 Chances are you can’t change what triggers your impatience. But you can change how you react to those triggers. You are in charge of your impatience.
5 Lastly, think about all the times in your life when being patient really paid off, remember what is truly important to you, and stay positive.
“The more you know yourself, the more patience you will have for what you see in others.” ~anonymous
Patience has Its Perks
1 Being patient reduces stress, anger, and feelings of overwhelm.
2 When we are patient, we can better assess situations, see the big picture, and make better decisions.
3 Being patient helps us to develop empathy, understanding, and compassion. This enables us to more effectively process what is going on and determine what needs to be done to overcome obstacles. This results in better work relationships and better personal relationships.
The Big Take Away for Me
Here is what I have learned from having patience with my mom. When I am patient, it shifts my focus from me to her. The benefit is that I can really enjoy the time we spend together. And it also helps me to better appreciate the challenges she faces each day as an elderly person. The other day she said to me, “You know I’m old.” And what could I say except, “Yes, mom, I know.”