If other drivers knew the names I was calling them from inside the safety of my car, windows closed, they might take offense. When I am pressed for time or fighting with my child or otherwise “in a mood,” I get extremely impatient with drivers who are too slow, too hesitant to take their turn at a four-way stop, or otherwise what I deem to be clueless. I’m just lucky my kids did not start out life calling everyone else idiots.
No matter how hard I try, the virtue of patience seems to elude me. I’m fine when things are going well. When I’m happy and/or not in a hurry, I am a model of politeness and kindness. “Here. Let me take that shopping cart back in the store,” I might offer the lady in the parking lot. That jogger poised to cross my path? Sure. After you! I will brush off the cashier’s mistake, the driver who fails to use his turn signal, the store clerk taking her sweet time chatting with a customer.
But when I am under stress, watch out. I will huff, roll my eyes, mutter and otherwise look like a bull right before it’s let out into the rodeo ring. Sometimes I will let a hapless stranger really have it. Afterwards, I feel ashamed of myself for losing my cool – yet again.
At home it’s the same story. In the morning when my kids first come downstairs, I tend to be friendly and helpful, fixing them breakfast and even smiling at them. But as soon as I discover they have forgotten to do something they need for school that day or that we are running late, I will snap at them. Often, as I find myself haranguing them for their irresponsibility, I want to stop, but I just can’t seem to hold my tongue.
When my youngest child was learning to use the toilet, I started to use the encouragement, “Take your time.” Whether we were in the comfort of home or in a public restroom, no matter what the circumstance, I forced myself to repeat that phrase over and over. The last thing I wanted to do was discourage my child by trying to hustle her through the process. So saying “Take your time” became a sort of mantra I used to keep myself calm.
I guess patience is something we all lose from time to time. But maybe if I train myself to repeat that mantra in my head when I am feeling rushed and stressed, I will find the patience to be a kinder, gentler person to family, friends and strangers.