Patience: The Lost Virtue

While growing up I had the good fortune of living close to my paternal grandmother. My elementary school was only a few blocks from her house. Every day at three o’clock, I’d run out of my classroom, through the front doors of the building, and find her waiting for me on the sidewalk. We’d meander back to her house where I’d stay until my mom picked me up after work. She’d also take care of me during the summers until I was old enough to stay home by myself. Of all her beauty and wonderful feminine qualities, patience is what made her so extraordinary.

Patience is defined as the state of endurance under difficult circumstances without complaint, annoyance, or loss of temper. The first modeling of patience I can remember started when I was around five years old. My grandfather had developed Alzheimer’s after a lengthy battle with cancer. My grandmother took care of him in their home until his final days. I recall watching her navigate his fits of frustration and anger with a level of ease and grace that even to my young mind seemed beyond normal.

I also shared my grandmother with two cousins who were similar in age. When the three of us got together at her house, it was only a matter of time until an alliance formed between two and an all out war against the odd one began. Screaming and chasing would ensue, requiring my grandmother to play referee multiple times during our visit. How she so kindly managed our tornado-like messes, disagreements, and inability to use our ‘inside voices’ is completely lost on me. My grandmother, who passed away when I was 23, was a master of patience.

Nowadays, time appears to be in short supply. We can’t help but run our lives at the frenetic pace at which everyone else is operating. Desires can be met with a few clicks. Within in mere seconds, Siri can generate a list of answers to your questions. Endless entertainment is available on demand. Therefore, with all this instant gratification, it’s no wonder patience is forgotten. It’s rarely required. Until it is.

As I began drafting this post, I had to endure a two hour update to my computer that I thought would only take a few minutes. I had to chuckle at the sharp rise of my blood pressure and level of annoyance that accompanied the lengthy delay in getting to my post on patience. Oh, the irony! Think of how our body responds when a web page doesn’t load instantaneously, when we hear the announcement that our flight is delayed, or we find ourselves all jammed up on a route we specifically chose in order to avoid the traffic. When that one thing isn’t working that should just work, our blood begins to boil.

These technology and transportation woes were not part of my grandmother’s existence. Even if they had been, I’m quite sure she wouldn’t have the same physiological response we seem to be programming our bodies to have now. Her life, though filled with difficult circumstances, reflected peace, gratitude, and contentment. I’m convinced it was because she understood that life isn’t meant to be lived as fast as humanly possible. It’s about the quality of presence in each and every moment. She lived a long life because she lived it slowly.

This week, I invite you to think about where you need more patience. Spend some time working on ways to cultivate it. Just bringing awareness to the moments where patience is lacking is a great first step. Seize that opportunity to practice slowing way down. Consider stepping away from technology, going for a walk to breathe in some fresh air, or simply turning your attention to something you know is much more precious. Having patience with ourselves and each other is one of the ways we elevate.

Author: Linzi Oliver Breckenridge | @37to44 | Board of Directors | Co-Creator, Girls Elevate

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