“Patience is a virtue” is a saying that doesn’t gibe with our society that demands instant gratification. Today we expect our packages to be delivered the same day; we insist that our Postmates order arrive within 30 minutes; and we are addicted to cooking in an Instapot which produces results in half the amount of time. When we are in the checkout line at the market and the person in front of us is schmoozing and taking their time, we break out in a sweat. We bristle at slow drivers. We get agitated in traffic jams. Patience is no longer a virtue. Patience has become a test of our will.
The Dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” This is a hard concept to accept when you have suddenly been thrust into widowhood. In grief everything triggers shortness and distress. The least little comment can make one lose their sense of empathy. When my husband died, my patience disintegrated. I had no tolerance for those who told me “he’s in a better place,” or “everything happens for a reason.” I railed at those who compared their grief to mine. I not only lost patience, I lost compassion for others and for myself.
After some time, I was abashed at my own lack of patience and took steps to find my way back. This took a lot of heavy breathing. No, no, not that kind of heavy breathing! It took readjusting my mindset to stop rushing and start slowing down. Once I began to relax and take a deep breath, I realized that inappropriate comments weren’t meant to be hurtful. I took matters into my own hands and began to write about how to talk to a widow. Education is a solid path towards the art of patience and I was going to lead the way.
I started to learn patience in small steps. I began to build up my patience abilities. This was a skill that I had never perfected so it took a lot of concentration. I had to reduce my anxiety levels and when I was upset in a traffic jam, I had to find a way to stress out. I downloaded podcasts and audible books which worked like a charm. Whenever I am in traffic, I can mellow out to a story or a podcast and move my stress level from a 10 to a 2!
When I am put upon by an insensitive comment, I immediately take several deep breaths. This allows me to regroup and dredge up my ability to show empathy. This is not easy but once you start to practice mindfulness and look at the other side of the coin, it becomes easier. If I visualize that person having his or her own stressors, it makes me realize I am not alone in this world and others have their own tsuris (Yiddish for trouble).
The thing that tries a widow’s patience is knowing the road ahead is long and arduous. I wanted to fast forward through the pain to get to the other side. Unfortunately, there is no other side and there is no happy ending. With the passage of time you get to live with the pain and the loss and begin to restore your equilibrium. I had to develop new patience skills to wend my way through grief. I had to learn compassion for myself and others. I had to take many steps backward and breathe just to be able to see my way clear to continue on. I am four years into this journey, and I am still acquiring the skills to have patience for the long haul. Patience is indeed a virtue to which I aspire.
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