When I was a kid, I was most impatient. For example, I lived the whole month of December for Christmas morning. I couldn’t stand waiting. Also, I had to be perfect, do it right, whatever it was, the first time.

Now most of the time I’m patient almost to a fault. I have learned that:

Time goes faster and faster as I get older, so whatever it is I want (or don’t want) will come soon enough.

Getting what I want does not transform my life.

I’m human, and I’ll make mistakes.

I can’t control the world, or the outcomes of my efforts.

Life needn’t be so dramatic; I can watch it, watch myself not get what I want, and still be interested and engaged.

I can be experiencing severe pain on one level and the part of me that is paying attention or witnessing the pain can be peaceful and in good spirits.

I get better at something when I practice—through disappointments and mistakes; I actually can gain expertise in areas where once I was a complete novice or beginner.

There is as much to be gained in not getting life the way I want it as in getting what I want. What is that? The skills of smiling through disappointment, of rising up and, I choose, doing it again and again, rather than of following my instinctive push to quit, to split, to go away, in order to prevent future hurt from disappointment, whether public or private.

Slow and steady wins the race, and winning the race is not determined at the finish line, but instead every moment during the process of running.

When I notice myself being impatient, I have a choice to giggle at my humanness and give up the impatience, the demand that circumstances be the way I want them—now and always. And I can quit exaggerating how terrible, how awful, it is that I haven’t got what I want. I am not the first person who lived without what he wanted.

Or I can hang onto my demands and upset myself and the people around me. I can watch myself being upset, and identify with the “I” who watching, rather than with the “I” who’s impatient.

These students don’t learn what I teach them. Why should they?

This committee meeting is neither productive nor interesting. Why should it be?

This traffic light has been red a long time. Why shouldn’t it?

This store doesn’t have my size in stock. Why should it?

My skin itches. Why shouldn’t it?

This coworker doesn’t like me. Why should she?

My book is not a best seller. Why should it be?

I don’t know what the future will bring. Why should I?

This person is not being logical or coherent. Why should he?

My hip hurts. Why shouldn’t it?

I can’t play this sonata the way I want to. Why should I be able to?

My loved ones will leave or die, or I will age and die before them. Why should it be otherwise?

That driver never signaled his turn. Why should he?

The world isn’t the way I’d like it to be. Is that news to me?

Why should I, out of the total population, be the one who is God?

The sad truth is — I’m human. So I can’t control the world or my own life in that world. Influence — yes. Control — never. Patience means living at peace with that reality; impatience means disturbing myself about it. When I want something other than what I’ve got, how will I live? I’m committed to embracing my lot as a human being. That means accepting, always accepting, the baggage that goes with being a person rather than my childhood image of God. Whether I want to, whether I feel like it, or not.

Why dwell on the fact that existence isn’t some way I wish it were? I will forever disappoint myself and others. And others will forever disappoint me. I will work at tasks I don’t prefer and hang around people I’m not charmed by. Or leave them. I’ll have trouble predicting tomorrow’s events. And the planet will keep staggering down its path into a rocky and uncertain future. I can upset myself about all this. But I have better ways to live. So I can’t control existence! Well, there are some things I can usefully affect — my intention, my attitude, my point of view, my beliefs, my internal voices, how I will live my life and use and serve the world I find myself in.

Of course, things I can’t control pop out at me so abruptly that I’m taken by surprise and find myself impatient. When that happens, I can choose to stay impatient. Or I can play a bigger game than finding fault with myself and life. There’s still a lot to love, a chance to serve, and a lot to learn. I am dedicated to loving, to serving, and to learning.

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