Recently there’s been a shift in the Covid-related-talk away from vaccines and side effects to the more lasting impact it has had on our social skills. We joke that we can’t withstand interaction that last more than an hour, or that we have forgotten how to meet new people and treat others, but it’s really no joke. In my neighborhood I’ve noticed a dramatic lack of patience between strangers. Most of my examples are traffic related: we’re quick to honk, to tailgate, to cut people off. Perhaps it’s all the isolation, or a year of only seeing people’s eyes, but our patience for one another has gone out the window.
Patience has two sides: the patience that is endurance and the patience that is love. When we tell ourselves or our children to “be patient,” we typically mean, “waiting is hard but we have to do it.” We endure in the hopes that an end will come, but we keep ourselves uncomfortable for the duration. A patience of love suggests that the waiting itself can be compassionate. When we are patient for something (or someone) with love, we shift our focus from something hard, to something soft. We can feel it in our bodies, too. Endurance activates our sympathetic nervous system, our “fight or flight,” response, which drains our energy and makes it hard to be kind. Love, however, activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which restores the body to a calm and more compassionate state of mind.
When your child is taking what feels like a million years to finish their meal, or drawing out their bedtime routine, shift your focus to how much you love this little person and what beauty they have brought to your life. Deep breaths help too. Try this with strangers as well. f you are a horn-honker, try taking a deep breath and sending love to the person who is holding up traffic. Yes, they could just be texting (which is dangerous and annoying) or, they could be lost in thought about a loved one who is ill. We never know a stranger’s experience, but we do know that being human is a tough job, and patience is a virtue; so let’s do it all with more love.