Patience and Tolerance

Tree shadows.

I recently finished reading The Art of Happiness, an interview with the Dalai Lama by a psychiatrist, Howard C. Cutler. The Dalai Lama believes our lives should be spent cultivating patience and tolerance, and this will relieve our suffering and make us happier people.

While I totally agree and have experienced moments when I have risen above my own suffering and practiced patience and tolerance, today was not to be one of those days. For one I had errands to run. Just the thought of tasks to be completed outside of my house in the cold where I may have to speak to a stranger creates tension in my body.

My first stop was the post office. This sounds like an easy task. Place an envelope in a box and drive away. As I pulled up to the post office box I thought, I’ll drive slightly ahead of the box to avoid the window getting stuck at weird angle. Our vehicle is of a certain age, which though it lends itself to lots of character, it can, at times, try one’s patience. The window is powered by a motor. When you push the button the window does go up, but it also gets stuck on the weather stripping around the window and moves askew.

As I pulled the handle of the door, I realized that the handle was also broken. Although you can get in, the only way to get out was the passenger side door. This car quirk began recently so I had forgotten. I backed up the car, rolled down the window, placed the envelope in the box and then pulled ahead to wrestle with the window. By my third try of pressing on the window in what I was convinced was the correct spot and rolling the window down and up again I considered smashing it with my fist, but then realized that probably would just leave me with sore knuckles.

Life felt as though it was giving me the middle finger at that moment, but then I conceded, life was fine, it was just a window and a door and as far as life imperfections go, this should be on the bottom of the list. I decided an imperfectly breezy window was something I could live with and headed over to the grocery store.

Now I swore I would never enter a grocery store on a Friday afternoon following my last experience. But the dog needed food, and I did not want her standing around staring at me, pacing about with those toe nails clipping the floor and me worrying that her paws would slip on the wooden floor. Then I would be left peeling a dog that weighs about the same as myself off the floor and that seemed like a bad idea.

I entered the grocery store and immediately encountered my worse case scenario. The store was filled with senior citizens shopping for deals because it was the first day of the new sale flyer. Now let’s clarify. I have nothing against senior citizens. I will be one some day. So you think I could pull off some patience here? But no. I wanted to get out of that store as soon as possible, yet my progress was impeded at each turn. Two gentlemen ahead of me acted as though someone might jump out and scare them around a corner or perhaps they had never been in a grocery store before because they stared at the contents of the shelves with great wonder as they slowly moved into the aisle.

Surely I’m  going to hell for having such thoughts.

What was my rush? Only that I hate to grocery shop and I did not want to be there.  As I drove home I decided I should express some gratitude to try and redeem my impatience and intolerance. First of all, I was extremely thankful for my size and agility because I knew I would be able to exit the car from the passenger side door. I was grateful that the car still moved from point A to point B and that it had heat. I was also grateful that we have a grocery store so close that allowed me to spend a short time obtaining food and that I could buy fresh strawberries on sale at this time of year. I also had to grudgingly admit that I was thankful for the senior citizens. They had reminded me that rushing through each minute impatiently is a waste of my time and energy. I should have been more patient because life is short. We have an unknown amount of time to experience life… why was I allowing myself to get frustrated over spending a tiny bit more time in a place I needed to be anyway?

I did not even attempt errand number three because that task involved speaking to a stranger. I’m pretty sure my head would have exploded.

I’m safely hiding in my house now. No longer a danger to senior citizens of the world… or to myself.


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