My Single Most Important Life Ingredient
With the new year, I thought it might be appropriate to re-evaluate my nervous breakthrough and see how I’m doing on my personal journey to being a successful person (happy, fulfilled, giving back to the world.) Then I thought, Naaah, that’s boring.
There are way better topics, such as that great article in the New York Times this Sunday called The Joy of Quiet, all about how ‘unplugging’ is the new trend for marketing to kids. Interesting, right? Or I could tell more parenting stories, such as the never-ending creation of ‘tents’ in our living room, and all the energy that is required to build them and the bossiness that accompanies tent protocol. Or I could blog about our house hunting adventures, which are reaching a fever pitch because our house is now sold and will have new people in it mid-February, whether we have a new house to live in or not.
I started these other blogs, but then as often happens when I deny my first instinct, everything kept leading me back to that first thought. Nervous breakthrough. I read my inaugural blog again and thought, hey – I have improved! I’m doing pretty well. I’m not writhing in a me-sized hole in the earth at all. The phoenix has definitely risen and I’ve learned a lot about staying positive and being productive. But still, I’m antsy. I want to accomplish more, do things faster, be better NOW.
I examined my choice of topics above – unplugging, parenting, house hunting – and everything I’m currently reaching for in my life – like self-publishing my novel, finishing my short film etc. – and I realized that there’s one elusive ingredient I am missing in my over-achieving life:
Historically, I’m not a very patient person. I get annoyed when customers ahead of me in store check-out lines don’t have their wallets out and ready. Are they surprised when the cashier asks for payment? How could someone possibly be so clueless and inconsiderate? Or, why is the Netflix website so goddamn slow? Is it the thumbnail pictures? If so, why don’t they make them smaller and save us all loading time? Or, what the hell are all these women doing in the bathroom that takes so long? They know there’s a line, yet there they stand, primping in front of the mirror doing some kind of three-stage lipstick/lipliner/lip gloss routine. People, you are WASTING MY TIME!!!
But are they?
Or am I just so high-strung or high-maintenance or ‘type A’ that I can’t relinquish control over my environment, even for a second?
“Waiting’s not a bad thing,” said this young dad to me at Trader Joe’s the other day when I asked him if he wanted to go ahead of me to grind his small can of coffee beans as I was just starting on a second giant can. It’s not? I thought.
Certainly life is throwing my own lack of patience into high relief these days, with the blackouts and the parenting and the house hunting. Last night after dinner Violet and I sat down to watch a movie and I put my feet up on the coffee table, settling in. She watched me get comfortable, then promptly rose to pick up my legs one at a time, planting my feet back on the floor.
“Feet go on the floor, Mama.”
We bid on a house last week and it’s a short sale, which means that the bank could sit on the paperwork for up to five or even eight weeks before they even acknowledge our bid. Paperwork, just sitting there with no one looking at it. Meanwhile, we continue to look because who knows how long this sale will take? Is there enough patience on earth for how annoying this is?
Yesterday, we were in the middle of a suburban neighborhood looking at houses and I broke down crying.
“I can’t live here! Look at these empty fields and power lines! This is horrible!” I shouted.
Our wonderful realtor started rubbing my back to calm me down. Richard started laughing, partly with me, partly at me. I was so frustrated that we couldn’t just open Escrow on the house we like and give up the search. Why do they have to take so loooong??? What’s the matter with these banks? Why can’t they hire more people to expedite these properties? It’s infuriating!
Or is it?
Looked at another way, we’ve got this great place we’ll probably get if we can hang in there, and in the meantime, we have the excellent opportunity to see what else is available and potentially find something even better.
Maybe the guy at Trader Joe’s was sent to me for a reason with that profound message: “Waiting’s not a bad thing.”
So now for my new year’s resolution, I’m going to make a point to see the truth in this statement. Rather than viewing waiting as surrendering to other people getting in my way, I will venture to see the positive. Rather than keeping a laser focus on my next move, I will enjoy the one I’m making. I will not rush Violet. (That one’s easy because her new thing is to yell, “Don’t rush me!” whenever I do. Kids are so smart.)
As for unplugging, I think the reason this is so appealing to me is that it’s a type of forced relaxation. During the blackout, for example, we were happily reduced to flashlight shadow puppets and drawing by candlelight. There was no Netflix cue to check, no e-mail to catch up on; we had to slow down and just ‘be.’ No wonder unplugging is the new trend. It teaches us all an important lesson in patience.