Something I realized within the last year or so is that I've often had patience...and that in the last couple of years, I've had less patience. Some of that was due to being in an office with co-workers who well-nigh grinded against said patience. (Yes, I've harped on this before; I'll harp on it again to make a point.) The repetitious complaints, the lack of sense of scale to their complaints, the humorless jokes, the meanness...that infected me, and I had trouble finding outlets for venting my frustration. (Thank goodness I had this journal, and sympathetic readers.)
Before that job, there was my call center job, with its own issues: not my co-workers, who I mostly genuinely liked, but what seemed to be the disconnected-brain thoughtlessness of so many customers, who somehow thought it was appropriate to respond to my question "May I have your PIN?" by dialing it in (BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP goes the noise in my ear). There were difficult customers, too, as all of you who've been in customer service know, sometimes angling for a fight, and what better "opponent" than the disembodied voice at the other end of their phone? Someone you'll never hear again? Someone who can't really get back at you except maybe by hanging up on you or putting you on hold, denying you or delaying your order? (And certainly that couldn't be a habit, or the call center supervisors would notice.) All of this happening under the pressure of "finish the orders as quick as you can"? The job could too easily become a battle, with me on guard expecting people to be nasty to me or clueless at me. And I hate being that on-guard.
So that, and much else, can wear away at patience. Patience I've been working to rebuild. And I got a good lesson in that in Seattle.
My cousin Amy (a.k.a. Max, a.a.k.a. "Maximy") likes kids. She doesn't have any of her own yet, but she's good with them. In the last two years, after helping with a couple of home births, she's tried her hand at nannying; she found that she was good at the job, and that she liked it. On Tuesday afternoon, after I arrived at her home (greeted enthusiastically by the four dogs and one cat staying at her house that day), we rode over to the home where Jemma lives. She's the girl a week shy of her second birthday. One of Jemma's mothers was holding the girl, ready to pass her off to Maximy and head off to other afternoon duties.
Jemma was recently-awakened. She also was cranky. Maximy's first job that afternoon was to let Jemma work through that crankiness, and awaken enough to do stuff. She sat down on a couch and held Jemma, patting and rubbing her back and talking soothingly to her. I sat next to them and watched. Heck, I was a little soothed by her voice and tone as well. And I thought this will take as long as it's going to take. And I found that thought, as well, to be soothing. In other circumstances, I might've gotten impatient...but it's not only pointless to get impatient with a child, it's potentially hurtful. Kids are already jerked around by an adult world that runs at its own pace, heedless of what the kids need to do -- that insane amount of learning they're capable of sponging up, which is so necessary because of just how much you need to know deeply just to function in the world (tying shoes, using a water fountain, putting on sunblock, talking to people, knowing what volume to speak at in what situations, cleanliness habits, knowing when and where it's appropriate to scratch certain body parts...all of that, and so much more, is learned, not instinctively known) -- and they can't yet have the emotional experience to process that properly, unless their immediate world slows down to something closer to their pace. It's not for nothing that I recently compared kids to the Replicants in Blade Runner; you can't expect them to process the world emotionally the same way as us twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, and older-somethings can, when they've only had a few years' experience in that world. So it's a self-centered period of life; that's allowed, because they're creating their self. And they need the space, both physical and psychological, to do that.
I watched Maximy do her part to provide that space to this adorable little girl. It was an illuminating process, leading up to giving Jemma choices of what she wanted to do next: visit those aforementioned pets or go to the Seward Park beach. Jemma chose both; we did both, joined up by Max's boyfriend Bo. Jemma had fun with the pets; she had fun at the beach, wading and jumping and getting soaked and getting Max soaked. (Max had to go farther into the water than she'd planned so that the giggling, good-time-having Jemma didn't get away from her. At one point Max's eyes widened slightly and she said "Okay, now my underwear's wet." This was rather cool Lake Washington water, thus the wide eyes.) And that went as long as it went. We later toweled off, put our socks and shoes back on, and hit the road to take Jemma home where her other mom was waiting. We all said goodbye -- Jemma's good at talking to people, and at saying "Hi" and "Goodbye" -- and went on with our afternoon.
This will take as long as it's going to take. That's almost Zen.