This morning, I walked away from a sticky situation and left it in the hands of someone more capable because I simply didn’t have the patience to deal with drama – not before a cup of tea, certainly.
Impatience has been a permanent stain on my character for as long as I could spell it. Strangely, on the face of it, impatient people may seem like the most chilled out, smiley people you know; but put us in a compromising situ – with places to go, zips to zip and appointments to keep – and we morph into stroppy toddlers with a thirst for trouble.
I’ve often wondered why some people do patience better and, as a result, lead far more peaceful lives. Are they destined to not lead the pack, choosing the path of friendly followers, while the handful of us with a short fuse actually get the job done – on time and well?
My aggressive adherence to schedules and obsession with beating the clock have proved career winners for two decades – no editor ever has had to chase me down for copy and, when I was a teacher, both heads of department and pupils knew that what needed to be done would be done – not by Friday, but a week in advance. I wore impatience like a crown and lived the lie that my life was infinitely better because of it.
But today, when I simply didn’t have it in me to help my grumpy toddler deal with his disappointment about the rain at school – meaning no usual swing-swing routine – I could have chosen the path of the uber-mom, who would have found a way to both teach emotional balance and eventually coax a smile. Instead, after a few failed attempts at empathy, reasoning and distraction, I simply gave up. What’s the point of flogging a lost cause?
Our competitive world worships at the feet of achievement and so, for naturally impatient people, it may seem that we’re built to win – after all, if Richard Branson had just stood around and gone with the flow, he’d never have built a pretty plane.
But since I feel unhappy when I’m feeling impatient, there must be a flaw in that modern argument. And science, as always, proves this to be true. If you’re a true-blue ‘impatient’, then what you’re really getting knotty knickers about is the irritating emotion you’re feeling when things aren’t going your way.
Like this morning, when my toddler was in a towering rage over an apparently simple thing like rain, I felt powerless (I’m no meteorologist and don’t know a workable rain dance), annoyed (everybody else under three is happy – why aren’t you?) and stupid (why did I make the outside swing part of your goodbye routine anyway?).
Beth Cooper Howell
First published in The Herald