"It's supposed to be here!" It's 5:30, and the bus scheduled for 5:20 still hasn't arrived. I keep looking for it every time I see another bus turning the corner. And every time I do, I feel more frustrated.
It's silly really because the bus is going to come when it comes. I have no control over its arrival whatsoever. What I do have control over though is micro-waiting, this short, inconsequential period of time (~10 minutes) that may ruin my mood for the next few hours.
You can even see this kind of micro-waiting in other people just by looking at the angle of their bodies. Most people will be facing the direction the bus will come from. Even though it will stop right in front of them, they still want to see it before it does. The hope, the anticipation, even the worry is displayed in their body language. I see a speech bubble above their heads yelling, "Why isn't is here yet!?"
Waiting patiently doesn't come easy for most of us. It's a struggle because we want control. Our whole day is scheduled because of meetings and deadlines. There are strong expectations to start and end on time, to keep moving onto the next task.
That thing called work, where we create something - produce a media kit, write a business case, design an email campaign, coordinate an agenda, draft a presentation, brainstorm titles, work on the budget - is packed in whenever we can get to it.
Little breathing room is afforded to let time just be. To let ourselves flow with the work, in a rhythm that fits our mood, our creative desires, our energy, and our passion. That cautious care for the thing we're producing that lets us feel like we're making art, not just checking off another item on our to-do list.
Here's how Eckhart Tolle puts it in The Power of Now:
"If you set yourself a goal and work toward it, you are using clock time...If you then become excessively focused on the goal, perhaps because you are seeking happiness, fulfillment, or a more complete sense of self in it, the Now is no longer honored. It becomes reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future, with no intrinsic value. Clock time then turns into psychological time. Your life's journey is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive, to attain, to 'make it.'"
And so we end our day waiting for a bus, a subway, or in traffic and we can't let go of what Eckhart Tolle refers to as "psychological time."
Besides, the process of anticipating gives us something to do. The mode of "getting things done," which we just got done with at work, still runs strong in our psyche and anticipation and worry are "actions" of sorts that make us feel like we can will the impossible (the bus' arrival) into being.
What is far easier, and far more peaceful, is to remind ourselves that time doesn't wait for us. That bus will come of its own accord. The traffic will move when it does.
Accept what is.
Observe and pay attention to what is truly happening, not what you want to happen.
Allow me to narrate the "waiting for the bus" scenario as I have done for myself many times before, with the mentality of acceptance, not anticipation:
"I'm done with work. I am outside, breathing in the fresh air. My body is slowly letting go of the tensions of the day. There are other people around me looking forward to their evening. Moms and dads meeting up with their kids after picking them up from day care. Bikers, pedestrians, cars navigating the road. Buses coming and going. And me standing here just looking at the milieu. Oh, there's my bus!"
I'm just there. Not doing, but rather being, in the moment as things happen. It's truly as simple as that. This is how patience emerges to melt away all the micro-waiting anxiety that can build up in mere moments and cause us and others mental strife for hours.
This letting go and transitioning takes practice, and luckily each moment that we wait offers an opportunity to do just that. To try out methods of being patient. It's a mental shift from reacting impatiently to something we can't control to responding attentively to what's before us.
This has real life consequences, since that transition from work to home (or vice versa) truly affects how we interact with those we'll be with shortly. Do we come in with the baggage of the day? Do we pay attention to what is happening to our partners, kids, friends, or colleagues? Can we attend to ourselves and what we need in the transition?
Attention has lasting effects that stay with us moment to moment.
What makes you impatient? How do you handle it? Please comment on this post or simply email me.