Traffic jams, long lines, people taking inordinate amounts of time with someone or something I felt I needed or wanted, even the slowness of the U.S. mail system, all could send me into a cursing, gesticulating, frothing frenzy. I was the Tasmanian Devil of impatience.
I avoided ballgames and concerts, both of which I love, simply because I did not want to deal with lines at restrooms and concession stands or backed-up parking lots. I even stayed away from certain cities because of the traffic and the long waits nearly everywhere.
Concerned about a current issue? Want to share your point of view? We want to hear from you. Send a letter to the Editor. Click here!
That’s right, I don’t love L.A.
Then I started to deal with others in my life who were sick for long stretches. And while my patience is still not good, probably not even at an average level among the American populace, I am getting better as far as waiting is concerned.
I believe I’m a much better and more pleasant person as a result. And I think in some ways I’m happier and healthier.
I would surmise that I’m far from the first person who has become more tranquil as a result of dealing with the illness or illnesses of loved ones. It’s a matter of survival, for us and others. If we don’t become calmer, we risk becoming just as sick as the sick ones in our lives, and then we are no help to anyone. So really, mellowing when it comes to getting what we want becomes the only choice.
When others in our lives are ill, we learn that as much as we fret and fuss, things usually don’t get better just because we want them to. We also learn that certain medications and treatments don’t work, despite promising prognoses from experts and others.
We find out that sometimes doctors, nurses, social workers, insurance company employees and others take longer than we want to provide us the assistance we so desperately seek for our loved ones. And we find that our fuming doesn’t do anything but wear us out. It certainly doesn’t make most people move any faster, often because such folks have tremendous amounts to do regarding the cases of our loved ones and countless others, and they can only do so much.
We also find out getting over a serious illness is not an overnight thing. Those who have been sick need days, weeks, months, sometimes even years to get better, and it is our duty to be there to help, to do something for the hundredth time when we wish we had been able to stop doing it after the second.
Gradually we come to understand that is just something we have to do if the people in our lives are going to get better. Recovery timelines differ for individuals, and if we establish expectations we often have to deal with disappointments. Some of us tend to recover quickly and push through the pain of physical therapy and such, but others just aren’t built that way.
That doesn’t mean they are weaker or less determined, we learn. It means they are who they are.
Seeing those we love suffer in recent years is hard, but it is exponentially harder for those suffering. And wishing and wanting and praying for our loved ones to get better only does so much.
Sometimes we simply have to be patient, to bear through it, to steadfastly endure alongside those suffering through the horrific ordeal of deep sickness.
I am just starting to get better at having that patience.
Bret Kofford teaches writing at
San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. He can be reached