A year or so ago while in the throes of some major events in my life, I came home to find my barbeque grill had blown across the back yard. I happened to be talking to a good friend when I made the discovery. The broken grill and sound of spewing propane was the final straw, and I broke down into tears. Immediately I felt like a wimp, since just minutes earlier we had been discussing what to do for a friend who had suddenly found herself in a life-altering and tragic circumstance. Trying to stop my own tears, I said to my dear friend, “What am I doing? I have no business complaining and thinking my life is hard!”
In a moment of pure wisdom, my wise friend snapped back, “Sure. Your life may not be as hard as hers, but it is hard for you right now, and that is all that matters.”
Do you see what I was doing? I was guilty of that horrible thing we women are especially quick to do: comparing ourselves to others. True, I wasn’t thinking about someone’s great musical talent versus my off-key singing voice, nor was I thinking about my friend’s beautifully decorated home versus my home decorated with school art projects taped to various walls, but I was comparing myself nonetheless. I was thinking about a friend’s long-term, tragic circumstances versus my own short-term challenges–and beating myself up for the difference! It was like comparing apples to oranges.
Sometimes life really is hard, but we diminish our difficulties by comparing them to somebody else’s who seem even harder. We compare our difficulties to somebody else’s, and then berate ourselves for feeling discouraged if we think our difficulties don’t “match up”. The truth is, life is hard for everyone, so we can’t compare the levels of difficulty.
Now I’m not talking about the horrific, life-changing difficulties that some people are dealing with. I’m not talking about anything that would make the 10 o’clock news or the newspaper headlines. I’m talking about barbeque grills flying across lawns while husbands are in the hospital having major surgery types of things.The day to day difficulties that ebb and flow into our lives from which none of us are exempt.
Just a couple of months after our grill took its maiden voyage across the back yard, my husband began a new job. A lot changed. We took a major cut in salary at the same time the medical bills began to fill our mailbox. And even though only a year has passed, I have found a few tried (but not always true) methods for having more patience with my circumstances. Let me share them with you.
1. Accept It
I have found it better not to waste time with the whole “why me” scenario. Whether or not I believe in fate, happenstance, or divine guidance–it is what it is. I can’t change the things that are out of my control, neither can I go back and change the things I could have done better or differently. I have to accept what is. Sure, some days I have a genuine smile on my face and know in my heart that I can accept things as they are. Other days, I wear a permanent scowl and begrudge it all. Smile or scowl, you’ve gotta accept it.
2. Cry If You Want To
Cut yourself some slack. Have a short pity party and a good cry, then SNAP OUT OF IT.
A month or so ago, the events of two days made me choose to forgo anything productive and curl up in bed with a good book in the middle of the afternoon. You know the type of mood. The kind where all you can see are the negative things in your life like the scratched baseboards in your family room, or your hair that is way overdue for a cut and color. Just lie in bed. Whine. Complain. It’s your life so cry if you want to, but make it brief.
3. Be Aware of Others
I know, I know. We hear it all the time. Be grateful for the scratched baseboards because it means you have a home, or the outgrown highlights because it means you have hair. But there is truth to that. Look outward. Be aware of what others are going through. A couple of hours after my private pity party last month, I was on the phone with a friend who told me her mother-in-law’s death was imminent. I didn’t compare my friend’s circumstance to mine, I simply reminded myself that even though there may be different levels of difficulty, life is hard for everyone.
As I’ve tried to be more patient with my own life circumstances, I was reminded recently that patience has two close cousins. Faith and hope. My husband is the ultimate optimist. I, on the other hand (as you’ve probably surmised), am not. While recently dissecting every little thing wrong with my current situation, my husband responded, “It’s just life.” I know that, but sometimes I wish it wasn’t. It’s the whole glass half full thing. Some days your glass may be half full, other days it may be half empty. But guess what? It’s the same amount of water in each glass. And if nothing else, there is always tomorrow, or next month, or next year.
As I said, these are tried methods and not necessarily true methods. I do know life will always be full of day-to-day struggles. There’s no escaping medical bills, car repairs, children struggling in school, periods of unemployment, throwing up toddlers, moody teenagers, colicky newborns, or the myriad of other things that can possibly go wrong in life. Like my husband said, “It’s just life.” Life will always have its ups and downs. The secret is to hang on and enjoy the ride.
Question: What are some current aspects of your life that may be requiring some extra patience?
Challenge: Think of one or two of your current challenges and plan specific ways to improve your outlook about them.