Thursday, March 06, 2008

Patience Is Not My Virtue

I've been thinking a lot today about patience, and contemplating whether I'm a patient person. In general, I think I am fairly patient. When I'm waiting on people to do things during the course of my day, I don't get impatient or snappy. I try to understand where people are coming from, and go with the flow as much as I can. I don't expect things to be done instantly for my benefit, don't take things personally, don't jump to assumptions, and generally remain pretty even-keel.

All of that goes out the window when it comes to relationships. I do not like existing in a state of uncertainty. It freaks me out. I want to know the status of things, how I feel, how they feel, and I want to know it all right now. I don't like waiting. I really don't like waiting for communication. It's annoying and aggravating and despite myself, it eats and eats at me. I don't feel that I should have to wait, so I try not to wait. I go about my day, which is busy and filled with tons of things, and I tell myself I am not waiting. My hairdresser says, "Don't wait" like it's as easy as switching off a light switch, and I commit myself to not waiting. But, I do. That's the part that really, really irks me, that gets under my skin and squeezes my chest in a miniature vice grip. It also pisses me off at myself.

I say to my Self, "Self, do not wait. Do not care."

And my Self replies, "But I do care, and I am waiting."

And, I respond, "God damn it. Why do you have to be so freaking honest all the time?"

The other night, I picked up one of my old journals at random and started reading. I have no cable or TV at the moment, so I've had to go to alternative means to entertain myself. The journal was from 1998, in my senior year of college, when I had just come back from studying abroad and being "long distance" with my boyfriend. This is the guy that I ultimately broke up with a year after college and then for years later remembered only the great things about him and our relationship. I used him as a comparison to other boyfriends and found them wanting. In between relationships, and sometimes during, I kicked myself for throwing away something which had been "wonderful." When it came up in therapy years later, I couldn't remember why I had ever broken up with him.

My journal explained it. It's filled with entries over the course of several months starting off with, "Kai and I had another fight last night." Back then, my 21-year old self was super annoyed with Kai because he was insecure and clingy, but also acting out by not calling her. Do you know how my 21-year old self reacted to Kai not calling her? She didn't react. She noted it, got pissed about it, and then went about her way basically with an attitude of "oh well, it's his loss." She was awesome.

The same journal entries that talk about how Kai did not call the day before and probably would not call again that day because he's so annoying and predictable, mention those facts in passing and then go on to list everything else that I was focusing on at the time, like studying, working, seeing my friends, and participating on various committees. At the time, I clearly was into Kai, and I clearly wanted him to call me. His lack of calling left me feeling a little hurt and lonely, but not in an overpowering way. It was something I took note of and didn't like, but I didn't take it personally. I'm not sure I would say that my younger self was more patient. I just think she was like, "whatever, it's Kai's issue, not mine." She had things to do, and she did them while letting the saga of their relationship play out over time.

One time, Kai tried to break up with me. I remember it distinctly. We were sitting on the porch swing outside of my house. He was tense and fidgety and he was refusing to look me in the eyes. He said, quite dramatically, that he wanted to break up with me. I responded, "Kai, don't be ridiculous. You don't want to break up with me, and we're not breaking up." I was 100% convinced of Kai's love for me, and I was 100% convinced that he was trying to break up with me, not because he didn't want to be with me, but because he was scared and trying to make a self-protective preemptive strike. Silly Rabbit. He seemed so transparent and insecure to me back then. It was touching. We didn't break up until a year later, when I decided that I wanted to date other people and broke up with him.

Back then, my actions were not at all based on fear. It's questionable whether they were based on love. They were definitely based on certainty, confidence, and an absolute conviction in my own power of self-determination. I was patient because I didn't feel anxious, so I could afford to be patient. I felt completely in control. I had time to let things develop and I didn't gnaw apart my stomach waiting for things to happen. I didn't gnaw. I didn't wait. I observed, took care of what I needed to, and trusted that Kai would come around and that everything would work out for the best (in my favor) in the end.

Now, if someone "tried" to break up with me, I would be out the door so fast I wouldn't even hear it swinging shut behind me. I feel sometimes like I'm sitting on a tiny tree branch, my wings half extended in the air, ready at a moments notice to take flight. I've become the self-protective one, though I battle this and try to be honest and upfront with my feelings. I'm so much more open and vulnerable now than I ever was then, but with vulnerability comes that sense of being gnawed apart from the inside out. Vulnerability brings with it desires and expectations, feelings of disappointment and insecurity, and anxiety. It also brings with it impatience, impatience to end the feeling of vulnerability.

My 21-year old self did not feel impatient because she did not feel vulnerable. She was strong, confident and impervious to pain. She was also emotionally detached, critical and judgmental, and lacking in empathy. Insecurity in anyone used to repulse her. Between the two of us, I'd have to say that I like the more developed, mature, and sensitive me of today, then my college-age self. Clearly, however, I could take a few pages from her book now and then. Today, I think I will channel her confidence and certainty.

A boy not calling is indeed annoying, but it's about him and not me, and I have better things to do than to wait on him. Instead, I'll push it out of my mind, keep it confined to the words in this post, and move on. Things will ultimately work out as they are meant to.


No Nonsense Girl said...

I'm not very patient either but am learning to be more.

Have a great weekend :)

Gypsy said...

I wish I'd begun doing some sort of journaling back then so I could look back and see what I was up to, how I felt, what was important to me then. But I can't. I think back then I was far more dramatic in terms of relationships. Everything was emotional and overwhelming and just overboard. Now I think I have some perspective and can distance myself more emotionally. I think. Sometimes.

Starshine said...

Great talking to you tonight, Buttercup! I'm so thankful for our friendship. And to think it all started here. :)

Starshine said...

Hi, BC!

Did you know that WordNerd had her baby? Super cute pics up on her blog!


jehara said...

this was a great, thoughtful post. i love reading old old journals from time to time. can be very enlightening.