Patience, More or Less

CYet another unexpected gift from Cancer is an increased level of patience. I have no choice: I wait in doctors’ offices; I wait for test results; I wait for people to pick me up and drive me places; I wait for dinner to be ready – I just wait.  Sometimes, like with a CT scan, I have to wait while the disgusting drink settles in my system and then try to wait/relax in that ridiculous machine while avoiding thinking about how tiny the opening is. What I’ve learned to do is always have something in my mind that I need to mull over, or notate in my ever-present journal.  It’s one of those lessons that I would like to take back with me into my “real life” which really isn’t too far away.

I also have more patience with people.  Lousy store clerks don’t annoy me, nor do slow waiters. I’m hoping that carries back into my “real” life also – in terms of being patient with my kids.  Don’t forget, it has been almost three months since I’ve seen my children in person, though we speak once or twice every day on Skype or FaceTime.  I miss them wildly and often wonder how our family dynamic will be different after this experience.  I do hope my new-found patience carries over into it.

There are a few things, however, for which I have LESS patience.  Here are a few examples: I have no patience for people who complain and have no intention of finding a solution to their problems because it’s more fun to complain.  I no longer have patience for people who worry about wrinkles – while everyone wants to look their best, me included, wrinkles have become a badge of honor to me – a badge of honor of a life well lived.  I have lost my patience for people who drive distractedly.  Just wait until you stop to text or call! If you miss a turn, don’t try and cross five lanes of traffic for a correction; wait until it’s safe to turn around. In the long run, what’s a few extra minutes?

The thing that really gets me is people who expect other people to change their circumstances.  Women who expect men to make them happy or vice versa – kids who are supposed to make their parents happy, or vice versa. Each of us is in charge of our own lives.  In the best case scenario, we make ourselves happy and are then lucky enough to share our happiness with someone else – a spouse, a child, a close friend.  But the happiness, really deciding to be happy, is an individual choice we each have to make every day.  Some days it’s easier than others, I get that.  But I really have no patience for people who choose to wallow in misery or negativity.  In this horrible exercise called Cancer, I’ve had a lot of dark days, but none so dark that I can’t get up and live my life the next day.  That’s my favorite mantra with my son, Bailey, age 14: the greatest part about bad days is that THEY END. My friends Brian and Bonnie use the mantra all the time now, too. I have had endless support in this endeavor from wonderful friends and family who support me daily, and for this I am grateful. It seems impossible to me to wallow in lousy circumstances when there are so many people who love me and want to help me.  I have been very lucky, and lucky enough to have the ability to appreciate it.

Forgive me for sounding preachy, but I think it all comes down to gratitude really. It’s okay to spend a little time mourning for the things we don’t have, but the more useful exercise is being grateful for the things we do have.

Right now I’m struggling to have patience as I wait until next week for the results of a bone marrow biopsy. I had a clean PET scan that shows no lymphoma present, and so this biopsy, which had to be repeated for accuracy, is my last hurdle.  I am trying my best to fill my time with fun activities with friends and things that I love to do, including eating really good food.  There is a lot to celebrate already – and I’m trying to stay focused on that as I wait.  Patience… patience…

6 thoughts on “Patience, More or Less

  1. Your writing frequently brings me to tears. Know many of us are riding the emotional roller coaster with you. I admire your strength, bravery and willingness to share! Love and hugs, jill

  2. You are handling your illness with such grace and strength, and it is amazing to read about the lessons you are taking from the experience. With regard to being less patient with some people, I would just add that people deal with all kinds of challenges and illnesses, and for many people it is part of their illness (depression, for example) that they can’t just choose not to “wallow” in negativity. I have become more patient with people in recent years, too. I think about how the person cutting across 5 lanes of traffic might be on her way back to work from taking her sick daughter to the hospital, terrified that she is going to lose her job and her health care if she is late to work one more time. The person spewing hate at a store clerk for apparently no reason might have a mental illness. For me, this lesson came from having an invisible health issue. For instance, although I look healthy, sometimes it is difficult for me to stand for long periods of time. But I can just imagine what would happen if I asked someone to give up their seat on the metro for me. And I wouldn’t even know who to ask, because I can’t tell by looking at people whether they need the seat more than me. It made me realize that you NEVER know what people are dealing with. Sometimes not unless you are very close to them, and sometimes – especially with mental illness – not even then.

    • Jen, I love you most because you reminnd me to be human – in the best sense of the word. I remember a few months ago when a clerk asked me to wait while he waited on another customer who was legitimately there before me. I replied that I’d be glad to, but he had to get me a chair because my cancer wouldn’t allow me to just loiter there (standing) by the counter. He was pretty shocked, but got me a folding chair. You are right that patience is always the better option over impatience. I will remember that – you just never know.

  3. Hi Aimee. Been thinking about you as we prepare for the global launch of our new book “Inspiring Hope: One Story at a Time”. Your writing on “patience” is evocative and penetrating. Might be a good one to include in the next book I am planning–”Inspiring Hope: One Image at a Time”. But we’ll wait until you’re back home with your family in Tokyo.

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