Saturday, November 12, 2016

Impatience, triggers and populating my life

I'm a contrary creature in ways that can confound or anger those who don't understand, while surprising and sparking those who do. The difference is whether they blame me for their discomfort.

If I were a video game character and my characteristics were combined into unique personality by the rolls of dice, it turns out I rolled low scores on patience. I work super-hard to even seem like an impatient person, never mind patient. But I'm not impatient with everything. It's just that the specific things that do drive me nuts rev from 0 to 60 in no time flat.

I spent more time than I care to admit disciplining and training myself to hide my impatience behind fake, acceptable masks, and succeeded well enough to let some of my impatience work in my favour, making me a go-getter and highly promotable. I thought that was what I needed to do to be a better person. I thought self-development was making myself more acceptable to others and achieving worldly success.

Unfortunately, hiding and feeling ashamed of myself didn't work for me forever. As long as I only paid attention to the metrics I was told made sense, I could congratulate myself that I was successful. But how could I ever believe in the love and friendship of people I did my best to hide from, in order to remain acceptable and not scary? The answer was, I couldn't, and didn't.

I was lucky to find a life partner who can see me and love me. We're raising kids that know me inside out even though I work like crazy to show them mostly my best. From that place, I've allowed myself to look at myself more deeply than the metrics I was using, and meet myself with the love and patience I can't give to anyone else (for real) until I have it for me. But it's slow going, and in the meantime, I no longer have the strength or will to hold up the masks. Where does that leave me?

I've spent years observing myself. I've watched where I have the hardest time hiding and containing my impatience (even when I was at my strongest), and when I haven't managed it. I have a list. It's a little long. Here are some that consistently rank in the top ten:

Unproductive repetition
Blame-focused analysis
Unnecessary delays
Ineffective process
Dithering when a decision is called for
Trying to make me do their thinking
Trying to make me their conscience
Feeling excluded (self & others)
Feeling disrespected/not honoured as an equal
Being hungry
Being in pain
Being tired

Unfortunately for me, with my MBA and my health issues, most of those things are a daily part of work life. I had accustomed myself to it, but once I got pregnant, once my kids showed me that work doesn't matter as much as life, once parenting sucked and scraped the bottom of all the stores of patience I'd been using to put up with the way work environments behave, I just couldn't. I just couldn't, anymore, stay patient with all of that all day, every day.

The whole list of things that blow away my patience come down to three themes:
Lack of physical/spiritual/mental capacity

I'm working on strategies for staying patient with those inevitabilities. And, the people who are closest to me will note that my physical (mental, spiritual) capacity ebbs and flows, and with it, my strength around employing my strategies. All my patience reserves are lower than average anyway, if you'll remember. I use my patience for my kids, for strangers, and the rest I spread around those I spend the most time with, as best I can. Given that, I realize that I can support my own sense of being okay with myself if I'm careful who those people are - specifically, if I choose to populate my space with people who love me as I am, and aren't constantly asking me to change so they can love me more, or getting mad about the way I sometimes am. It's a small number.

And one thing I hope that those people closest to me understand is this: if I didn't love you, I'd be more patient with you. If I didn't feel you love me, I would be more careful, use my patience stores on you, or more likely, avoid you so that you don't have as many chances to see me fail to contain my impatience. If I thought you were a person prone to inefficiency or unfairness, I would limit my exposure to you, and your exposure to me. If you see me get passionately impatient, it's a compliment to you that I'm letting myself be a little less strong, and trusting  you to handle your own reactions. If you can't, it's not good for me to be around you, or vice versa. Because this is the best I've got right now.

And when I look honestly at the strength of my feelings, the objective justness of many observations that trigger my impatience, I feel pretty good about where I am. Sometimes, impatience and even anger have important messages for us. Sometimes, they need to be present in the room, either to draw attention or to cause a disruption in an unproductive cycle. There's no point blaming myself or others if we fail to entirely hide our passions, hurts, anger, impatience, and other negative emotions. It's not like I give myself full permission to be obnoxious -  I just wasn't strong enough this time, and it's bound to happen again. Let's look at what triggered me, which has a message in it, and move forward in good faith. I'm very fast at getting to that, when others go with me. Those who love me feel the same.

Somehow, I think those are the only people I can work with, now. So what does that mean about how I live my life and do my work in the world? That's what I'm finding out.