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I used to think I was a woman of little patience. As a matter of fact, "God give me patience" was a daily, if not hourly, mantra of mine ever since I gave birth to my two children (and acquired two new ones from a remarriage).
As life moved on, and those stressful incidents still occurred (does any parent get through the child-rearing years unscathed?), I became frustrated that all I seemed to do was ask for patience, and all that seemed to happen was that I encountered more episodes in my life that required, well, patience.
And then my "Eureka!" moment happened. How would I know that God was giving me patience unless it was tested? What I should have been praying for was, "God, please just let me sail through life without a worry." NOT.
Let's fast forward to my current position as a lead activities coach, working with developmentally disabled young adults. If ever there was a job where one's patience would be tested, this is it. Although most of my individuals are adept at performing their duties and interacting appropriately in the community, there are occasions where one of them will not handle a situation in the best manner (for instance, this week on my birthday, one of my individuals pulled my hair and slapped me because I honked the horn of our minivan to prevent someone from backing into us). But in actuality, they are not the problem. It's the general public that I need patience with.
Today, while I was food shopping for a senior citizen with four of my individuals, I encountered impatience at its finest—and it wasn't expressed by me. After our last item was scanned at the register, I told the young cashier that we needed five packs of cigarettes—Kent 100's, to be exact. The young man got his manager over, and she unlocked the cigarette cabinet. She perused up and down, across and diagonal, to locate even a single pack of our desired brand—but no luck. She explained that all they had were regular Kents (since I've never been a smoker, I had to ask her what the difference was). I inquired as to whether or not they could be returned if he was not happy with them. She told me she would check, and she'd be right back.
As I turned around, I noticed a woman had unloaded her groceries behind me. She looked at me in a somewhat annoyed manner, and I graciously told her that I was sorry for any delay I was causing. The cashier looked at me and said, "Your total is $41.50." I politely told him that I was waiting to see if I could purchase five packs of cigarettes, and I couldn't pay yet. With this, the woman behind me scowled, "Can't you just pay for what's there, and pay for the cigarettes later?"
(I felt my heart start racing, and my blood start pumping. She didn't really just say that, did she?)
I politely told her that it was impossible for me to do that, being that the senior citizen we were shopping for only gave us one check. She scoffed at me and said, "Well, he shouldn't be smoking, anyway!! Why don't you just get him another brand??"
(Okay, did she just say that, too? My blood starts pounding in my ears to the beat of my now-dashing heart.)
I finally looked her in the eye and said, "Ma'am. If I was shopping for your father...and he was all alone in a studio apartment...and he gave me a list of things that he wanted, and I was responsible to purchase them for him...wouldn't you be happy that someone cared enough to get exactly what he wrote on his list?"
With complete disgust, she exclaimed that everything was "ridiculous", and she didn't have time to wait there any longer. She abruptly started throwing her items back into her cart, and then backed out without looking, crashing into another woman who was unfortunate enough to stand in Checkout Aisle 9. She turned and looked at this other woman, snarling that she shouldn't bother waiting there, and that I was taking too much time (happily, the other woman just shrugged her shoulders and gave her a blank stare). As she gave me one last, nasty look, I looked at her and said, "Ma'am, instead of becoming all upset over being in line at the supermarket, why don't you look at it this way? Maybe—just maybe—you were meant to wait. Did you ever stop to think that because you had to wait behind me a few extra minutes, I may have prevented you from having a car accident later in the day?"
Well, that was about all she could take.
She said something about "rude", and stormed off into the sea of carts waiting at Checkout Aisles 8, 7, and 5.
For a moment I stood there, astonished. Here I am, explaining to her that I'm shopping for a man who is unable to do it himself. With me, I have four individuals with special needs, two of whom are very obviously handicapped with Down 's syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. And with all of that in consideration, this woman could not even spare three minutes out of her selfish time. Let's be real; who doesn't wait in line at the supermarket? Isn't it a given?
Ironically, the second she stomped off in her rage, the manager came up to me and told me to purchase the cigarettes; they would have no problem returning them as long as we had our receipt. We paid for everything with the single check the man had given us, got our receipt, and walked toward the exit.
As we strolled down the exit aisle, I couldn't help but wonder if our friend, Ms. Uptight, was in the midst of checking out (as the woman who was behind her at Checkout Aisle 9 was almost finished doing). Gleefully, I spotted her standing behind not one, but two people at Checkout Aisle 7. And better than that, she spotted us.
Walking through the parking lot, it occurred to me: Perhaps all those years of praying for patience had finally paid off. Although I may have gotten more instant gratification from throwing a bagel at her head and telling her to jump off a bridge, I held onto my dignity (and the dignity of the individuals I was with). I was proud that I kept it together. And in the end, as un-dignified as this may sound, I came out on top (in other words, I *WON*!)...
**The waves lulled gently, softly...their easy motion becoming more powerful, louder, closer...the sound was overbearing now, as if the swell was right in front of me and ready to break over my head...
Oh, wait. It's just my Homedics alarm clock. Although it says 6:20am, I subconsciously know that it is 6:08am in real world time, and I flail my arm around its vicinity until my hand makes contact with the snooze button. The surf will be up at least three or four more times before I actually put my feet on solid ground.
I decide to make eggs for my three high-school kids, who are good-naturedly chiding each other to move over in our tiny bathroom so each one can take turns spitting out toothpaste or plucking their eyebrows over the sink. I had stopped doing this for about a year and a half; however, I began to realize that they were running out of the house with empty stomachs more often than not, and the thought of them running out of fuel in the middle of Global History was not a notion I relished. Hence, the frying pan has come out of weekday retirement once again.
I hurriedly park my car in the lot, and look over to the passenger seat to grab my bag and my lunch. As I lift up my thermal cup, I realize the top wasn't screwed on right and now there is a one-inch puddle of Trader Joe's Irish Breakfast Tea (with a generous dose of milk and one sugar) sitting in the round cup holder in my console. I sigh, run into work, seize a generous amount of paper towels, run back out to my car, and stuff them into the puddle. Procrastinator that I am, I decide to let the towels soak up the mess, which I will attend to later. The soaked cloths are still there as I write this fourteen hours later.
My workday is hectic, as usual. There is paperwork to be done, reports to be filed, and no office with peace and quiet that would help me to attain these goals. One of the senior citizens that we shop for calls me up early in the morning, crying: "Lisa, I think this is it. I haven't eaten in five days, and I've lost six pounds. I think the Lord is taking me home, and it's my time. I have to go to the hospital, but I'm too weak...can you please come here with some people and help me pack a bag? Sob...."
Well, I know very well that this is not Mrs. C's time. As a matter of fact, I tend to think that Mrs. C. is just about as healthy as a horse, physically...but emotionally and mentally, she is suffering. All alone, with no children, I have grown attached to this persnickety woman in her eighties who talks of her Christianity often, but seems to become irritated with just about everyone who doesn't comply with her wishes regarding food items, mail retrieval, and scotch tape.
I talk to my supervisor and take two of my individuals to her home to help her pack, wash up, put fruit in the refrigerator, take out the garbage, and wash and dry some dishes. Oh, and I also put in a phone call to her doctor, who—ironically—has been my doctor for half of my life. She is worried that he is too busy to call her back (and she's probably right, although that was not the case 22 years ago). I pull some clout with the receptionist, and they call her back five minutes later. She doesn't want to wait in his office for two hours—she'd rather wait in the hospital for four. I leave her all dressed and ready to call the ambulance, and she blesses me over and over. She hands my individuals all the singles she has in her wallet—$3.00—and tells us to wish her luck.
After the buses finally leave the hub site at 3:20 and all is quiet, I hear a buzzing noise coming from my bag. Realizing that I hadn't turned my ringer back on since a school meeting Wednesday night, I flip open my phone to see five missed calls. My son informs me that our older dog, Freedom, has gotten sick all over the kitchen floor and he's never seen so much crap in his entire life. He takes a picture of it with his phone and texts it to me. It's not a pretty sight.
I race home to view what looks like serpentine land mines of poo in every square inch of my kitchen. Astonished, I stand there in disbelief that one dog, even a large one like Freedom, could possibly have bowels that copious. As I clean up the fallout of what I surmise was the result of either the morning's pouring rain or an item of food or drink that wasn't on the doggie menu, the phone rings. I pick it up and hear Mrs. C. on the other end: "Oh, Lisa...this is terrible, I've been at the hospital for hours, and I can't get a cab home! I don't know who else to ask...could you please come here and pick me up?"
Of course, I say "Of course..." followed by, "...Just give me a few minutes to finish something!"
I rush out of the house and race to the hospital. Mrs. C. is waiting for me, looking and sounding like someone who is definitely not...um...sick.
"How did you make out?" I ponder as I drive her home.
"Oh, Lisa...this is just my stomach acting up from that virus I had the other day. I'll be fine, and my blood is perfect! But oh, Lord, Lisa...there was a ninety-seven year old woman next to me, and I tell you, I do NOT want to be here when I'm ninety-seven. I just don't know why God keeps me around when I just want to go home to Him."
The conversation then goes into her neighbors who refuse to get her mail for her or who snub her. She wants to know why she's being tested. I think to myself...don't we all?
I come back home and decide that I definitely need to cook something containing onions and garlic to get rid of the smell that two washings with boiling hot water and Lysol disinfectant have not removed. When that doesn't work, I put up an apple pie candle. Eventually, I just cook some flounder. Honestly, I'd rather smell fish.
My ex swings by to pick up my son. He's taking him to Dallas to see the Giants play the Cowboys. I can't pay my water bill, but he can make plans to fly out of state to see one of the most talked about games in years, and multiply his expenses by two by bringing my son along with him. Sigh.
This evening, as I stood in the kitchen cleaning up some dishes, my husband snuck up behind me and hugged me while he kissed my ear. Some soft country music that he had found on his navigation ipod was playing in the background. He swayed me back and forth and I closed my eyes as he whispered, "I love you." Time stood still, and the stresses of the day all faded into the mixed potpourri of odors that still lingered in the air. As I melted into his arms, I thought to myself before I opened my eyes..."Whether or not you are poor or wealthy...fortunate or unfortunate...right now, with your eyes closed, all that matters is how you feel in this moment...you can open your eyes and see wealth, or you can open your eyes and see poverty. But in this instant, the only thing that truly matters is how you feel in the here and now."
Yes, my life can be stressful. It is definitely hectic, and it is sometimes really unfair. But the realization of living in the moment is becoming so tangible to me. I am really starting to understand the importance of being "present" in the present...I spend an awful lot of time dreaming of my future. But really all I have is today...this minute. And you know what? It's not all that bad.