My sister and I always got pajamas for Christmas. One year I got a set with the word “impatient” across the front and my sister got a set with the word “impossible” across the front. Nailed it.
I went to see Sonia, the therapist who taught me to meditate, because despite being with my boyfriend for five years and desperately wanting to get married, I felt we were further from it than ever. I believed it was all my fault, mostly because he and I both told me it was my fault. Too reactive, quick to anger, inflexible, demanding, putting on so much pressure, not going with the flow. These were the reasons he just couldn’t get there. If I could just fix these things then we’d live happily ever after. I went to see Sonia because these were the same things I’d heard from other boyfriends. And they were the same things I saw and hated in myself.
Sonia gave me a book called Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side by David Richo. It was all about those negative traits and how we have to see them, acknowledge them, and befriend them. Every negative trait we have has a positive aspect. Thinking back, the same things my partners would complain about had been things that drew them to me in the beginning. Too reactive started out as “high energy.” Quick to anger used to be “fiery.” Inflexible was “sticking to your guns.” Demanding: having high standards. Pressure: pushing people to be their best. Not going with the flow: headstrong and independent. At what point in the relationship, or bigger still, at what point in my life did these traits get stuck on negative?
The book would say that in acknowledging the existence of a negative trait you take away it’s power. You take away the risk that after hours or days or weeks or years or decades of pushing something into the tiniest little vault of a box and burying it deep, deep, all the way down…it just springs open like Pandora’s box of horrors at the least opportune time. Instead, by seeing it as an ever-present aspect of ourself we can choose to use the positive flip side for good rather than evil.
Impatience seems diametrically opposed to the fundamental Buddhist principle of acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and things and people as they are right now. Impatience is also diametrically opposed to the #1 rule of trying to conceive. I am impatient. It is one of my shadows. The positive flip side of impatience is NOT apathy. I used to think it was. Never fails, cool aloof chick says “I don’t know, I don’t really think about marriage” and the next week her boyfriend skywrites Will You Marry Me and gives her a three carat diamond. Or “We’re not sure if we want to have kids. I guess if it’s meant to be then someday…” and then two months later bitch be pregs. I thought that was the magic. If I could just not care about getting married, then it would happen. And now, that’s the magic advice everyone wants to give me about getting pregnant. Just stop trying. That’s when it happens.
Guess what, I didn’t ever get to cool aloof chick status about getting married. Nope, I went full potential worst nightmare by bringing it up first. And guess what? He put a ring on it (NOT a diamond, he has very strong views on that, but a ring nonetheless). I HAVE to think this baby thing can work for demanding, controlling, impatient me.
The positive flip side of impatience is determination, focus, perseverance….and acceptance. I’ve got a lot of those things too. Determination, focus, perseverance are overtly active traits. Acceptance has always seemed so hard because it seems so passive. I just have to sit here and take this? Let me tell you, the path to acceptance just seeing, feeling, knowing what is truly inside myself and in the world I’m observing is hard. Damn hard. Maybe harder than achieving all those things that put medals on my wall. So, I’ve got the stuff. Maybe it’s time to just let my shadow dance.