How to Develop Patience at Warp Speed

Patience is important.

Without it, people are unable to deal appropriately with stress, anger, heartbreak…and lots of other emotional dilemmas; for instance, running out of coffee.

For me, this valuable character trait is a work in progress. Depending on the situation, sometimes I am victoriously and wisely patient. More often than not, though, I blow it under stress.

I managed a few steps backward this weekend when my 23-year old daughter and her boyfriend came to visit. I should have suspected my patience level would be challenged when a group decision was made to travel downtown in the same car on a Saturday night. Three twenty-somethings (two of which I have birthed) and two fifty-somethings (young adult translation: old fogies) together in a car = lesson in patience.

So we toodle downtown like sardines in our small SUV, and traffic becomes tricky as we get closer to our destination, which is right on the waterfront in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area. Parking, as usual, is non-existent and we miraculously spy a huge spot recently vacated in which to parallel park, but my husband drives right by it even though as one, we are shrieking, “Park here! Park here! It’s huge! Why did you pass it? WHY?” as our heads swivel longingly toward the space.

My husband, ever-unflappable (well, sometimes he is flappable) drives steadily on murmuring something that sounds like “not big enough,” but whatever, the stress level in the car has risen several notches. It doesn’t help that we are bumping along over miles of historic cobblestone. Quaint, but troublesome when driving in a car full of frustrated young adults that are becoming more and more upset that they did not have the foresight to take a separate vehicle, thereby distancing themselves from the old fogies that do not know how to drive, nor apparently, how to park.

Suddenly, another spot looms into view, and we begin afresh our chorus. “Park here!! Right. Here. It’s right…there…what are you dooooooo-innng…?” losing heart as yet another parking space slips away. My husband, by this time, has lapsed into silence and concentrates on avoiding other cars enmeshed in similar parking quests.

My mother-heart zips into peacemaker mode, and I attempt to appease young adults while simultaneously supporting my husband, which is an exercise in futility. I typically lapse into over-the-top-controller mode when under stress, so, true to form, I rather loudly try to subdue the situation.

Which successfully added an entirely different layer of stress, and was no help at all.

I finally managed to whack the controller part of me into submission, and joined my husband in patient silence as we bumped around the block another time, narrowly missing various pedestrians. The complaining and frustration from the back seat continued. Finally my husband says, “Look, I will let you guys out to go and check out the restaurant and your mom and I will drive around and find a parking spot. Join you in front of the restaurant, okay?” Some or all made snorting noises which I translated as “WHY THE HECK DIDN”T WE TAKE OUR OWN CAR?” and they raced toward the restaurant the minute they untangled themselves from the back seat.

At just that moment, a parking space opened up in front of the restaurant. My husband yipped in delight, and I castigated myself internally for yelling at him along with the kids. He is much better at this patience thing than I am. I slipped a little lower in the seat, which I felt was appropriate, shame-based body language.

Lesson Number One in developing patience at warp speed: Keep your mouth shut when you are impatient or frustrated. You never know how things are going to turn out, and nagging, cajoling, insisting, yelling, insulting, or hurling things does no good.

Because we have inserted our car into a premium parking space, my mood is vastly improved, and I resist lecturing the young adults, because, after all, I was stressing out right along with them. So I was quiet, but tentatively hopeful the evening would be salvaged.

The young adults, who have barely noticed that we now have a premium parking spot, fight their way through hordes of people on the sidewalk to tell us the restaurant we chose is completely booked by a private party and not available even though we called ahead to check.

This starts a brand-new round of young adult frustration that entails different verbiage but is equally as annoying. My husband and I glance at each other, the unspoken question hanging in the air between us: “Do these kids not realize we are paying for their dinner and they need to…maybe…be appreciative instead of complaining?” We disguise this mutual thought with laughter, ha ha ha, and clasp hands and navigate the cobblestone on foot to check out the other 162 restaurants in the area.

By this time, one of the young adults is so upset, I hear her say that she must drop back behind the group as she cannot stand the chaos anymore and needs some distance from the stress.

I am heartily in agreement with her decision, as the old fogies could use some distance as well. We trudge merrily on, ignoring the young adults, because we had been young adults at one time too and knew their moods would brighten. Eventually. But still, my husband and I were wondering things like: would the five of us survive the evening, relationships intact? Would we find a decent restaurant that had seating? Would the kids like the food? If not, would there be more frustration and complaining and shrieking? Would the kids disappear into the night with the street musicians rather than ride home with old fogies? Could they possibly be content, and perhaps even…pleasant… during dinner? And exactly what was our original motivation for this activity again…?

Oh yes. I remember. Family bonding.

Lesson Number Two in developing patience at warp speed: Keep the goal in mind instead of the frustrating and sometimes ridiculous circumstances involved in getting there. Utilize these words while under stress: it will be worth it. It will be worth it. It will be worth it. Try to unclench your teeth.

After a briskly cold walk around the area in search of appropriate restaurants, my husband darts into a narrow door, chats quietly with the bartender and returns with information about a different place, and waves his arm in the general direction. The young adults cross their arms over their chests, throw a ‘this is ridiculous’ look at each other, and reluctantly follow. I am smiling to myself, because I know my husband is the ultimate problem-solver, and if anyone can find a great restaurant in the midst of a raucous crowd, he can.

And he does. Not only did this place have great food and atmosphere, there was an incredible view of the Harbor. A few smiles appear on the kids’ faces. Murmuring dwindles into nothingness.

Lesson Number Three in developing patience at warp speed: If you don’t keep your mouth shut when frustrated you will probably say things you regret, which will be embarrassing and you may have to apologize to a bunch of people afterward.

So I guess the moral of the story is this: to develop patience at warp speed, pack a small car with several of your grown children and head to the tourist district in an incredibly busy city; then drive frantically over cobblestone streets and pass up several perfectly good parking spots before arrival at a restaurant where seating is unavailable. To add to the learning curve, you might circle the block several times, nearly mowing down pedestrians at each corner.

Or not.

I think in the future I will allow my patience to develop a little more slowly.

Spring Forward, Clean Backward

Spring cleaning is a ritual I have never embraced.

At any given time, I own maybe four cleaning products. Ajax, Fantastick, Windex and Pine-Sol. Periodically I relent and buy Scrubbing Bubbles. I have found that these work for virtually everything. Ajax has grit in it to scrape stuff off, and Pine-Sol reeks of clean, earthy pine scent and thus covers any unidentifiable odors that may linger long after I have avoided (oops, I mean overlooked) a good scrubbing of something. Windex is for the glass stuff, and Fantastick wipes off grease. What else do I need?

Cleaning floors, for me, ranks right up there with plunging a toilet. No matter how much time I spend mopping, I just end up moving the dirt around. I have utilized a rag mop dipped in hot, soapy, water, wrung out and swab-ready. I have danced with a sponge mop featuring a cute little lever that allowed me to discard excess moisture by squeezing the handle, thereby avoiding any contact with water or mop head. My most recent exercise in futility is defined as “Swiffer” whereby one spends many excess and unnecessary dollars on a disposable mop concept that is amazingly reminiscent of baby wipes on a stick, only drippier. I have little respect for the Swiffer, but a lot of respect for the guys making tons of money off the concept.

I have come to the conclusion that a damp towel and a dry towel are the answer to everything. First, I dampen slightly one end of the towel. Then I carefully spy out areas in the room that are dusty, stained or well-trodden. I rub offending area vigorously, and quickly switch to dry end of towel for maximum cleanliness. I repeat activity if first application does not achieve desired result. Floors, walls, countertops, pianos…all have responded well to this treatment. Even cats, although mine got downright irritable when I tried to wash his face with a damp towel and he ran away before I could use the dry end.

Unfortunately, my one-towel-fits-all approach to housecleaning does not work on windows.

I actually believe windows have little demons in them that cackle every time I approach with a paper towel. It is my very own endless hell. I start out with a perfectly clean and innocent roll of paper towels and spray the obscured surface with glass cleaner. Wipe. On to next section. Wipe. On to next section. Repeat. Whereupon the nightmare begins. I reluctantly glance sideways at my initial efforts, and IT LOOKS WORSE THAN IT DID BEFORE I STARTED.

I am not one of these.

I have given this task to my husband, who actually appears to enjoy cleaning windows, and he does not mind if they look worse than when he started.

Some women are gifted to create sparkling, pristine home environments, and I have accepted the fact that I am not one of them. I have other talents, skills and abilities, and as I reluctantly scour a bathtub or shower, I console myself with the fact that not every woman is a domestic goddess.

However, I need to seriously consider replenishing my towel supply. They are looking pretty ragged.

The Original Posers

I have always thought “pose” a nice word; firm, artistic, even stately. For instance, one poses for a photograph. One poses to model clothing, or to be captured artistically. Posing, to me, brings to mind ballerinas waiting to be painted by Degas, or Leonardo squinting at his Mona Lisa, paintbrush aloft and palette at the ready.

A few years ago, my kids started using the word “poser.” Being the inquisitive and sharp-witted person that I am, I quickly picked up on the sarcastic nuance. Further scrutiny revealed that “poser” meant one who pretends to be something he is not.

Okay.

So I kind of got used to that. Even used the word once in a while.

But last Thursday changed everything. I think I stumbled over the roots of this word when I accidentally took a yoga class.

I went to the gym anticipating an interval-cardio class, but I’d looked at the wrong class schedule. The class about to begin was called “Bodyflow” which is actually yoga with a few other things thrown in that I cannot pronounce. At first glance, I found it included mats and bare feet.

I decided to participate, because I had already spent significant time preparing for the gym and did not want to have to do it all over again the next day, and so with a huff of irritation, I untied my shoes and pulled them off along with my cute little Nike socks and threw them in a pile against the wall. I really do not like the whole concept of a workout that makes me take off my shoes, but if I wanted to work out in the time frame I had allotted I had no choice.

Such is life.

I mentally shook myself and gave my attitude a lecture about holding plans loosely and letting go of expectations and tried to ignore the fact that the guy behind me looked like an emaciated, wizened prune and the women appeared quite granola-esque and comfortable in bare feet. Everyone seemed hushed and expectant. The lights dimmed.

I am thinking, why are the lights dimming? Then I noticed the music. Very new age-y with undertones of Chinese water lilies. Or maybe Japanese water lilies. Actually I found out the undertones are attributable to Indian water lilies. Yoga originated in India in 3000 B.C. and is defined as: the process of union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness; a precursor to Hinduism and Buddhism. (See http://www.tibetanlife.com)

My exercise routine goes back as far as Jane Fonda and Jazzercise, which are two very different workout streams, but the point is I am comfortable with lots of upbeat music, yelled and chirpy encouragement from the instructor, and rapid, pounding, dance moves. Even though these types of exercise classes are outdated, they were responsible for an enviable level of personal fitness, and I still cling to them.

I am completely unacquainted with the process of individual and universal consciousness having anything to do with my fitness level, so a question mark hovered above my head upon entering the yoga arena.

The music wafted eerily through the darkened room, which put me more in the mood for a massage than a workout. The instructor, eyes half-closed, arched both arms upward, hands tilted in prayer and drawn down in front of the chest. We repeated this in different variations for approximately 20 minutes. In my head I heard “Ommmmmm,” or whatever it is that is chanted in India on those prayer mats. Then it got harder. We were told to perform the Tree Pose. I am thinking, tree?

I am sure the entire workout world knows about yoga and its accompanying poses, but I have been a holdout until last week. I had no idea what a Tree Pose meant.

The instructor drew a foot up the side of one leg and held it firmly against her knee. The Tree Pose. I wobbled a little, but I managed to become a rather respectable tree. Then we were told to perform the “Downward-Facing Dog Pose.” I am thinking, who comes up with these names? I had never seen a dog pose this way. I had actually never seen ANYthing pose this way, except maybe in the game “Twister.” I obligingly threw my head upside down, planted my hands on the floor and thrust my hindquarters high into the air. I am wondering what the wizened prune-guy behind me was thinking. Then I realized he was wheezing so hard he probably was not paying attention to anything but his own Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Lung-Impaired version.

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Then we were told to whoosh one leg forward and plant a foot under our chins, thereby accomplishing a lunge, which I do not think constitutes a pose, but I am not sure. From the lunge position we were supposed to smoothly transition into the Warrior Pose. This pose roughly resembles a mother with outstretched arms between two young children desperately trying to keep them from scratching each other’s eyes out.

Warrior Pose

At one point we were all wobbling mightily on one leg while attempting to stretch the other straight out in front of us, and then cross it over the knee on the other side. I was pretty pitiful at this. Each pose was held indefinitely, and I noticed a lot of red faces, muffled grunting and heavy breathing during this stage.

People enjoy this?

When we finally got to lie on our backs on our mats, though, I was masterful. The “Happy Baby Pose” was easy and I pictured my kids as babies doing the very same thing. I almost sucked my thumb. The “Lotus Pose” was totally a breeze for me, too. This pose was basically sitting, Indian-style. Made me wonder about lotuses. Loti. Whatever.

There is a huge amount of time to wonder about stuff during a yoga experience.

I find this quite hilarious to write about, because names of the poses are too delicious to be ignored. For instance: Half-Moon Pose (This pose is for men who have, unfortunately, developed a huge paunch. It is performed standing, hands on top of said paunch with woeful gaze downward at their own personal half moon); Half-Frog Pose (Are these frogs cut in half? Are they standing on one leg? And more importantly, is this where frog legs come from?); Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Lord of the Fishes? Seriously? Is a Lord of the Fishes a whale? If not, what is a Lord of the Fishes and why is there only half of one?); Corpse Pose (I thought exercise was geared to prevent the premature occurrence of this pose, but what do I know?); Cow Face Pose (the pose for really, really ugly people); Reclining Big Toe Pose (I did not know that big toes actually…um…reclined, but I would certainly like to see this phenomenon); Noose Pose (Wow! Did this originate in the Wild West? I mean, think about it…there would be no westerns without hangings); Firefly Pose (the pose for the young at heart and accompanied by a quart jar with holes punched in the lid)…I could go on. The list of poses is quite lengthy, but I am seriously over-posed at this point.

I am suspicious of an entire discipline dedicated to posing. Maybe I have become jaded.

Wise ole' Yoda from Star Wars

The wizened prune guy approached me after class and demonstrated how to properly perform a Warrior Pose.Then he told me I should buy a yoga mat, as I cannot be a tree and other assorted landscape items or creatures without this type of mat. I smiled, thanked him for the instruction and headed for the door. He followed me eagerly, like Yoda with yoga wisdom, sniffing a potential convert. I finally made it out of the gym, wiping sweat off my brow and glancing over my shoulder. I hopped in my car and zoomed away before he decided to demonstrate the Cow Face Pose at my window.

I do not think my individual consciousness should unite with universal consciousness. I am not sure what a universal consciousness is, but I am pretty certain it has something to do with frogs and fireflies and trees and dogs and lotus. Loti. Whatever.

I’ll stick to cardio and strength training, and let the Yoda people get up close and personal with yoga.

Besides, I do not think I have much in common with people who actively pursue a Corpse Pose.