I don’t have any. This is a problem for me. Daily. I start the day impatient with the coffee machine. I end the day impatient that I can’t fall asleep instantly. Yes, I know. I am not a Zen person.
In retrospect, I have always been short on patience. My childhood memory of waiting for my parents to collect me from school or some other activity still cause me angst, especially as my parents are a little lax with time. Hence, my preference was to do things solo and in my own prompt pace. Obviously parts of my personality could be labeled type A.
Relief from impatience arrived during my university days. Maintaining impatience when everyone around you is chilling out, hanging with friends, listening to music and drinking beer – is really difficult. This cure stayed with me for years.
Post graduation I became more focused and with some lucky breaks, was able to attain a satisfying, albeit short-lived, career in mental health. My newly acquired patience enabled me to work with clients slow on telling their stories and understanding their reality. Better still, having patience meant that I could sit through innumerable, mind-paralyzing meetings without pulling off my fingernails or stabbing colleagues with a pen.
Time moved on, and these wage-earning days were terminated by marriage and subsequent relocation to an unfamiliar country. Just as my suitcase was finally ready to be stored, I discovered I was pregnant. Undoubtedly, having the luxury to experience pregnancy and motherhood unencumbered by the necessity to go to work each day – is not something to complain about. Yet as my former self transformed into wife and mother, my patience began to dwindle. Long days at home without mental or social stimulation, had me longing for something to reignite my intellect and rediscover my former self before becoming a parent and spouse.
Five years on, I returned to my home country with my husband and our brood of three young children. Being desperate that like my breasts, my brain would never return to its former glory (working capacity) state, I located suitable childcare and a part-time job. The focus (and stress) of reestablishing myself within the workforce and catching up on new developments provided the mental stimulation needed to calm my anxiety levels. My patience returned. Again I could work effectively with my clients; survive the drudgery of meetings; and return home with a renewed appreciation and love for my family. My sense of life satisfaction was comfortably hanging in the black.
It is time for my second confession. I am addicted to change. I especially love the challenge that comes with larger changes – like moving to countries foreign in both culture and language.
Yes, the opportunity to deconstruct our familiar, satisfying life and to jump feet first into the unknown arose. We grabbed it. I figured that now I had the experience necessary to allow me to maintain my own sense of satisfaction in this new life. My first focus was to ensure that each member of the family was ‘sorted and settled’, and then I would move onto myself. So what happened? The obvious: another baby, a beautiful little girl that we adopted. Again my life became hectic with just the commitments of being a parent to four kids. I squeezed in a Masters degree, charity and committee membership, and a small teaching job. And then we were transferred to another country for twelve months. And then transferred to a new continent…
It has been 15 years of changes. Everyday I still feel the impatience of not reaching a potential that I crave, yet can’t clearly identify. My lack of patience could be interpreted by a lack of acceptance of the traditional role of wife and mother. I agree with this, but it does sting. I prefer to think of it as the expat partner phenomena. Expat partners tend to be well-educated, professional people – who join their partners on an adventure to live internationally, but who are not able to realize their professional potential in this new life due to various factors, including responsibility to raise children. For most women, becoming a stay-at-home mother did not make it into the top ten of personal goals we set ourselves.
Next move? For me, there are no more babies or planned international relocations on the horizon. The kids are settled and I have learnt enough of the local language to do what I need to do without looking too foolish. Returning to my previous career is not an option. The local system doesn’t have a place for me, and I don’t have enough enthusiasm to hassle the system to make me a place. Mental stimulation comes via observing and writing. Luckily I don’t need to support myself – or this would not be an option. Impatience is now triggered by a lack of time to sit and type, uninterrupted. It comes from internal struggle I have to create a new self-identity. With perseverance, hopefully my patience will return and I will be satisfied with my life, wherever it is based.