Learning to be patient

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When I wrote that my word for the year would be peace, I did not expect it to be such a struggle.

“Oh, it’ll be easy,” I thought “I’ll just stop doing things and wanting things.”

Oh wow. Trying to stop yourself wanting things so much is painful. Forcing yourself to wait it out rather than doing something the moment you think it would be a good idea is hard. I’m learning to be patient.

I’ve learnt that there are two different types of wanting something. There are the things I want just so that I can want something, and then there are the things that are truly worth having.

Firstly, wanting for the sake of wanting.

I feel like I need to be changing things in my life to feel any forward momentum.

This would be okay if I was actually moving forward. But actually, what I’ve been doing up until now is a lot of moving sideways. Changing the organisation I work for without seeking a promotion or upping my game. Throwing a lot of my possessions away only to replace them with the same number of different things. Moving house because I feel stuck, only to feel stuck again as soon as I’ve unpacked.

I’m such a change junkie, that I once tried to break up with the love of my life just because I felt scared that things were getting a little boring. It’s a lot more exciting to have drama. Contentment doesn’t leave you with very many stories for the pub.

Last week, I got so excited when I saw a job advertised that I had all the experience for and was based 180 miles away in Leeds. I was ready to move a new city, life apart from my husband, make a new set of friends, all to avoid staying in Oxford and dealing with my feelings. What a crazy thing to do.

I am so nostalgic for the summer when I ended a long term relationship and lived out of a suitcase – I felt so free. I was so immersed in dealing with the day to day practicalities of my situation and always being on the move, that I didn’t have time to feel anxious.

I love it when life feels like a holiday. But that’s all it is, a holiday.

My anxiety comes with routine. But I can’t keep running from it forever. I need to learn to manage my emotions without the help of a change of scene.

This doesn’t mean never trying anything new. What it means is:

  • Not changing my entire wardrobe because I feel like I look wrong.
  • Not getting a radical hair cut when I need to feel more confident.
  • Not quit my job as soon as I feel unchallenged.

This year of peace, of learning to be patient, is about resisting these urges to change things when they get uncomfortable. It’s about sitting with that discomfort and working my way through it. It’s about getting to know myself from the inside out, without the help of outside “stuff” to create my identity. Who am I without new clothes? How can I show people that I’ve changed without looking different? Is my self-esteem high enough to do without these things?

Wanting things that are worth having

By this, I mean the things I actually want. I mean my dreams. To buy a house and fill it with beautiful things. To move somewhere we can afford to do this and start putting down roots. To study for a masters degree. To write a book. To start a family. To be inspired every day. To inspire others. To have a body of work that I’m proud of.

These things take time, they take work, and I wouldn’t want them all tomorrow anyway. But I am an incredibly impatient person, and I want to feel as though I am taking steps towards something right this minute. Long application processes frustrate me. Having to wait until I’ve saved enough money frustrates me. Having to make decisions as a partnership rather than an individual frustrates me (I mean, the benefits of this far outweigh the cons – but sometimes I miss only having myself to think about).

Now that I’m not letting myself give in to the small, superficial wants, these big desires are becoming more obvious to me. And while it’s great that my resolution not to improve or acquire is leading to greater clarity about what I really want, it’s bloody frustrating that these things feel so far away.

As I said, I’m learning to be patient.

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