Can you catch impatience? Is there a cure?


I was born nine days early, but not because my mom went into labor naturally. See, I was due on December 25 and my mom decided that she would not be in the hospital on or around Christmas. And so, since there was no sign that I might come early, she decided to shovel snow. And sure enough, I responded to her impatience ­­ and the intense physical activity ­­ and made my entry into the world. We were all home for Christmas.

I wonder if I caught my impatience in the womb? Is this why I am perpetually early? I’ve spent countless moments in life looking at my watch or the clock on the wall. Moments I could have been enjoying the scenery or otherwise living. But in those moments, my impatience got the best of me.

I get impatient about more than time. I get impatient if someone doesn’t “get” a concept as quickly as I expect or if someone tells a rambling story in a meeting or if the person who packs my groceries puts a hard item on top of a soft item. Why do I get so impatient so often?

I was raised to believe that it’s better to be early than to be late. And before I was able to drive myself to social functions, my parents were sure that I arrived in advance. I was once early to a junior high dance. I was to meet my friend, who said she’d be there around 8. My parents made me arrive at 7:30, right when the dance started. It was a mash­up dance of multiple schools so I didn’t know many other kids. I spent the first 30 minutes trying to look as busy as a 7th grader can look at a dance when not dancing. I used the restroom. I reapplied my Bonne Bell Lip Smacker. I took walks for drinks of water. I looked at art in the hallways. And when it was finally 8 p.m., I spent the next 10 minutes watching the clock and the door of the gym, just waiting for my friend to arrive. She was clearly late!

As an adult, I am much more comfortable being in a public place on my own. I have books to read, social media to scan, Ms. Pac Man to play. And I really don’t mind being early so I can snag a table or stool before the crowd pours into the bar or so I can have the exact perfect seat in the movie theater. Now, I don’t expect others to play along with my various arrive­early habits but now someone can text or call if they’re running late, which allows me to reset my expectations. Phew, one whole set of impatience triggers eliminated!!

But what about the other things? I may have inherited my impatient nature or caught it in the womb, but I’m working to be more patient, more understanding, and less judgemental. Here are a few things I try:

When someone doesn’t get a concept, I ask myself and that person, “what can I do differently or better to help?” This gives me a problem to solve and takes the focus away from my impatience. When someone gets off track in a meeting and takes us on a tangent, I try to remember that I respect the person, that she or he adds value, and that I might learn something new if I tune out my impatience and listen.

When I start to feel impatience creeping in when an older relative starts to ask me questions about their iPhone or Kindle, I remember that these moments are precious ­­ and that the person who needs my help has helped me countless times during my life.

Now, impatience in public places? That person who stands in the train door? Or the one who stands on the left side of the escalator? Or the one who tries to enter the elevator before other people exit? I haven’t figured out how to tackle that just yet ­­ I’m only human!! What tactics do you use to dial down your impatience?

– Bobbi Russell

About Bobbi
Bobbi records custom birthday greetings using her friends’ favorite songs, can make one hell of a pivot table and is exceptionally serious about dog costumes. You can frequently find her with green, blue or purple streaks in her hair and you can reach her here.

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