Patience does not mean biding your time and trying to slow down. Impatience arises when you become too sensitive and you don’t have any way to deal with your environment, your atmosphere. You feel very touchy, very sensitive. So patience is often described as a suit of armor. Patience has a sense of dignity and forbearance. You are not so easily disturbed by the world’s aggression.
—Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chögyam Turnip
When I am happy and content and feeling safe, I have deep reserves of patience. I think my children are hysterical, and I let them dawdle and be silly and make messy mistakes and bad fart jokes. I overlook the fingerprints on the fridge and the latest gouges on the dining room table. I can laugh with them and defuse trouble before it starts.
Like the other day when both children were packing for our upcoming California vacation, and we were all having fun until one child tripped over the other child’s suitcase and then fell on the second child, and both kids toppled over, first kid howling in pain and second child screaming in outrage. Both children were tangled up on top of the open suitcase.
I started laughing and helped them both up fast, telling them that they didn’t need to get to California that fast. (Okay, I’ve learned you don’t need to be particularly clever or witty when defusing a situation with kids. But I was rewarded when they started laughing too, and then I read a book to them, my eight-year-old daughter sprawled across my lap, her brother listening across the room as he flipped through Kids Sports Illustrated magazine in his bunk bed. Our home was calm and happy.
But on other days, when the pressure rises around here, everything changes. All in a sudden, I’ll find out that my ex-husband filed yet another Motion against me – like this week, a Motion to block our annual vacation. Or I’ll look down at my phone and see that he is demanding to switch the visitation schedule and claiming I agreed to it. Or my attorneys tell me that he is refusing to pay the entire spousal support. And then I feel the pressure rising in the center of my chest, radiating through my body. It’s a powerful force, one that makes my heart beat irregularly, and it’s unstoppable. A few times it’s settled into migraines; more often it’s terrible neck aches and huge knots in my back that perplex even the most experienced masseuses. But worse, it always makes me tingle in fear, my entire body sensitive to sound and touch.
And that’s how I lose my suit of armor. My ex-husband’s aggression, his narcissism, his sociopathy becomes too much for me to take, and I feel raw and jumpy and adrenaline-filled. I’m scared. And this is when my patience fails me every time. This is when I can’t reach deep down and find a funny thing to say. Or even a nice thing to say. Or when I can’t let go and relax. And I can’t even begin to live in the moment.
We all lose our patience sometimes. In my case, I need to build my suit of armor until my crazy ex-husband’s attacks no longer affect me. I don’t need to slow down; I can handle the day-to-day pressures of my life. Rather, I need to build a wall around me – a big, thick, padded wall between me and my ex-husband’s toxicity and aggression. I cannot let myself be so disturbed by another person’s attacks. Not anymore. I need to build my suit of armor because this divorce has taken too much time. My ex has taken too many years from me already. He can no longer matter so much, because my children and I have long and joyful lives in front of us.
And a trip to sunny California, despite all the threats and noise and attacks and drama.
When I return, I’ll put my suit of armor back on and deal with whatever he has waiting for me.