There’s a lady in the bed opposite. She’s waiting patiently with such elegance and poise. Later today she is having surgery to remove a tumour from her brain. She’ll be awake during the operation. She’s been warned of possible complications; loss of function and changes in personality. She waits, calmly. “It’s okay for me,” she says, “this is a one-off. It’s you I feel for having an ongoing condition.”
There’s a lady in the bed alongside me. She’s been waiting for hours, days, for tests she desperately hopes will reveal answers. “I just want to know what’s wrong,” she says, jumping up every time someone approaches her bed. I don’t know what’s tormenting her more, the waiting or the unknown.
As for me, my bags are packed and I’m waiting to go home. My face lights up as I think of seeing my kitties and being in the peace and quiet of my little oasis. But here I find myself, waiting.
I was in hospital last week to work with my neuro-physiotherapist. After some intense but rewarding sessions that had seen a marked improvement in the quality of my movement, I was eager to get home and back to some normality. Unfortunately, as I’ve often experienced, organising my discharge and transport home didn’t run smoothly. As I did my best to address the situation, I was intrigued to witness the feelings that came and went. Yes, there was the expected frustration and disappointment; my muscles began to tense with annoyance and tears pooled at my eyes in a moment of resignation. But what struck me most was that I was surrounded by people who were also waiting. Watching whether we were calm and patient, or agitated and impatient, it was clear to me how these opposing states directly influenced our experiences and well-being.
In mindfulness we consider acceptance to decrease suffering, whilst resistance increases it. I couldn’t help notice the same about patience and impatience. As with acceptance, patience doesn’t have to be a passive state. In this instance I took control; I felt empowered as I asserted my needs and feelings, yet the frustration and disappointment didn’t consume me. In fact, I experienced some lovely moments during my wait. I found areas of beauty and interest in the hospital grounds, and a quiet space to meditate in. I spoke to the gardener who was clearly touched when I expressed my gratitude. I met two ladies volunteering for a charity, swapping numbers with the promise to crochet something for the poorly babies at the hospital. I bought myself a nice lunch, and of course, I made it home eventually.
Once again, I was grateful for my mindfulness practice as I know I could have responded in a very different way and had a completely different experience. I was reminded of an elderly lady I met on a previous hospital trip. Despite her desperation to get home, she quietly stated, “this is a real lesson in patience.”