Patience is the most challenging practice for me as an adult. When I was growing up, the surest way to upset my dad was to stand idly with my hands in my pockets. “It’s a sign of laziness,” he would say. “Do something!”
I now release that I was essentially taught from a very young age to do everything fast, and to do it correctly, or I would upset the “higher-ups” and suffer the consequences. Perhaps it’s natural, then, that I was drawn to working at law firms as a young adult; they are fast-paced, cold, brutal, unforgiving, demanding, and … well, a lot like boot camp!
After a decade as a paralegal and legal secretary, however, I too grew cold. Not only did I really like the directness of being told exactly what to do without any sugarcoating, I started treating others with the same level of rigidity. It was efficient, after all, and the golden rule says to “treat others the way we wish to be treated ourselves,” right?
The golden rule doesn’t apply if we ourselves want to be treated like a machine. I never understood why people couldn’t “take it like a man,” so to speak. And I can still hear my parents yelling, “I’ll give you something to cry about!” and it makes me quiver. Sadly, I ruined almost every relationship in my life because of this unbending mentality, and it was only after living in a monastery with wonderful teachers who made all the right observations that I finally understood what was going on.
I went from being abused to being abusive, not only toward others, but also toward myself. The upside to this that CHANGE IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE.
Awareness was the first step (clearly understanding why I was the way I was, and then vowing to change it), but habitual tendencies are tough to break, and changing them requires something I’d never been taught before: patience. Life is an ongoing classroom in which everyone is our teacher, and every situation contains a lesson for us to learn. It is only by first being patient with myself that I can ever learn to be patient with others.
I don’t blame my parents for raising me the way they did, it’s all they knew because they were probably raised the exact same way, and I certainly don’t blame the legal industry for operating the way it does (I’m the one who chose to be in it, after all, until I chose to get out). Some law firms, I hear, are actually moving away from that working style and implementing non-violent communication techniques in the workplace.
We make our own choices, and we pay our own prices. That’s why a few years ago, I decided to be gentle, kind, patient, understanding, loving and compassionate. Thank you for your patience.
Extract from Timber Hawkeye