Though my kids, my late mother and a husband or two might dispute it, I’m fairly patient with human beings. I do, however, have a long history of being impatient (read: a raving, slobbering maniac) with traffic jams, phone prompt hell that never results in contact with a human being (“press 1 for customer service, 2 for…”), and dealing with “blister packaging” — for which there is actually a name: “wrap rage.”
Actually, truth be told, I am not always patient with people, most notably those whose political or religious beliefs don’t match mine (like I’m the Oracle or something). Hearing an adult belittling a child lights my fuse. I’m also intolerant of intolerance — and yeah, I do see the irony.
Overall, though, I’ve learned to be patient in most instances. I didn’t get here gracefully, but life and its attendant trials and tribulations have worn my edges down a bit, given me a little more wisdom, and helped me to bring compassion and patience to moments that call for it.
For example, I recently found the grace to extend a near-heroic level of patience to… a bunch of bananas. Keep reading. I can explain.
I bought a bunch of green bananas. This was not my choice — there were no ripe ones to be had. I rummaged deep into the pile, but the entire banana display was a sea of green, as far as the eye could see. Oh, well, I thought, in a day or two they’ll blossom into bright yellow perfection. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
They sat on my kitchen counter, mocking me with their greenness. Four or five days passed, and I saw no ripening. At all. Increasingly frustrated, I found myself taking this personally: I’d brought them home, treated them lovingly, and this is their response? Don’t they know I could’ve chosen grapes or apples? And I really wish I had.
I contemplated tossing the bananas in the trash; actually picked them up and said goodbye. But something stopped me, mid-toss. I held them up, admiring their deep green color. Green to me is the color of life. I found myself murmuring a few encouraging words. A temporary stay of execution, if you will.
A couple of days later, I went to the store and bought some yellow bananas. Yet I still didn’t throw out the green ones. I was beginning to have faith in the little green guys. I wanted the best for them. I wanted them to thrive, even if I never got to eat them.
I moved them to a sunnier spot, hoping it would give them a better quality of life. Two more weeks passed. Sunrises, sunsets. Phone chats with friends. A concert, a dinner out. Enjoying ice cream with a friend. A sleepover with my granddaughter. I went to church, logged steps on my Fitbit. Did laundry. Made meals. Watched TV.
And then, more than three weeks after I bought them, the bananas became a lighter green, then acquired a slight yellowish tinge. And in another few days they were… yellow!
Patience paid off! Though I never thought I’d be schooled by a bunch of bananas, I realize that life lessons are everywhere, if I am open to seeing them. In this case, the deeper message was that, over time, I saw the bananas differently. I’m not crazy (no, really!), but it felt as if I had a relationship with the little green guys. Not as close or profound as with a lover, friend or pet, obviously, but it does seem that what we give our attention to increases in importance.
Of course, this is a double-edged sword. If we give our attention to anger or frustration (impatience, anyone?), we will grow more angry, frustrated or impatient. Have you ever held tight to uncomfortable feelings, until your annoyance turns someone into “the other,” instead of whoever they really are? I certainly have. Yet what my higher self really wants is to distill differences down to what we have in common, instead of dwelling on what divides us.
As you might imagine, it took me a while to find commonality with a bunch of green bananas. What it boils down to is that, like the bananas, I am green. I have to continue to focus on ripening, no matter how long it takes. I also found simplicity in the bananas. They don’t worry about turning yellow; they simply do it. On their own schedule.
Coming full circle, this led me to wonder what would happen if I gave just as much consideration to those pesky folks whose views don’t match mine as I gave to my bananas. Perhaps I might imagine that people who drive like snails in the passing lane might not be trying to irritate me, but instead might be ill or beset by worries.
I haven’t yet learned how to apply compassion to drivers who rush ahead to cut me off as the left lane ends. But hey, I’m not bucking for sainthood here, just trying to gradually cultivate compassion and patience. To get there, I’ll seek wisdom from all sources, no matter how humble.
Kathy Baker is a writer and speaker, a messenger of encouragement who loves to touch hearts and tickle souls with her work. She is the author of “Leaving Adversity Plaza,” and “A Tale of Three Choices: His, Hers, Mine.” She loves hearing from her readers and can be reached at [email protected].