Sunshine and Patience (or lack thereof)

I’ve been described as many things, but I don’t ever think that being patient was one of them. I’m not always the most self-aware person in the world, but this is something I've known about myself for as long as I can remember.

2018, watercolor and gouache.

2018, watercolor and gouache.

When I was working in corporate America, I met several people who, no matter what challenge came along, dealt with things calmly and with poise. They didn’t get flustered publicly. They were able to smile during hard times and stay patient as plans changed. If leaders didn’t provide timely feedback or timelines suddenly became shortened by three months, they'd acknowledge the inconvenience and quickly move on. They didn't flail about. They didn't get huffy. They didn't yell. They just got on with it.

In a review once, I was told that I wore my heart on my sleeve. There’s a whole other post and painting coming from that, but at the time I honestly didn’t know what to think of the feedback. At first, I took it as a good thing, but I quickly realized that’s not how it was meant. If I was upset, people knew it. If I was happy, people knew it. Every emotion played across my face, in my body language, and often in my tone or my words. I tried to maintain professionalism, but I think I failed more often than not. I was many things, but patient and non-emotional? Nope.

As I reflect back on my childhood, I don’t recall moments where adults took the time to sit me down and talk to me about stuff. You know, like in TV shows where the adult sits the kid down and talks to them in a way that allows the life lesson to stick like barbecue sauce. I’m sure that someone tried to do that with me, but honestly, I just remember that when someone did something wrong in our house there was a lot of yelling.

Speaking of TV shows, I am a child of 70’s and 80’s family sitcoms. I was raised on a healthy diet of The Cosby Show, Facts of Life, Different Strokes, The Brady Bunch, Family Ties and Growing Pains. Maybe those life-changing conversations only happened in those neatly packaged 30-minute episodes and not in real life. Even still, I admired how the parents could impart so much wisdom to their kids in a way that those fictional children seemed to get. I also admired that most adults, other than Mrs. G (who was always wigging out), never really lost their shit. I was particularly fond of the Brady’s and Keaton’s brand of parenting. They had emotions, but they always kept their cool. Even when kids threw balls in the house, or their eldest grew up to be… a Republican. They never lost it.

Here I am now – some 20 years later, reflecting on how Alex P. Keaton and Bobby Brady would drive their parents insane, but somehow Carol, Mike, Elyse, and Steven all held it together. Mike didn’t always have good days at the architecture firm but he didn't come home and take it out on Jan or Cindy. No, he didn’t. I remember when his boss was giving him a hard time about something and then the kids lost his blueprints. If that had been me, I would have lost my mind and there would have been yelling aplenty. Elyse Keaton had a little bit more of an edge about her and there were plenty of times were Mallory or Alex got under her skin, but I feel like she always managed to hold it together and never had to leave the house so she wouldn’t murder people.

Last night, I did not have one of my finer parenting moments. I totally lost my shit and I had to go sit in the car to cool down. I was not proud of myself. I do not like yelling. Or screaming. But there I was - in full on crazy yelling mode. Not pretty. My wife was out of town, so she got her favorite kind of phone call - the one where I am in tears. She said the perfect things to get me to calm down and to help me forgive myself so that I could deal with the situation more appropriately, but the damage was already done. Those shitty moments – they are sticky too. I hope to God that I create other moments and memories that are made of the sweeter kind of sticky stuff. I don’t want these negative moments to be what my daughter remembers or carries forward into her approach to parenting.

August, 2018. The child and I on a happy day of swimming.

August, 2018. The child and I on a happy day of swimming.

As I woke up this morning, I was thinking about about how I can do better. I also thought of this painting and specifically the person that inspired it. She was a co-worker of mine for about four years. She had all of those positive attributes that I mentioned above - always kept her cool, didn’t show whether or not she was flustered, but more than that - she was always kind, always had a smile on her face and always tried to help. We no longer live in the same town, but I watch her life through social media. She is raising three beautiful kids and I’m often in awe. I know that can’t be easy. I have only one tweeny, sometimes stubborn, but otherwise great child but I feel like I'm in way over my head most days.

Her kids are always dressed so cute. They have great adventures and while her life is not perfect, she always presents things in the best possible way. She finds the silver linings. You never see a negative post from her. I look back through my Facebook memories and it’s a smorgasbord of emotions. But she is just a very consistent source of light and patience. I don’t think she fakes it - it’s genuinely who she is and I admire her so much. I don’t know if she talks to her kids like Carol Brady or not, but I bet she comes close.

I’m so thankful that the fictional Brady and Keaton parents are not the only examples of patience that I have. I see it personified in so many people that I know and love. It’s a trait that I always admire in people, and it’s days like today, where I am thankful for their examples as I continue my journey of trying to be a more patient person.