Friday, December 16, 2011

Common Denominators - Impatience & Intolerance.

For me, these two character defects are closely linked. Intolerance leads to impatience. When I'm not being convinced by intolerance that I know better how someone should think, feel, or behave, I've got endless patience. Conversely, when I'm feeling impatient, it's because I'm viewing another person through a lens of intolerance, and deciding that, measured against my standards of behavior, they fall short.

I was told by a sponsor, that whenever I would exclaim "I'd never do that!" I was demonstrating  intolerance. I remember sitting thinking to myself that "all I was doing" was pointing out that my choices were vastly superior to those of the person against whom I was comparing myself. At some point, perhaps after repeated reminders, I vocalised this thinking. And was, as I was so often at the beginning, supremely annoyed to see my sponsor fighting a smile, as she explained that it was somewhat arrogant to describe my choices as "vastly superior."

I've been asked by sponsees how I can describe myself as filled with self-loathing, when I was such an arrogant little snot individual. My arrogance was driven by insecurity, a secret belief that I was "not enough." Not tall enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not rich enough. My car, clothes, house, none of these were expensive enough. Absolutely nothing in my life was enough. The only thing which ever escaped this incessant measuring-and-falling-short, was my dog. The dogs I've had through the years, were, to me, perfectly beautiful, and perfectly loving.

I had big dogs back then, not mini dachshunds, as I do today, but I've learned that the size of the canine package matters not, even the smallest of them have that amazing dog capacity for love; I think a dog is one of God's greatest gifts. I'd sit on the floor, hugging my dog, and my heart would swell with love and gratitude. I'd walk behind my dog through the woods, or beside the ocean, and feel a grateful contentment in that moment, long before I could identify that feeling.

I had what I once heard described in an open AA meeting as, "low-to-no self-esteem." The only way for me to deal with this, was to pretend first to myself, and then to others around me, that I was superior. I hid in plain sight, since the only person I managed to convince of this was myself - it seems as though it's fairly easy to identify low self-esteem in other people.

So, sneering at the choices of other people was the only way that I could feel a modicum of good feeling about who I was. But that passed off so quickly that I was always trying to find another way in which I could feel better than, superior, far above in knowledge, taste, attitudes, yada yada yada.

Intolerance led to impatience. Impatience tells me that I am being intolerant. And intolerance is never driven by a good feeling, a happy feeling. So when I feel impatient, I've learned to step back from the moment, detach, and ask myself, "What's going on? Am I hungry, angry, lonely, tired? If none of those apply,  what's lurking behind the impatience/intolerance? What am I not dealing with, elsewhere in my life?" 

It's never about the person cutting in front of me in traffic, or elbowing me out of the way to grab the last item on sale, or snatching away the precise head of lettuce I was aiming to get, or being rude in any one of the myriad ways of which we humans are capable. When I'm in a state of serenity, I can let that rudeness slide right on by, and just - notice it, without an accompanying rush of hot feelings. In serenity, I can wave them in front of me, get that lettuce for them; I can say with a giddy delight to my friend, "Guess I wasn't meant to have one of those sale items today, let's go have coffee," I can respond to rudeness with a calm courtesy that is sincere.

My state of mind affects the way I view my world. My world doesn't change - there's still the same percentage of lunatic misguided drivers on the city streets as any other day - but I'm driving with my Higher Power's love sweetening the air in the car, and I'm at peace with the world.


  1. When I am compassionate toward myself and all my failings I have room to act compassionate toward others.
    Thanks for your reminder.

  2. Wonderful thoughts. I don't make the choice to let things go on every occasion, but I do know that I am much happier when I am in that state of serenity. I can see how human we all are and how we struggle in ways that are hard to comprehend. From that, I can see the situation much better.