90 Day Challenge: Day 19 – Patience

The three grades of patience are: Lowest: to bear difficulties without interior complaint, Middle: to use hardships to make progress in virtue, Highest: to desire the cross and afflictions for Christ’s love, to have something to offer up, and to accept them with spiritual joy. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

Until I read this morning’s “Challenge” meditation, I never knew there were three degrees of patience.  Lord help me, I have enough trouble just keeping the garden variety, every day definition of it! I.e. “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.” ( Dictionary.com)

I don’t know if irritability is genetic or not, but I can tell you there is a strain of irascibility that definitely runs in the Johnston blood-line (Johnston being the maternal side of my family; not to be confused with my married name Johnson.)

While I have the vaguest of memories of my great-grandfather Robert, you can see in his high bridged nose and paper-thin lips a countenance that brooked little opposition.

I remember that same trait present in my Great Aunt, Mickey, and her brothers, including the “father who raised me;” my grandfather, Elmer.

I even experienced it with my birth mother, Jo Ann, on those few occasions in adulthood we spent time together.

I will never forget a Christmas at my sister’s house in Texas.  I was just dozing off to sleep when Jo Ann barged into the bedroom, yanked one of the two pillows out from under my head and said “so and so doesn’t have a pillow,” then marched out of the room.

As a woman in my forties, I was aghast that I hadn’t been politely asked if I would give up a pillow for someone instead of being treated like a child without the will to resist parental exercise.

It was a full on display of the Johnston, bull-in-a-China shop, “I alone can solve this” attitude of impatience for a situation more peaceably resolved with a bit of cooperation from others.

I always recognize in others the things I am most guilty of inside myself.  And as my birth mother would search out all the similarities between us when we spent time together, so I search them out in the presence of my own son.

God bless him, I definitely see the Johnston in him from time to time, especially during times of problem solving.  It does not matter what he has never confronted before, in his mind he should be able to perfectly execute a solution right away.  God help you if you offer a suggestion.

My impatience in my own nature comes out when I feel pressed into doing things against my will that I am too timid to say “no” to doing.  So I do them, but if I know you well enough, I do them with a lack of grace and impatience that is clearly displayed.

Yesterday was a prime example as I stood impatiently in line to make a return at Target.

There were obviously two clerks on return aisle duty, but one of them swooped around tidying product rather than wait on the line of customers forming because the other clerk was struggling to assist the customer before me.

I could say in my defense I wasn’t feeling my best, but my irritability at being ignored became evident enough that the swooping clerk finally walked up to a second register to assist.

”I’m sorry,” she said, “but they really don’t want me waiting on customers.” (I’m sorry, I thought, but in what universe does a store think lack of customer service is a good policy?)

Then she had trouble identifying which items of cat food I was returning because yesterday I had bought a mix, and the clerk rang them up as if they were all similar in kind.

I explained my 16-year-old cat is having kidney failure and being very fussy about what she will and won’t so I have to search for new flavors every few weeks to keep her interested in eating and weight on her already tiny frame.

”Oh, are you giving her plenty of water?” The clerk innocently asked.

”Of course I am!” I exploded as I impatiently walked off with my refund to purchase more of the type of food the cat today was willing to eat.

I felt ashamed of myself later and was reminded of that jokey prayer: God give me patience, and give it to me NOW!

I have 72 days left in this 90 Day Challenge of spiritual, exercise and diet regimen.

If I can better develop a virtue of patience in any of its three degrees, it will evidently be a miracle of biology indeed.

“My brothers, when you have fallen into various trials, consider everything a joy, knowing that the proving of your faith exercises patience, and patience brings a work to perfection, so that you may be perfect and whole, deficient in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) 


Great-grandfather Robert Johnston

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