Switchbacks: The gift nobody wants to give but everyone needs

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by Ryan
Wyo4News feature writer

We have a large family but most of our children are grown and out on their own. Family can be very chaotic at times. I should also mention that a few of them were kind of dramatic. So, I’ve had lots of experience with peaceful moments that escalated to pure chaos in a flash.

I may not have mentioned it, but I don’t handle drama well. I enjoy my peace, and I want everyone to get along. You might be surprised to discover that I often do not get what I want.

That’s where the gift alluded to in the article’s title comes into play.

In the past, a rise in chaos was met with a higher level of force. That force might be a stern look, a bark, or an all-out war over the dinner table. 

Don’t look shocked. You know your dinner table has been a war zone before.

I’ve observed that these wars don’t break out all the time. Conflict only breaks out when people get together.  As long as we don’t spend any time together, we’re fine. If we don’t get a chance to talk to or text each other, no problem; we get along fine. But it’s hard to be a family at a distance.

So, here is the gift that has to be given to get through life, reunions, family dinners, and the holidays.

Patience. There, I said it.

Submitted photo

I have had people tell me, “I am praying for patience.” I’m aghast for two reasons. First, why would you pray for misery? Second, it won’t matter.  Lessons in patience are part of the base operating system of life.

The Film, Evan Almighty, contains an appropriate question. “When you ask God to give you patience, does He give you patience? Or, Does He give you opportunities to practice being patient?” 

I bet you know the answer to that one.

Patience is not one of my strengths, but here are a few ways I have practiced it over the years.

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Washing Dishes.

When it gets too loud and chaotic, I like to find something to do. I like doing dishes. (No, I am not volunteering to do yours.) I find that bringing order to something helps me order my inner world.

So, when I don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to help, I simply busy myself with something I can do. 

I can’t help my red versus blue family members agree. I can’t resolve my struggling child’s trials and troubles. I can’t fix gas prices, tax increases, or the spread of the flu. But I can do the dishes. 

That helps me keep my mouth shut. Keeping my mouth shut is the most patient thing I can do. Believe it or not, very few people care about my opinion on these matters. And, I believe you can either have good relationships or you can be right. You choose. I choose to have the best family and friendships possible. Learning when to be patient and silent has helped me a lot. 

Deference. (And, naps, I like naps)

This may come as a surprise, but there is a lot I don’t know. In fact, of all that could be known in the grand universe, I know very little. I doubt that what I know would even register on a scale or as a percentage by comparison. And the truth is that what I do know has been colored by the life I have lived, the values I hold, and the beliefs I cherish. I say this because it is this humility that allows me to wait and see.

I love deference. I discovered it several years ago. When I realized that I always have the power to defer a choice or decision, it presented a new way to live. It helped with the stress of quick decisions and allowed me the time I needed to feel much better about my choices.

So, when someone says or does something I disagree with, I can back off and wait. I can defer. Maybe they are right. Maybe they are wrong. We’ll wait and see. In the meantime, I think I’ll take a nap. Napping makes it much easier to be patient. 

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Observation.

The last thing I have come to enjoy and that helps me with my patience is observation. I have always been a people watcher, but nowadays, I’ve leveled up. When anxiety begins to rise, I spend more time observing what is happening. When in observation mode, I can better seek understanding. And, I can notice that the people that I love, who are expressing high emotions, need something. Maybe I can figure that out and help. 

Noticing people also helps me care about them.

You will likely need to give someone some patience this very day. I hope these ideas will help. We could slow down, take the time to understand, and, when possible, give people what they need.  That is a healthy path toward great relationships.

Peace,

Ryan

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