Back when Dan and I were first together, he made me several mix CDs, the first in response to a mix tape I made him before we had even met in person. One on of the CDs he made me was an audio version of a comedy sketch called “Tae Kwon Leep.” In the sketch, several students are learning a martial art from a guru-type, including one named Ed Gruberman who attends the class in order to learn how to “beat people up.” I knew right away why he’d put the sketch on the mix CD, since by that point he’d already quoted from it on multiple occasions. “You must learn patience, Ed Gruberman,” says the guru-type, and Ed responds, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, patience. How long will that take?”
This is entirely a relevant thing to quote for me, because in nobody’s opinion could I ever be considered a patient person. I’m just not. It’s most obvious when I’m in the car – Dan frequently makes jokes about other drivers and what countries they must be from (and about what green lights mean in said countries) because I have such a habit of telling people in front of us that GREEN MEANS GO. There are many other occasions in which I’m noticeably impatient, particularly when it comes to punctuality. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are late. I hate it when other people are late; I hate it when I am late through no fault of my own (traffic, slowdowns in public transit, etc.). To me, being on time to an event is a matter of respect and when someone is late, I feel like they’ve disrespected me (especially if they don’t call or something to let me know they’ll be late). But it’s not just about respect, it’s also that I don’t have patience for other people to do things. I hate to wait for other people.
My impatience also comes out when it involves illness. Specifically, in the instance the illness of people I am close to, especially the person with whom I share a bed. Instead of being sympathetic, my first inclination is to be impatient. I can’t really explain it. Case in point: Dan was sick for the first week of our Italy trip, while I didn’t get sick until about 5 days in. By day 4 I was really tired of listening to him cough and sniff and watching him blow his nose. I got annoyed with myself when I ended up with the same illness, because dammit, we were in Italy and there was Stuff I Wanted To Do that both of us being sick prevented us from doing. I feel terrible about this now, but I totally made Dan hike 3 of the 5 towns of Cinque Terre on one of the two nice days we had on the trip, even though he was still really sick. I had been waiting for years to share it with him, and he gamely wheezed and coughed his way through the hike. The whole time I was feeling like STOP BEING SICK SO YOU CAN ENJOY THIS BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME. NO MORE SICK! And he was probably feeling like WHY IS SHE MAKING ME DO THIS, I FEEL LIKE POO. And then after the hours of hiking he fell down the stairs. I’m a horrible fiance.
The other night (when I originally wrote this, I wrote last night, but now it was two nights ago) Dan was sick again. Except this time, it was the kind of sick you get when you eat something bad and your digestive system revolts and decides to cause great pain and also divest itself of its contents from both ends at the same time. He was totally miserable. I felt awful, because I couldn’t do anything for him. He told me later that he was up six times in the night, but I only remember once so I must have slept through most of his ordeal. At one point, I was reading out loud to him in bed because I thought it might help take his mind off his misery, and he started to cough. Then he coughed some more. Instead of thinking to myself, oh, poor guy has to cough on top of feeling so awful, I thought to myself, STOP COUGHING WHEN I AM TRYING TO READ TO YOU BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HEAR ME IF YOU ARE COUGHING. When I asked him why he didn’t try to alleviate the cough by drinking some of the water on his bedside table, he told me that he didn’t want to put anything else in his stomach. Duh, Emily. I felt so bad for him, and was really angry at myself for being annoyed that he was coughing rather than being sympathetic and trying to make him more comfortable.
As I lay in bed awake after he’d fallen asleep, I started to think about why it is that I have so little patience for illness, particularly the illness of the person I love most, the person I am lucky enough to be marrying in just over six weeks (SIX WEEKS AAAAHHHH!!). It came to me that when it comes to injury, I know how to help. I can clean and bandage a deep cut, pull out a splinter, massage away a charlie horse or a bad sinus headache. But a cough? Vomiting? A runny nose? There’s absolutely nothing I can do, and I hate the way that makes me feel. I hate feeling helpless in a situation. I think it’s the same for many of the instances of my impatience, because I am the most impatient in situations where I have the least amount of control. I really should be channeling that into constructive energy rather than wasting it on being annoyed with the person who is sick. Everyone has faults, and this is one of mine. I hearby resolve to work on it. Next time we’re stopped behind a bunch of people at a green light, I’m going to think about something else. And next time Dan gets sick, I’m going to do my best to help him feel better rather than get annoyed with the situation, because it’s not his fault either.