Somewhere around the main course, our lovely dinner party experienced a minor hiccup.
My girlfriend told us that a change in career and lifestyle had made her a more patient, happy person. I could see the transformation for myself. She really was calmer and more content than she used to be.
I could relate, I said, having gone through a similar metamorphosis. Once restless and tremendously impatient, age had chilled me out, and my outlook was now far more laid-back, easy-going, and—dare I say— patient.
A grating chuckle came from beside me. I turned to my husband and shot him a look.
“You’ve got to be joking,” Mike said, the corners of his mouth dipping just a bit.
I smiled, or tried to. In reality, it was probably a smirk at most.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart, but you’re not patient. In fact, you get impatient just saying the word patient.”
ME? Not patient? I was about to lose it.
Thankfully, I caught myself, realized this wasn’t the time or place, and quickly changed the subject. The rest of the dinner was amazing, and we had a great evening with some old friends.
But as I lay in bed that night, I couldn’t get Mike’s words out of my head. Maybe I was in denial. As much as I wanted to believe he was wrong, he really does know me better than anybody, and maybe there was some truth to what he said. Right?
No. No way. He had no idea what he was talking about. What about the patience required to be married to him, or to refrain from smothering him with my pillow right there on the spot?
His chest rose and fell with peaceful serenity. What do you know about patience, I thought, and waited for sleep to come….
Okay, let me spoil the ending: Mike was right.
And little did I know, I was about to learn a hard lesson in patience.
Day one. My education began with a dull ache throbbing through my body. Everything hurt. Every inch of skin, every strand of hair.
Alarm bells started going off, and all I could think was, not now. Please, not now. Work was insanely busy, and illness was a luxury I couldn’t afford.
I popped a couple of Tylenol and got back to work. I wasn’t sick, and that was that.
But whatever was percolating in my body that afternoon, it was impervious to both Tylenol and denial, and by the time I was ready to head home, I could no longer ignore it.
Gripped by feverish chills and covered in a sheen of cold sweat, I gave in that day and went to bed. Everything would be fine in the morning, I thought.
Day two, three, and four were a complete blur. The flu had violently invaded my body, and I had no choice but to wave the white flag and surrender. The only thing that gave me comfort was the thought that surely this misery would be over soon.
An entire box of Kleenex, two boxes of Neo-Citron, and what felt like hundreds of Tylenol later, I awoke on the fifth day feeling a little better.
Most people would have taken this day to just to rest and relax, maybe watch a movie or read a book, happy just to be awake and upright.
Not me. I got up, showered, and went for brunch with Mike. I even posted an Instagram photo mocking whatever illness I’d just been through. See this, Flu? I’m having a great time and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you don't like it, you can unfollow me.
Clearly my actions offended the universe in some way, because by day six I was back on the couch, shivering and delirious once and again.
Day seven and eight: Terrible.
Day nine: I actually started to feel a lot better. Was that a light I saw at the end of the tunnel, or a hallucination caused by delirium? I still had the nagging cough, but I felt like I was on the mend. Salvation was on its way.
Over the next few days, I told everyone I was feeling much better. I said it and said it until I started to believe it myself. Until I even started to feel it. The power of positivity, am I right, my army?
Day thirteen was actually alright, all things considered.
But when I woke up on day fourteen with the same old fever, chills, and congestion, I was furious with myself. How could I let this happen? When the hell was this going to be over? I’d had enough.
Again, where most people might take this as a sign and rest, I still hadn’t learned my lesson.
By day sixteen things were out of hand. I was deathly ill again, worse than ever, but for some reason decided to try going to work again.
I barely made it through the day, and on my way home that night I finally decided it was time to see the doctor.
The diagnosis: walking pneumonia. I was prescribed antibiotics and complete bed rest.
It was a serious and scary matter, but all I felt was fury. I just didn’t have time for this, and I sure as hell wasn't taking any more days off. My intolerance was at an all-time high. This was over. That’s it. The illness would work around my schedule, not the other way around.
Leaving the doctor’s that evening, I decided to not tell Mike the diagnosis. I actually convinced myself that if I took my medication and rested that night, I would feel better in the morning.
Whatever miracle I was expecting didn’t come.
I went to work the next day, but not for long. My poor body was predictably shutting down and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. Maybe the doctor was on to something. I finally gave in and left early that day.
I felt defeated.
Day eighteen through twenty-one were perhaps the worst of all, because on top of being sick, my boredom and frustration were becoming almost unbearable.
I had missed so much work and cancelled so many plans. I was tired of being sick, and sick of being tired. This wasn’t me. I’m motherfucking Heidi Allen.
Once again, I decided to defy nature and go back to work, but this time Mike insisted I visit the doctor first.
So I did. She took one look at me and demanded I get back to bed right away. Her demeanour implied that she would drag me there herself if I didn’t go willingly.
“I can’t,” I whimpered. A tear started rolling down my cheek.
“Heidi, if you don’t let your body rest, you’re going to end up in the hospital. You have to be patient and let yourself heal.”
When was this ever going to end, I thought. Would it ever? I could feel myself getting angry again.
She wrote me a stronger prescription and told me to go home. Not work. Home. I agreed, but only for a minute.
Later that morning, sitting at my desk at work, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my doctor had said.
“You have to be patient and let yourself heal.” One word in particular leapt out at me. Patient.
I’d been very patient, I thought. It had been weeks of torment with no end in sight. How much more patient did I have to be?
Then I remembered what Mike had said during our dinner party weeks before. He’d accused me of the exact same thing.
I thought I knew what patience was, but clearly I had to be missing something.
So in my delirious state I actually looked up the definition of patience.
Definition: Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
Like I said earlier, Mike was right. As a person in general I wasn’t patient at all, and I definitely hadn’t been patient these last twenty-one days.
I think you can call it an A-Ha Moment. This was a revelation that shook me to my core.
All this time, patience was one of the attributes that I had defined myself by, failing to notice that in my life, I had been anything but patient. My hard lesson was really starting to sink in.
I left work that day and told them I would be off for the rest of the week. Or for however long it would take. There’s some things you just can’t rush.
Around this time, I stopped counting how many days I was ill and just let myself heal. Patiently.
And before I knew it, I started to feel better. Back to my old self, but better than before. Calmer and more content.
This is something that will stay with me forever. I learned what patience truly means, and I couldn’t wait to tell you all about it.
Written by Positive People Army Founder - Heidi Allen
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