If you’ve ever gone to a yoga class, sat in on a meditation session, or spoken with a peace-loving person, you know the frustration I am about to describe.
You’re upset, flustered, or angry. All you want to do is wallow in your negativity. Then, this unbearably calm person appears out of nowhere. They say something like, “You are in control of your emotions. Choose not to be upset” or “Quiet your mind. Breathe. With every exhale release all your negative emotions”. As if it were that easy!
Then, you become even more set in your negativity. How dare they suggest otherwise! Clearly, being a mopey lion is working for you.
Like any teen, I had my moody moments. When my Dad realized his enthusiastic pep talks were not quite reaching me, he tried a different approach. He started only saying, “P”.
As you know, “P” is a letter, and could stand for anything. But, in this particular case, “P” represented one infuriating, wonderful thing - Patience.
Of course, as a teenager and an overall stubborn human being, I resisted the “P” talk. I didn’t want to be patient; I wanted to be things, get things, know things NOW! A lot of that frustration was directed at myself. I was doing something wrong or not doing enough. Whatever issue arose, my dad would pat me on the head, grin and mutter, “P”.
It drove me nuts.
Partially because I didn’t want to be told how to feel, but mostly because I knew he was right.
If I took a step back and allowed myself to be patient, I was able to handle everything better. Obviously, that did not stop me from rolling my eyes every time he suggested it.
To keep up the reminder and avoid the sarcastic eye-rolls, he got me a small “P” charm as a Christmas gift. I thought it was silly, but I threw it on a necklace and wore it. Every day.
That’s when I started understanding. I’d be having a bad day, muttering to myself in the bathroom, only to look up and see the small “P” glittering back at me. I’d lose a track meet and be cleaning out the pockets of my sweats and my fingers would brush across the “P”. It was a constant reminder - “patience”.
Like Pavlov’s dog to a bell - anytime I had a negative feeling my hand would jump to that little charm, and I’d calm myself before getting too worked up. It was a good system.
Until I lost the necklace after a track meet.
Fortunately, my dad had back-up “P”s. He superglued the next one to my iPod charger.
This system of reinforcement continued for years. “P” became a common conversation in my family. We all had our own “P” charms, and we were all, slowly, become more patient people.
“P” was the best single meaning letter I had, until my Pop and I started working on Halos, a wordless illustrated story made for children and wise adults.
Halos could not have come at a more perfect time in my life. I was about to transition into a new position at work in a new city. I was excited, but the big changes also left me stressed and a little bit lost. Halos eventually became my guiding map.
A central theme in Halos is peace, and my dad was preaching peace non-stop. His enthusiasm for it while I was feeling lost had a similar effect on me as his love for patience did when I was a teen. So, he again changed tactics, and told me “Catie, ‘P’ is not just for ‘Patience’ it is also for ‘Peace’, just remember that you can have both”.
Again, I stupidly resisted at first. I had become accustomed to the stress. It had taken a physical toll on me, but I was working on it.
But as soon as I started to embrace the additional meaning of “P” things turned. I felt better; I was happier; I was at peace with the way things were, yet open to things changing.
The final addition to the “P” definition came after reading a book with a dear friend of mine called, 10 Percent Happier, by Dan Harris - the cover boasting “How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works”.
Though I wasn’t the author’s biggest fan, I loved his drive and story. We often get so wrapped up in our mind or the stimulus around us, we forget how to live in the moment. It isn’t for everybody, but it resonated with me and perfectly tied the P Triad together.
You can’t have consistent patience or peace without presence. It’s like potty training a dog but never going outside. You’re just creating a large cat at that point.
I will never say I’m perfect. And “P” will never represent “perfect” for me. There are too many ways to grow and too many mistakes to learn from. But I will say I’ve gotten much better at managing the issues and obstacles of life since my Dad’s first one-letter speech.
So remember; no matter what obstacle you face, things will get better with a little “P”.