I went to see my daughters for an all too brief visit not long ago. This trip landed smack dab in the middle of several stressors that aren't part of my usual routines; the car was having trouble, house repairs from storm damage were underway and some critters that were supposed to live outside were making their homes in my home. I was ready for a little break from all the doing and chaos.
I prefer a state of peace and steadiness in my life. Most of us do. We like things to run smoothly and, even if things get a little bumpy, we feel good when we can manage all of the balls in the air and still feel calm. In fact, we subconsciously use these states: calm, peace, patience, as reference points in our lives.
These reference points are places within us where we seem to land in a kind of home base. States that make us feel most like ourselves. But chaos (internal or external) can have detrimental effects to our inner state. We can handle everything up to a point and then that last straw comes down and we react.
My last straw that weekend came in the form of a padlock on a gate. We were staying in a cabin at a state park and had made sure to ask if the gate would be locked when we came back late that night. We were assured that the gate would be open. But when we returned that evening by all appearances the gate was locked.
I jiggled it and worked with it and tried to use our cabin key on it; all to no avail. All of the tension that had been building in the last few weeks spilled over. I felt like just sitting down in the dark by the gate and having a good cry. I felt alone, even though my sweet husband was with me. Instead, David and I drove to the lodge to find it closed with no emergency numbers posted anywhere. Finally, a state park trooper drove by and told us how to get in. The gate hadn’t actually been locked. The padlock was a decoy.
Later, when I settled in to relax (on a bed with scratchy sheets over a plastic mattress pad), I started to wonder about patience. If I had had patience as more of a reference point, would I have been able to see that the lock wasn’t really a lock? Would I have been able to step back a little further and take one more breath before getting worked up about it? I am generally very patient with people. That weekend, I realized that I'm it so patient with things, especially if I’m tired and stressed.
At some point in each of our lives, probably more often than we like to admit to ourselves, we have too much going on. I know I’m not the only one who occasionally overcrowds her schedule. Few of us are immune to an overcrowded schedule and stressors of modern life; most of us have times of feeling overwhelmed.
A dear teacher of mine has said, “Everything happens for the best.” Sometimes I need to expand my idea of what “the best” is. We all have access to internal resources; strength, patience, faith, ease of being. Cultivating these states allows us to more easily find them when we need them and find that place of assured knowing that this, whatever that 'this' is, is for the best.
But at some point, we will still break. Emotional static will fill our vision and we will not be able to see very far at all. But having compassion for ourselves; compassion for those places within us that are overwhelmed and resisting what is, dissipates that tension. We may not be able to always be at peace, or have infinite patience, but if we are compassionate with ourselves when we are not, if we can hold ourselves in kindness when we are frustrated then we can start to cultivate that sweet state of home base and find that state more readily, whether the gate seems to be locked or not.

Author's Bio: 

Melanie McGhee, L.C.S.W. is an award-winning author, relationship expert, psychotherapist and spiritual coach. She is also the founder of Abhimukti Yoga Coaches - providing coaches training to yoga teachers.