I look out of my window and I wonder when this will be all over and I will get my life back. I think about going back to my work at the garden centre, seeing the animals I care for at the farm I visit each week, going on holiday to Devon this year (I missed going last year) and going on a steam train on the heritage line from Whitby – my parents promised. I know these things will happen again if I am patient. I am good at being patient, I must be.
These are the thoughts I imagine Bettina has as she stares into our back garden this morning.
Over the years Bettina has developed an inner calm and a capacity to accept and/or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. A coping mechanism that helps her make sense of a world that constantly changes and throws unexpected drama and disruption into her structured. Bettina copes with autism and a learning disability and the recent pandemic is one more challenge that she needs to see through patiently.
Joyce, her mum has put up posters on her wall which list all the activities in her week which are either open or closed due to Covid19 and, once more, Joyce has had to change them to ‘closed’. Bettina walks into her bedroom, looks at the poster and puts her hand against her forehead and says, “not again”. I marvel at Bettina’s patience and resilience, after a few minutes of reflection she comes out of her bedroom and says, “Whitby holiday August?”.
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.
If you are a regular reader of the ‘Being Bettina’s Dad’ series, you will know how much I learn and am inspired by Bettina. An enchanting person who shares her life with her family and those who are significant in her life. People who are involved in her life regularly tell us how much Bettina has changed their outlook. I can understand why.
Watching Bettina look out of the window this morning moved me to write about her endless patience and what I have learned about this virtue. A virtue we can and need to practice if we want to succeed and meet our aspirations both at work and in our personal lives.
“Patience is the ability to know when to act.” Catherine Pulsifer
So, what have I learned from Bettina’s endless patience and as a family how we have learned to be patient, to support Bettina to have her best life?
Bettina’s Patience Tactics
- Play the long game, having a goal or a wish in mind and then regularly remind you so you have no excuse for forgetting what she wants to experience.
- Look to distract herself from the thing she is currently obsessing about as she knows in her heart this is (temporarily) unavailable for whatever reason, such as going to the cinema, so she will find an alternative such as reading a book or watching a DVD.
- Seek out those she trusts and who always deliver (eventually).
- Be mindful and slow down her world so she can stay in the moment – she is doing this in the picture at the start of this story.
- Observe what is going on around her – constantly scanning the room and her audience for their body language, their tone of voice and the assurances she is receiving.
Bettina’s Five Patience Lessons I have adopted from Bettina
- Have a vision of where you want to get to but know it will take time.
- Recognise that there will be bottle necks and setbacks and this is to be expected before you get to where you want to be.
- Don’t be surprised when you don’t get it right first time.
- Failure is ok. It makes you stronger and you become more determined.
- Believe in yourself because you have done it before. “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” ― Octavia E. Butler
How we as her family have supported Bettina to be patient so she can have her best life
Bettina has been her family’s world for over 30 years – she really does ‘rock our world’ but no surprises, it has not always been plain sailing for her family. To describe Bettina’s early years is probably easier if I suggest you watch Lilo & Stitch in a 2002 American animated film produced by Walt Disney. Up until she was at least 10 years old Bettina was “Stitch”.
As a family we needed to be patient everyday as she struggled to communicate how she was feeling. Bettina struggled to sleep at night. I am not sure we had a full nights sleep until she was in her teens and it was fortunate for us that Joyce has a great turn of speed over 100m to enable her to catch Bettina as she attempted to run off after something which has attracted her attention.
So how did we exercise our patience skills?
- By working on a plan together as soon as we had a diagnosis for Bettina (and not deviate from the plan so there is always consistency for ‘B’)
- We had faith in Bettina that she would come through the worst at some point and we just had to be patient and not expect her to meet all the milestones her big sister had met at the same ages.
- We had faith in ourselves that we would remain strong and resilient for Bettina no matter what obstacle was placed in front of us – e.g. obstruction and negativity from so called “professionals” in her early years.
- Making marginal gains, long before Sir David Brailsford articulated this for the British Olympic cycling team. We broke down everything we could think of that Bettina needed to develop such as her communication and her reading skills then try to regularly improve by a small percentage, when you put them all together we could see significant progress. Bettina has surpassed all our hopes and dreams we had for her when she was a young child.
- Not waiting until Bettina had accomplished her milestone before we celebrated (and continue to celebrate) each day of her life and our time together
I have recently returned to the company I have worked for over 11 years, following a 14-month secondment (doing something completely different.) I see so much has developed and know there is so much more to do over the coming years. As I sit watching Bettina, as she looks out the window, I know that I will have to be patient with myself and follow Bettina’s example.
“When you do learn to stretch your patience, the rewards and joy of knowing you are in control of your emotions will be more than worth it.
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer”