Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Patience


This was originally published on another site a few months ago and I decided to move it here. I am still working on my patience...

I live in a world that frequently offers instant gratification, and I have to confess I enjoy it. Is there a new book that I want to read? I just download it on my Kindle Fire the day it is published and there I go. Is there a movie I want to watch? It’s usually available the same way, or if not on my Kindle than on the “on-demand” feature that comes with my cable. If I want to eat something I just take a box out of the freezer and microwave it, and it’s ready in 5 minutes. Good food, too – vegetarian dishes and Indian food and all sorts of wonderful things that a few years ago would have required either serious restaurant searching or a significant kitchen effort. Credit cards allow me to buy anything I’d like to have, instantly, without the bother of saving for it. Shopping over the internet means I don’t even have to wait for a store to open. There isn’t that much in my life that requires patience anymore. Most of what I want I can have, and without much waiting. I think this is true for a lot of people today.

I don’t actually think this is good for me. I’m not sure it’s good for anyone. As I am able to get more and more things more and more quickly, I think I am appreciating them less. I am losing the pleasure of anticipation, for one thing. There is an excited, hopeful waiting feeling when you think something good is coming that these days I only get when waiting for the release of the next installment of a movie series I am watching. There is not much chance for my appetite to build up when I can always grab a snack – and I’m referring to an appetite for anything. I lose some of the savor of the event when there is no effort or waiting required.

I also see that my skills at patience are atrophying. There are still some things in my life I have to wait for, and it’s hard. I have a young child, and I have learned that frequently young children just can’t be rushed. At least, they can’t be rushed without tears and tantrums on the part of both child and parent. I have trouble waiting though, and doing things at my daughter’s pace, because my mind is rushing around at my normal instant gratification speeds. I find myself trying to hurry her along despite knowing that it’s not going to work well for either of us. I have trouble waiting for a movie or book release and feel frustrated; I think to myself “why isn’t this coming out sooner?” Sometimes I am so impatient that the 2 minutes it takes to pop microwave popcorn seems like an eternity, which even in my most impatient moments I understand is quite ridiculous.

I don’t like feeling impatient. It’s an uncomfortable, rumpled up in the mind kind of feeling. It feels hurried and stressed. I don’t like being impatient with my daughter, because it creates bad feelings between us, which isn’t what I want. I don’t want her to learn to be impatient or to expect instant gratification, either. She’s at an age where my husband and I are starting to insist that she say “please” and “thank you” when she makes a request, and we’re beginning to tell her to wait at times, when we can’t accommodate her wishes immediately. I can see that this frustrates her but I also know that it will teach her patience over time. I also know I need to model patience if I want her to learn patience.

I don’t have any really good answers to this problem. I’m honest enough to say I’m not going to give up purchasing digital books and digital media. The convenience is just too tempting. I don’t have enough interest in or talent in the kitchen to vow to give up convenience microwave foods. But here are some things I think I can try.

I can practice patience in my purchasing. When I want something, I will think about it first. Do I really want this? Do I want it enough to save my money for it, so that I can buy it outright and not accumulate debt? I think I can learn to enjoy the pleasure of anticipating the purchase and planning the purchase so that when I finally own the item I enjoy it that much more.

I can practice patience in terms of my crafts. I knit, and that requires a lot of patience. Most finished knitted products contain tens of thousands of stitches, and that just doesn’t happen in a hurry. It takes patient, consistent effort. Writing also takes some patience and investment of time; time to think of a topic, time to do a little research, time to write it up and then time for other people to find it and respond. 

Most importantly, I can practice patience as a parent. I can take a deep breath and remind myself that my daughter will only be little once, and that someday she will be the one wishing to hurry me along. I can treat her the way I hope she will treat me when that day comes. I can treat her with respect, and kindness, and interest in whatever has caught her attention and slowed her down. I can demonstrate patience to her so that she learns to demonstrate it to others.

Perhaps I can find other ways to practice my patience as well, so I can strengthen that skill. I suspect it will pay off in major ways throughout my life. After all, isn’t the phrase “Good things come to those who wait?”