“Patience is a virtue,” I often tell my kids in a sing-song voice, like Rachel Weisz in The Mummy. When they’re asking if it’s time to go to the park yet or “are we there yet” on a long trip, patience is exactly what
I need them to have they need. And they happily remind me of that virtue when I’m cursing the internet for being slower than usual or when I’m telling the driver ahead of me (as if he can hear me) “the speed limit is 55 here, not 35.”
There are so many times in life when we can’t have what we want right when we want it. We have to wait on other people or for opportunities. We have to wait on ourselves to learn what we need to learn. We have to wait till the next season of Walking Dead to find out just how badass Rick has really become or for George R. R. Martin to publish that next A Song of Ice and Fire book already.
And yet the opposite of patience is celebrated far more often in our culture. Go-getters don’t wait for opportunities, they seize them. Winners don’t let pain slow them down, they pop a [insert brand name over the counter painkiller here] and keep running. Heroes rush in where angels fear to tread.
Of course, inaction can be mistaken for patience. We tell ourselves we’re just waiting for the right time or the perfect chance and we just wait and wait and wait and…
And sometimes we give up before we’ve even begun because the payoff seems so very far away.
So how do you tell the difference? How do you know when to wait and when to act and how to keep slogging when the finish line is still miles away?
I’ve wrestled a great deal with this last one. Everything from raising and educating my children, getting fit and writing my (hopefully) début novel. All of these are works in progress and, sometimes, the end doesn’t seem anywhere in sight. All I can do is keep on keeping on.
And, while patience may be a virtue, it doesn’t come easily for me. Mostly I wind up being impatiently patient. I promise myself the end is out there, somewhere, but I won’t wait around for it. I’ll go after it…with a machete.
It’s like the Tortoise and the Hare. Anyone else think the moral of that fable is NOT “slow and steady wins the race?” Let’s face it, if the hare hadn’t been sleeping on the job, he’d have blown right past that sloooooow tortoise and won the race.
Slow and steady only wins the race when there’s no one else faster than you. But maybe the real moral is that it doesn’t matter how fast you go, especially if you give up or lay down on the job. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other with the goal of the making it to the finish line, you’ll get there (unless the zombies get you first…but that’s another story).
And, when you reach the finish line, you win. No matter who else got there first. Because you’re not racing against them. You’re racing against you.
Of course, it’s much nicer when you finish faster.
What do you think? How do you know when to be patient and when to seize the moment? Do you have any big projects where the end seems almost out of reach? How do you keep at it until you reach that end?
I just had to share this because it made me laugh…and it’s got some useful tips on How to Be Patient in 12 Steps (but I prefer to do it in 6 steps…it’s faster that way).