11.29.2011

Thinking about patience.

A few weeks ago, I read an interesting essay by Nick Crocker called The Art of the Trade-Off. In it, he argues that life is about trade-offs... and while you can do many, many things in your life, you can't do them all at the same time. He quotes David Sedaris, who identifies the four main burners in life (work, health, family, friends) and says that you can only have two of four burners lit at a given time to be really successful.

Lately, I feel as though I'm getting this message all over the place. And I've been resisting it since I read it, convinced that there was a way to trick the system or combine two burners at once or manage a gym with my family and friends (the only contrived solution I found to getting at all of them).

But this morning, I'd like to ask a question. If we accept this burner theory, why is it a good thing? Why is only having 24 hours in a day a good thing?

I think it can be summed up in one, super-meaningful word: patience.

Lots of people have thoughts about patience. The Bible loves patience. My associations with this word bring me back to nursery school where "be patient!" was commonly uttered.

Patience helps us slow down. Patience helps us be quiet, to make decisions in a still moment of clarity. Patience helps us take the long view instead of immediately reacting. Without patience, we would never taste slow-cooked pork or baked Alaska or ... cheese.

So even though much of myself still wants to resist the assertion that our time and attention is limited, I think I can step back and understand that bumping up against limits strengthens my patience. Strengthening patience brings much-needed peace to my life view, the belief that things will work themselves out just fine in the end.

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