We are not a society that practices or values patience; but what have we lost in our pursuit of instant gratification?
On a bitter 23 degrees morning, my walking partner and I set out on our daily constitutional walk along the reservoir. As we crossed the bridge over the frozen water, I saw a man quietly sitting on a chair on the ice, holding a 12-inch rod with line disappearing into a tiny hole.
Cupping my hands around my frozen lips, I yelled, “Did you catch anything?” He smiled and walked towards us so that we could talk. He was a cheerful man who told us he had been ice fishing for the past 30 years. He said it was his favorite time of the year. I am sure my face showed the skepticism I was feeling.
As I looked around the water, there was space that looked wet, definitely too thin to walk on. So I asked, “How do you know the ice is safe?” He smiled as if he had heard this question once or twice, and said he tests it and stays away from questionable areas. He went on to talk about the insulated suit that keeps him warm and dry while flashing his crampon and this ice claws hanging about his neck, “Just in case.”
He then explained that he ice fishes to fill his freezer for the year. Apparently, freshwater fish taste entirely different coming from cold water. His summertime fishing was just for fun.
After waving goodbye, we continued our walk, and he resumed his sitting and waiting.
I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I used to fish and love it when I was young, but that was on a warm summer day. The idea of sitting for hours in the cold waiting for a fish seemed ridiculous. No, thank you.
I had to laugh at myself as I was looking for inspiration — I struggled to find a topic that would inspire me to think and write, and there it was. Right before my eyes was my lesson on waiting patiently.
We are not a society that practices or values patience. We want it fast — instant gratification.
Notably, more tech-savvy people are used to getting what they need quickly. They and we get frustrated by what we deem wasting time idling by, waiting for our desires.
After my brief encounter on the ice, I started to think about the last time I patiently waited for a positive outcome. Was it in line at the lab? Not really. I recall checking my phone every minute. How about in the check-out line at the grocery store? I distinctly remember feeling annoyed by the slowness of the person in front of me.
When did “wait” become a bad four-letter word? What is our aversion to patience? Each of us has proven in our lives that waiting and letting things develop naturally have worked out for us before. Think about your first love; the first time you noticed each other and waited for the other to catch up. Were you waiting, staring at the phone, willing it to ring? These are the moments that have taught us patience. Each of these momentous life occurrences will have been missed if we jumped to the “end game” (the job, the relationship) before taking the slow steps of discovery.
Many would claim the waiting is not worth it. I bet you my fisherman would beg to differ. Rushing the process, he would miss the opportunity at success, the beauty of the eagles flying overhead, and the signing ice as mother nature serenaded him.
What have you been missing? It is in the waiting and the practice of patience that real learning happens. You are being asked to stop and listen.
Notice your feeling and those of the people around you. This is not something to be feared. It is something to be embraced. But, should we wait forever? The fisherman is not going to sit for hours without a bite. Even a passionate sportsman knows when it is time to give up. We need to set a limit and decide how long is long enough before we pack up and move on. Failing to move will only lead to a place of constant desire with little fulfillment. In a sense, when we wait forever, we don’t know what it is we are waiting for, or we are waiting for something that is not realistic.
The famous quote “Good things come to those who wait” comes to mind. I am the first person to admit that the time between action and resolution terrifies me. I like a plan, and I like when the plan goes according to plan. And I like my plan to happen in my time frame. Maybe that works in movies, but it is not suitable for real life. I believe many of our disappointments come from losing our patience and giving up too soon or getting stuck in the waiting mode spinning our wheels.
I have heard many young people say, “I went to school to be a (insert job), but I can’t find a job.” Should they give up their dreams and find a plan B, or should they stick it out and wait? I see this dilemma as a scale. It would help if you weighed the options of waiting and letting go. Unfortunately, our scale does not always allow enough time to see both sides equally. Neither should be rushed into.
We can all take a lesson from our joyful fisherman. The rewards for patience can be significant. It does not matter if the result you are looking for is a job, a relationship, or an opportunity. But at the same time, have an endpoint.
Be like the fisherman and come back another day with a new mindset.
I’m not falling behind or running lateLin-Manuel Miranda
(Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it)
I’m not standing still
I am lying in Wait (Wait, wait, wait)
You may also enjoy reading Finding Solace in Silence by Judy Marano