Winning the waiting game

I have a question. It’s one of those random thoughts that cross my mind every now and again when I’m faced with the subject at hand: patience. If patience is a virtue, then why are we all expected to possess it? A virtue is a dignity, an honor, a statement of integrity. If indeed we are blessed with the attribute of patience, we often take it for granted.

Those of us, most of us, it seems, who aren’t quite so adept at waiting often become irritable and angry when forced to do so.

In the deep vortex of my cerebral matter, I have tried to understand patience, break it apart and put it back together again, trying to solve its puzzling conundrum. I have concluded that there are many types of patience. Most fall into two categories, short-term and long-term.

Short-term is the waiting in line for buzzer to go off so you can retrieve your Nappa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich from Panera Bread. (That thing seems to take forever to light up and vibrate, especially when you’re hungry. And when it finally does, it kind of makes you jump.) In short, no pun intended, short-term patience is the mundane waiting that is inevitable in every-day life.

That is not the kind of patience that is interesting or critically important. Long-term patience, I think, is the real virtue. This type of patience involves a great deal of self-control and sheer will power and determination. Everything from waiting for potted herb plants to sprout (which take forever!) to graduating from high school requires a form of long-term patience.

I think patience is both an inane instinct and learned behavior for humans. All athletes, especially endurance athletes, are familiar with patience and good ones learn to use it to their advantage. Patience plays a role in every sport. In fast-paced sports, taking too big a risk too early in the game can cause some serious trouble. Runners and cyclists must strategize their pace and pass other competitors at precise times during a race. Tennis and volleyball pros wait until their set up for that perfect shot before they assert their ultimate aggression.

Surfers are very well acquainted with the virtue as well. Waiting for that right wave can be boring, frustrating, and downright agonizing. But good surfers know that it’s totally worth it, as do all athletes who have perfected the art of being patient.

I myself go back and forth with the whole patience thing. I like to think I’m quite forbearing, but I was notorious for swinging too early in the batter’s box. I think it was fear, the anxious nervousness that comes with the slightest bit of insecurity. I think that’s where lack of patience stems from.

When you’re not quite sure of yourself, or your abilities, rather, you tend to jump on the smallest opportunities in fear of missing something. Like an antsy surfer that pounces on a puny wave, or the batter that takes a swing at the first decent pitch, being anything less than confident and therefore constricts you from unleashing your true potential.

Waiting too long or being overly confident has its down side as well, but few people find that a problem. There is a fine, finicky line with this patience thing. Good athletes have it down to a science. But it’s not about counting minutes or seconds. They sense when it’s the right time. They can feel it. Their bodies and minds are so in tune and so keenly aware of their environment that it becomes subconsciously effortless.

So I guess patience is a virtue. But it can be a learned virtue, young grasshopper.

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