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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss


It is rather a gloomy day as I write this, rainy and cold outside. Fall leaves fill the yard looking less a colorful celebration of the season than a chore postponed by inclement weather. It is a good day to stay inside and do something useful –and I am beckoned both by the need for a post-Christmas missive and a meaningful use of my time to sit at the computer and write.

I have said on other occasions that I am not an especially patient person. It isn’t that I feel the need to fill time as much as there is so much to do, so much to experience that idleness has felt at times an unrecoverable loss. That is a character flaw—idle time is precisely what days such as this are made for—to rest, recoup and to savor life.

I cannot pretend otherwise, though I would rather it were a day that proceeded as planned the world does not always align itself with my wishes. I have been guilty on occasion of inventing things that needed to be done so that I could feel less guilty about doing what I pleased. But my self-appointed tasks aren’t nearly as enjoyable as reading one of many books I have been meaning to get to, learning that new skill that I would like to master, watching that movie I know no one else enjoys or writing this week's post.

I could lay the blame on my dad who was a purposeful, always busy man. Most of what he filled his day doing was for others—only rarely for himself. He was not very different from his father and according to familial convention I suppose I must have inherited some of those same traits. But however much I may have a predisposition my impatience proceeded from a different place, it was a learned response. It does please me to accomplish something each day—especially if it is something that I know must be done eventually. Crossing a task like that off the list is a deposit against days like today. But there are unexpected rewards in simply waiting on the world.

You see I have learned a bit. Years ago, when my life was more regulated by nature and circumstance I lived differently. No less purposefully but I had a better sense of a season for everything, a time best suited to the things I needed or wished to do. There were times when the tools needed to be sharpened, oiled and repaired to be ready when needed. Times when letters long put off needed be written, food harvested, cooked and preserved, clothes mended, when records needed to be updated and plans made for more auspicious days ahead. And there were always days like today to read that book I had been meaning to, or to take a nap in the middle of the day just because.

Like so many of my peers, I lost my way as my life filled with urgent though not always important work of another kind, when the business of getting and doing became less tethered to a natural ebb and flow and the meter of technology, of worldliness, of assumed responsibilities defined my days. I am glad those days are behind me. Our chores will always be there, along with our self-appointed tasks but if they do not get done our reward is the pleasure of a moment well spent.

Here is the thing about patience. When we are prevented from doing or getting something we want by someone or some circumstance beyond our control we tend to see it as a loss, instead of a gain. Sometimes the path not taken is the better one. What we want is not all that important, and in truth we often have no idea what we really want. Waiting for a more propitious time has its own valuable lessons to teach us.

Time is always a gift and unexpected time to do with as we might, time that we have not planned for is a surprise we should unwrap with eager expectation. You learn this when time has sped by and you no longer have it to spend as you wish, or with those you care for. This time between Christmas and the New Year is a good time for reflection, for idleness, for taking account of how we use our time. It is a good time to learn the value of patience.

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