I have always been impatient. I think it may have a lot to do with my metabolism. It seems like I am always in a hurry to get things done.
Before I actually got proficient at writing, which is mostly what I do and have done for all of my adult life, I was always in a hurry. In advertising, this is actually a great help because you are hardly ever given enough time to consult with your muse. It’s just crank it out, fix it up and crank out some more.
After I got out of the agency business some 20 years later, I made up my mind that I was gonna slow things down, be more thoughtful, muse a bit, stare out the window a bit. Yeah, right.
Needless to say, that didn’t work, because once you realize there’s a fourth gear that you can hit at will, you realize that’s where the fun is. Thinking about things too much isn’t always a good thing.
The patience aspect comes into play in terms of being careful just how much work you take on at any given time. And this is where I learned an incredible lesson.
There was a point about 10 years into the independent phase of my career where I had so much work to do for a protracted period of time, that I quite literally never stopped moving for a whole month. At the end of it, when everything was put to bed, I got on my bike and rode down to the beach, I found a nice quiet spot, sat down, and cried for five minutes.
At that point, I made up my mind that this would never happen again. I had finally not so much discovered patience, but more accurately, had it thrust upon me. It was either that or start moving towards health issues.
After that, my life settled into a more comfortable rhythm. I said no to a few things and a few people I thought would be a hassle. I started working on some ideas I had for screenplays. I wrote a lot of lyrics and poetry. I went for long rides to think through whatever I had to do for work.
Eventually, this rhythm became second nature, and although I was able to put in five full days a week it was divided between the stuff I had to do to make money, and the stuff I wanted to do just to see if I could.
Two years ago when I got sick and had to have spinal surgery, my life was reduced to almost complete dependence on other people. And most of these people, after getting to know me a little basically all told me the same thing.
They knew I wanted to get better, so their interest in me was high because they encounter all kinds of people who actually don’t care one way or another.
And what they drilled into my head was the whole idea of patience on another level. Up to then I only worried about being patient with regard to how much I used my brain. This patience, for someone who had to be hoisted in and out of bed and could not spend more than 20 minutes sitting, was a whole new animal.
It was slowly, slowly, slowly, moving back to wherever I was before the surgery. It was a game of inches. It wasn’t about slowing myself down, but about moving forward in a very measured way.
And believe it or not, it was a lot more difficult than slowing down.
But because I knew I could make it back, I resigned myself, in the same way, to do the opposite and keep a careful eye on what I could and couldn’t do.
So the lesson for me was that I instinctually knew what to do. I just had to really focus on the speed at which I took on new chores.
Right now, 18 months after my surgery, there are really only three or four things that I have left to achieve before I would consider myself as recovered as I am gonna get. I know I will not be able to walk again without some sort of assistance. But I have a good walker and a strong cane.
Today, with my cane I walked the equivalent of about a fifth of a mile half of which was up an incline. I move around the kitchen standing up, get in and out of my pool, walk for about 40 widths in the pool and swim 20-30 lengths almost every day. But I gradually built to that over a long period of time.
And all it took, besides my own determination to do it, was the patience to avoid doing too much too fast.
So in my life there really are two distinct dimensions to patience. The dimension that slows you down and the one that moves you forward in a way that will achieve results.
Just remember the old cliche, haste makes waste and you’ll be alright no matter what type of patience is required.