Learning the Art of Patience by Dave Schanding

by Dave Schanding

Mom asked dad, “Can you find some duct tape or a rope so we can tie this boy to a chair and get him to stop moving for a little while?”

Four weeks ago I had hip replacement surgery and two weeks ago I wanted to graduate from a walker to crutches. I felt like the walker made me look older (I’m 64). And now I was re-entering the real world, and crutches looked younger and more athletic. I could pretend like I’d had a skiing accident or sprained my ankle doing a triple Lutz at Millennium Park’s ice rink.  Well, at least I could pretend my hip didn’t just need replacing because my over-sized body wore it out prematurely.

I had in-home physical therapy on the Friday before my transition day, and I asked my physical therapist if I could practice walking with crutches outside. Thirty feet into my walk she grabbed the back of my jacket and asked me to slow down. There was no need to rush. We would get where we wanted to go in plenty of time. But I handled crutches like I’ve handled most things in life—with little patience.

I flunked the Palmer method of handwriting. I guess I was in too much of a hurry to carefully form letters. I don’t know who Palmer was, but Catholic schools seemed to love him or her. My mom saved all of my report cards and my kids loved seeing that their dad actually got an “F” in handwriting one year. I got the usual, ‘you should be a doctor when you grow up because no one can read their writing either.’ Even at age 64, I continue to take classes and take notes. Many of the courses use Power Point and have lights dimmed. My punishment for not doing well in writing in grade school is that I can’t read my own writing today.

Let’s try putting together a model car or airplane. Or maybe a LEGO set with instructions discarded.

Model cars that I put together were liberally smeared with glue as I wasn’t patient to wait for two pieces to truly bond together before trying to add more. While I finished quickly, I was reluctant to show my messy finished product. And I was frequently compared negatively to my one year younger brother, who did everything slowly, deliberately, and to perfection. So I realized impatience had its shortcomings.

But the world is against my mother, my third-grade writing teacher and my physical therapist.

We drove down the Kennedy expressway (Chicago) on Sunday in a snowstorm. A BMW was apparently in a hurry and zig-zagged between cars in the express lanes as we neared downtown. I oftentimes wonder what drivers do with that precious 30-60 seconds they gain by putting us all in danger. I did learn patience here.

For me, trying to learn foreign languages is an exercise in patience. I must be doing something wrong. The TV commercials say one can learn a language in a weekend with their revolutionary teaching system. I remember hearing that we speak hundreds of words every day. And some of today’s words are different than yesterday’s words. Can one really learn 800 words of vocabulary in a weekend? One night many years back, our son put on headphones and started the CD of a language program. They promised fluency by morning. I guess the headphones must have fallen off sometime during the night. I have learned that worthwhile accomplishments take time, and I’m more patient with my language progress.

In my working days, I was director at a time when our agency was just getting computerized. Computers would freeze up, crash, and occasionally wipe out things we didn’t want wiped out. I was able and willing to plow through getting these temperamental machines up and running again. A co-worker diagnosed my seeming endless patience to having children. One hopefully learns patience as children go through stages of development. They learn some new tasks quickly and others much more slowly. I seemed to have become more patient through that process.

Now TiVo has a feature that allows one to speed up a television show by 14%. At this enhanced speed, speech is minimally distorted, and a 30-minute show, which can be reduced to 22 minutes by speeding through commercials, can now be further reduced to 19 minutes. So between 6pm and the 10pm news I can watch almost 13 shows in the time that I would have seen 8 shows at regular speed with commercials. I should become an expert on solving Wheel of Fortune puzzles and selecting the right house on House Hunters. I’ll also have to figure out how to shave 14% off meal preparation, dinner and showering.

Being impatient has had its pluses and minuses. I have my printed photos in albums, where many buy albums but never managed to get their photos out of those envelopes from Walgreens (large drug store chain). I have scanned all documents and old photos so that I don’t have paper clutter. On the one hand, these are handy accomplishments. But most people are content to not get these things done. So my impatience has only led to partial satisfaction.

So where is this impatient young man today? I feel less driven on a daily basis as I don’t have the energy I had in my youth. I still want to feel like I’ve accomplished something each day, but I’m more content with what I actually manage to do. I still like my way of doing things, so I will likely still try to learn languages, type out my class notes, and rid my life of most paper clutter. Mom never really duct-taped me to a chair in my youth, and I think she’d feel a partial success in getting me to become more patient. And, no, I haven’t started watching television 14% faster yet either.

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