Gustafson: Postal patience
In a hyper-Pollyannaish way, I propose a temporary solution to calm the communal challenge with which we are currently faced.
Yes, in our little corner of the world, the inconvenience of having to wait in long lines and navigate the stress of lost packages at our overrun, undersized, understaffed post office could give way to moans of frustration and aggressive levels of aggravation.
But like all opportunities to learn from a good challenge, maybe we can make the most of this while the kinks are still being ironed out.
Feel free to roll your eyes if you think I’m trying too hard to look through my rosey glasses at a half-full cup, but if you have the patience, hear me out.
As the late Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
These days it seems that many of us could benefit from a little more peace and stillness in our lives, and yet we often take for granted the daily opportunities to just be still and practice patience.
Flexing the muscles of our patience, like any exercise, can produce the best effects when practiced under duress.
So maybe we could welcome these luxuriously long lines as moments to simply wait? Talk to a neighbor, read the paper or practice community engagement in present consciousness of the space around us together.
It may require a little extra time management and planning ahead. It seems we have entered an era of extreme, constant busy-ness, unrealistic multitasking and information overload that have made it more difficult for us to tolerate even a moment of idle time.
Here we are, “blessed” with the chance to accept some unoccupied time and make the most of a good queue.
I caught myself about to grumble last weekend because of a lift-line until it occurred to me that I was skiing at Snowmass on an exceptional bluebird day with some of the best conditions in years.
How ungrateful would I be — given everything I was about to enjoy and all the circumstances that were in my favor in that moment — should I succumb to an urge to whine? I was flushed with shame and began counting my blessings.
Sure, a long line at the post office, grocery store or traffic stop isn’t quite as gratifying at the end of the wait as skiing down Snowmass.
Still, those brief periods of having to wait are just as efficient of a time to breathe and be grateful as any during this tiny blip of life we are fortunate enough to occupy on this planet.
If we really discipline ourselves to observe patience for what it has to offer, as a stress reducer or anxiety killer, then it just might be a skill worthy of some effort to master.
Have you ever stressed out over finding a parking spot on your way to practice meditation, felt disgruntled when your morning relaxation headspace app won’t load or anxiously watched the clock tick waiting for a spa treatment?
Seeking serenity, mindfulness and the luxury of me-time seem like good problems to have.
It’s been said that patience is not simply the ability to wait; it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. It is essentially the ability to endure and maintain emotional well-being while under pressure, provocation or stress.
Ready for some numbers to put our Snowmass Village waiting times into perspective? According to a Timex survey, Americans, on average, wait:
20 minutes a day for the bus or train
32 minutes whenever they visit a doctor
28 minutes in security lines whenever they travel
21 minutes for a significant other to get ready to go out
13 hours annually waiting on hold for a customer service representative
38 hours each year waiting in traffic
For people in big cities, traffic waits add up to more than 50 hours annually, which means we collectively wait for something on average for nearly 37 billion hours each year.
Throughout a lifetime, humans can expect to spend approximately six months of their lives waiting in line for something, averaging close to three days a year queuing up.
In Japan, there is a concept known as “ma,” roughly translated as “gap,” “space,”or “pause.” The minimalist approach to embracing the concept of “ma” into our material lives has been gaining in popularity as people are attempting to declutter their overwhelmed lives.
Perhaps we can find opportunities during life’s inevitable waiting periods as moments of “ma” — a chance to queue with gratitude and quiet the busy pace, be at peace with idle time and declutter the mind.
So thank goodness for our post office that provides us with another opportunity to practice more patience.
We can’t change time, we can only change how we react to it.
Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Owl Creek Chase continues — with a catch. Skiers in this year’s race won’t ever set foot on the Owl Creek Trail.