Monday, August 9, 2010

No news today, just some Monday morning musings on the difference between patience and tolerance . . .

This is a post about a mysterious absence of impatience. Which is a condition I am often mildly (mostly mildly) afflicted with. Stick me behind a car or a minivan driving 38 miles-an-hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone when I am trying to get to work on a weekday morning, and I have to Work Hard at Being Patient. And, in truth, I don't always succeed.

I'm writing this on Monday morning. The weekend was lovely, slow-moving, restful, just sociable enough. Plus, it included a road trip to West Virginia, which is always something I look forward to and enjoy.

around home/Charles Woodroof

We left around nine yesterday morning. To get where we were going, we had to drive through Dayton, which meant we had to drive through Old Order Mennonite country. Where, on any given Sunday morning, you are likely to get stuck behind a gaggle of buggies, clip-clopping along at about 18 mph downhill and maybe 3 mph uphill. And this, on curvy, hilly roads where it is often difficult to pass.

Wikipedia image
Yesterday, we indeed fetched up behind a half-dozen or so buggies heading to church, nicely spaced out in recognition that motorists want to pass them; and that, if motorists pass buggies one at a time, it is safer for all concerned.

I queued with the rest of the trapped cars, but instead of chafing at the slowness, I simply looked out the window and enjoyed the view. I did not feel the first whisper of impatience.

Now this is not just because it was the weekend. Put me behind a pack of recreational bicyclists riding four abreast on a Sunday morning so that I have to trundle along behind them, and I am blowing steam out my ears. Which, I know, is heresy to many, but this is confession time and I feel what I feel. Why cannot those bicyclists ride single file so I can get around them?!!!!!!  Is this what "share the road" means?!!!!!!! AAARGH!

Whatever the reason is for my tolerance of the speed of Mennonite buggies, what I would really like to remember is how peaceful tolerance feels. This morning as I write, I remain acutely mindful of that experience yesterday; of how good it felt not simply being patient with those who were slowing me down, but not having it occur to me to be otherwise. I am going to try to hang on to this awareness when I head into work and get stuck behind a mini-van going 38-miles-an-hour for all those no-pass miles.

I think it's a matter of being patient vs. feeling tolerant. The first takes an act of will; the second feels like a gift. And boy-howdy am I open to receiving it. Life is too short to waste chunks of it feeling annoyed at things that just are the way they are.

buggies parked outside Sunday church/


  1. A comment sent to me (Martha) by Stephen White: Stephen White Tolerance and Peace ought to be minted on two sides of the same coin. Rockingham County reminds me of the Navy's introduction to Turkey and its culture. Not the gobbling kind, the secular Muslim country in Asia Minor. Both are relatively... small geographic spaces but with large ranges of topography, politics, religion, race, life style, and other strong contrasts. Both have great potential for exporting the coin of tolerance and peace, owing to the success each has shown in "making it work." Thank yOuMMMa'aM, fOr My MOnday MOrning OMMM.

  2. Beautiful post! One of my favorite authors, Pema Chodron wrote "If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher." Thomas Moore (another personal favorite) wrote that " the soul, the most minute details and the most ordinary activities, carried out with mindfullness and art, have an effect far beyond their apparent insignificance." Every moment--especially the difficult and infuriating ones--holds within it the power to teach and to inspire. Thanks for reminding me of that!