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STELLPFLUG COLUMN: Patience a difficult virtue

STELLPFLUG COLUMN: Patience a difficult virtue


Patience has been praised by philosophers, poets and religions, but it has taken a year of pandemic to have its virtuous qualities really sink in.

Whether any of us will apply said lesson after we return to our more speedy and hectic lifestyles will be up to each of us as individuals. Have we learned patience? Have we willingly slowed down? Have we followed guidelines to pace ourselves and take time and care with ourselves and others?

Some of us are on the brink of throwing in the towel. But let me emphasize that this is not the time for us to lose our patience. We have come so far. So many have sacrificed for us and many have exercised restraint, we can’t just cry uncle and give up. The capacity to tolerate delays and cancelations has been amazing.

We are not yet in a position to go from zero to 60. I know a couple who received their first vaccination and to celebrate they went to dinner and a movie. I am not sure that is what Dr. Anthony Fauci and every other medical authority on the planet had in mind, when they said things might ease up after everyone or at least a critical mass is vaccinated.

My granddaughter had to wait until Dec. 28 to receive and open Christmas presents mailed on Dec. 7. I was more sad than mad. But I knew that nobody was going to die if she didn’t get her gifts, and this was truly a First World problem. More importantly, she was not fussed in the least. After all, with virtual school and holidays unlike years past, she was happy to have another day of surprises and she was ready to video chat as she opened them.

Delayed gratification is the new normal. Remember when we waited for photos to process? Some of us go back as far as sending them off to a developing company in another state just to get a two for one sale. It could take two weeks for the prints to return by mail.

Those were the days. We didn’t give a second thought to things not being “same day” pick up. That all took time and patience. We wait nine months for a human to enter our lives, we wait all year for Christmas. Yet, if a tab doesn’t open in a nanosecond we are swearing. Patience in all things comes with composure and a calm. Are we there yet?

Not everyone has patience built in. I have a friend who does aerobic yoga. He claims he gets his meditation and his cardio workout all in the same activity. I’d ask why, but I think the answer would be simply because he can. His wife overheard him praying one night and he whispered, “Give me tranquility…and I want it NOW!”

Another friend won’t wait in line for anything, if there’s a line, he moves on to the next thing on his list, or to the next fast food place. Waiting was not in his genetic makeup. I wonder how he’s doing these days. He might have a gold medal for annoyance and indignation. Last I heard he had his patience tested and he tested negative.

As far as virtues go, patience might be the hardest one to practice, if your life has been one of multi-tasking, lists and honking in traffic. We all can agree that patience is definitely linked to better mental health and physical well-being. We can become frustrated, drive ourselves crazy, feel like victims, and have tantrums, or not. Irritation or self-restraint is our choice.

I would have thought I was far too impatient to stoically endure this threatening pandemic. Then I realized I waited years just to get to Yellowstone Park, decades to buy a new bicycle, and who knows how long I have to wait for world peace? I wouldn’t consider myself virtuous, but I have learned patience.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at

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