Patience and pace

Posted November 23, 2021 · 2 min read

Sometimes, you "know" something, but it can take some time before you really know it. It's part of why I think advice is often useless — it often takes an experience or an epiphany to internalize something that you always "knew" to be true.

The truth I've been thinking about lately: there's no rush.

I have a tendency to rush. Initially, I thought that I was just impatient, but after giving it some thought I think that's not quite it.

Last year, a close friend told me that whenever we're eating dinner with our friends, I'm always the first one to get up at the table. It had never occurred to me, but after he mentioned it I couldn't help but notice it was completely true. Once we finished the meal, I would feel restless that dinner was over but we hadn't moved on to the next thing.

My solution was to "try to be more patient", which meant waiting at the table until someone else got up. But as I was thinking about this again this week, I realized that my fundamental problem isn't patience — it's pace.

What's the distinction?

Patience implies that the situation is taking longer than it should, but that I should summon some existential benevolence and calmly endure the delay. Pace, on the other hand, is a "rate of movement", or "tempo of motion". When I reframe the problem as a problem of pace, it indicates that my central understanding of how long things "should" take is misguided.

In the dinner situation, patience certainly helps me, but it doesn't address the root of the problem: I feel as though life should happen quickly, and if it doesn't, I should speed it up.

That second part — that I should deliberately hasten the pace of life — is likely the source of many of my stresses and anxieties. It means that I not only demand an unsustainable level of effort and achievement on my own part, but try to control things outside of my sphere of influence so that they match my tempo. It's too much to ask, both of myself and of other people.

When I tell myself "there's no rush", what I mean is that I can slow down my pace.

Things will probably turn out fine regardless, and I'll enjoy the process a lot more.


Julia Cooke © 2022