This is a series of posts surrounding my goal of focusing on patience in 2017, specifically my retreat day of patience on January 5th. To read more in the series, click on the "patience" tag at the bottom of this post.
One could argue that fasting could be a poetic way to learn patience. Today, I’m not inclined to believe it. I’m hungry. I want to sit for awhile and contemplate so more. This would be the ideal time to search for an international restaurant, where the meal is served in courses over a few hours.
I opt for a chain sandwich shop.
Once again, the snow has kept people from going out and it’s empty. But people are still hungry and the staff is buzzing along filling a full slate of carry out orders. Even though I’m the only person in line, I’m forced to wait—to place my order, to select my condiments, to pay for my meal. I grin because I cherish the added irony. The manager apologies for the slowness and asks if I’m doing OK. “Just fine,” I respond. “Thanks for asking."
When I sit down, it’s just me in the dining room. Well, it’s me AND the live lunchtime performer in the corner. He’s not playing yet, but he’s tuning his guitar, so I know it’s coming. I’m still convicted not to put my headphones in, so I know I’ll be forced to listen to whatever folk music he produces. But he leads out the gate with Simon and Garfunkle’s the Boxer. I’m a sucker for it; it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. The musical interlude will act as a metronome forcing me to slow my pace.
I eat fast.
I chalk it up to my childhood. Mealtime in a big family is all about pace. If you don’t eat quickly, you may not get enough of the food you want; no kid wants to be stuck with a second helping of vegetables. I’ve continued the habit for, as much as I love eating, it’s something I need to do for sustenance, so even when it’s enjoyable, it’s about utility. This is heightened when I’m eating along. I could always sit and read my Twitter feed, but I’d rather get in and out. At the very least, over the years, I’ve tried to stop eating in my car. Again, though, that decision wasn’t about patience; I was tired of losing lettuce between my car cushions.
For the day of patience, I’ve convinced myself to eat slowly. I take little bites, trying to savor my not-so-fast food. My soup is a willing participant. The steam continues to rise from my bowl for a good fifteen minutes. If I eat any faster, I’ll lose a year’s worth of tastebuds. As the lunch crowd begins to stream in, I can finally recognize that I indeed slowed down a bit. People who hit the dining room after me are leaving while I’m still nursing my sandwich. The performer in the corner is working his deeper cuts of folk music (chasing Bob Dylan with the Counting Crows); I actually drop him a tip, which is something I rarely do for musicians. The pause to listen makes me appreciate the craft more.
I’m not sure I’ll eat more patiently in the future. But at the very least, I’ll try to digest forgettable moments more deliberately in the future.