If the learning of new skills is pursued seriously, then lessons in patience and self-mastery will go hand in hand.
By Michelle Martin
Published December 06, 2010
Last month, my husband and I were Christmas shopping and popped into Fourbucks for a coffee. After we ordered a couple of lattes, we took our place to the right, while a couple of beleaguered teenage baristas hurried to keep up with the orders and struggled to read the scrawls on the sides of rapidly incoming paper cups.
Poor kids: if you'd stuck Lucille Ball in there, it would have made a great episode.
The fellow ahead of us was irritated because he had to keep correcting the person who was preparing his order: "No, it was a half-caf, caramel latte, skinny, extra, extra-hot; no, not that much whipped cream, just a little. Can you take some off, please?"
He glanced in our direction, apparently seeking some sympathy, and we studiously ignored him.
"Can you believe that guy?" I said to Stephen, well aware that I was within earshot, "What a priss. Talk about high maintenance. Glad I married you."
We sat down to enjoy our lattes in a nice, shiny shop, close to where we had been doing our Christmas shopping, in our warm coats and shoes, a cell-phone in my pocket - but we're not high-maintenance, no siree.
And neither are our kids. Never mind that they've got access to more material goods than we did when we were kids, for all that our budget is tighter than our parents' budgets were.
They get nicer fruit in the winter than we did. They've never had an orange that wasn't an easy-to-peel navel one, and the apples they eat in the winter are in much better shape than the ones we had, thanks to advances in citrus fruit breeding and improved cold-storage technology.
Even though we've never had cable or video games, the youngest six haven't known a home without a personal computer or a DVD player.
There's so much stuff around, and so much of it to be had so cheaply. Have you ever seen what comes home in birthday party loot bag these days?
The more convenience and luxury we all enjoy, the more irritable we all become, as indigestion surely follows overindulgence.
Just because I don't get my shirt in a knot at the coffee shop doesn't mean I don't get annoyed when the bank machine is down and I actually have to go into the bank and wait behind two people to withdraw cash.
Do you think we'll all be ready when the oil runs out?
As Jason Allen wrote in RTH last month, part of resilience is learning new skills, learning how to learn new skills, not being afraid to give it a go, and not being afraid of hard work.
But another part of resilience is learning, in the meantime (before we're really forced into it), to do with less than what we've been used to.
It is as important for us to cultivate the habit of not complaining about inconveniences or even (horrors!) discomfort as it is to learn how to start a fire with two sticks and keep our own chickens.
Actually, these two facets of resilience belong together: if the learning of new skills is pursued seriously, then lessons in patience and self-mastery will go hand in hand. If patience and self-mastery are pursued seriously, then it will be easier to learn new skills.
It's not only a "give it a go" approach to learning that is required, but also a "let it go" attitude to our own material comfort, that will help us get each other through harder times.
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