Recently I got an email that was supposed to be congratulating me on a good review, but the writer managed to make it clear that she personally had some reservations about my work.
Immediately I clicked reply and began typing a sarcastic response.
As I worded and reworded my indignant sentences, a thought appeared at the edges of my consciousness. Did I really want to start a fight?
Maybe … I should consult a third party for advice.
Maybe … I should take a deep breath.
Maybe … while I was taking that breath, the third party would write back saying what I already knew, that nobody else thought any of that stuff and there was no need to flail my tiny fists.
Maybe … that old advice about counting to ten.
Maybe … I wouldn’t send my reply at all.
And in fact, I did not. I left the message in the Drafts folder and within a day or two found I felt absolutely no need to reply to the email. All that steam had evaporated; I didn’t care.
I still can’t quite believe I didn’t send it! I am a person who has been living with the effects of her impatience and lack of impulse control since the day she couldn’t wait any longer for The Big Ones to change her diaper and took care of it herself. Impatience has made me efficient, timely and productive; it has also made me rude, half-baked, clumsy, irritable, impolitic, and a bull in the china shop of romance. The only good thing about how quick I am to flare up is how quick I am to get over it. Holding grudges requires far too much focus.
For people like me, and there are many of us, medicated and not, the instantaneousness of the Send button in email programs has been a serious problem. It has never been easier to cause trouble, start fights, flirt, blurt, spill the beans, send out messages with errors and typos, sign off with hugs and kisses to your contractor and the school principal. Humiliations large and small await at the click of a mouse. At least with drunk dialing you had to be drunk and you had to dial.
A friend in California called the other day to report her imminent death from embarrassment — called mortification for a reason — because she had accidentally pressed Reply All to a mass email from a friend about his art opening with a note she’d intended for just one person on the list. It said something along the lines of “if he can find someone to buy this crap, more power to him.”
Oh dear, oh dear. Time heals all wounds, but stop checking your watch because time does not hurry, and no matter how desperately we sometimes wish it were otherwise, it only goes in one direction. There are enough irreversible accidents and relentlessly unfolding losses without adding to the list. Prudence is something I never admired as a virtue but too many broken things can’t be fixed, too many messes can’t be cleaned up. From an unnecessary thin-skinned email to infinity.
The more time you spend with time, the more respect you have for it. Perhaps this why, in general, young people are more impatient than old people, though it’s the old ones whose meters are running out.
The longest five minutes I’ve ever experienced (like, say, in savasana at the end of the yoga class or the time I temporarily lost my kids in a grocery store) was not really all that long. All the times my head almost exploded while standing in a line or sitting at a meeting, and here my head still is, more or less intact. Sometimes it’s interesting to see what happens if you don’t do anything, if you just keep your mouth shut. I assume for many people this is a totally obvious cliche, but for me it’s breaking news.
I am very, very familiar with waiting as a form of torture. Now I wonder if it is also something else.
Perhaps I’ll sit back and find out.
Latest posts by Marion Winik (see all)
- Q&A with Rachel Monroe, former editor of Baltimore Fishbowl and author of ‘Savage Appetites’ - September 12, 2019
- Q&A: Judith Krummeck, local author of ‘Old New Worlds’ - September 6, 2019
- Just Another Family Dinner - September 4, 2019