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updated: 11/25/2011 2:59 PM

Some things just take time

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A number of years ago I broke my right foot while out running on some poorly maintained, snow-covered sidewalks.

Not that I knew I broke my foot; I actually refused to believe that I could really be injured and ran another couple of miles. I even hopped around all day trying to paint the living room.

It wasn't until 3 a.m. that I became convinced that I really had broken something and carted myself off to the emergency room.

I also refused to believe that I really needed crutches and a cast for the full six weeks prescribed by my doctor, so I managed to wear my cast out in four weeks and talk him into not putting on another one. I was back running that afternoon.

A couple of winters ago I developed a deep ache and swelling in my right foot. After limping into my doctor's office again, I was sent down the street for a quick X-ray. After reading the scan, my physician -- also a runner -- smiled in a way I did not find amusing.

"Remember when you broke your foot? Well, I guess it didn't heal as fast as you thought. You've got arthritis right where it broke, probably because you didn't stay off of it long enough."

Most of us are more than a bit impatient, especially when things don't go as quickly as we'd like, we're inconvenienced, struggling or in pain -- we want it over with and we want it now.

Unfortunately, many of the things we have to get through in this life do not cooperate with our self-imposed schedules or time lines. The committee at work seems to take forever to make a decision. Our 5-year-old cannot get her coat on and out the door in less than 15 minutes. A friend uses a couple hundred words to answer a simple "yes" or "no" question. Getting to the bottom of a problem in our marriage takes hours of tortured, confused and seemingly pointless talking. We can't get over feeling sad about losing our mother, even though it's been six months.

We try to rush things. And, in the process, we don't realize that, in the long run, we are probably making things worse. It takes the committee a long time to work things out because everybody needs to be heard if they are really going to buy into the decision. And if they aren't heard, any decision we make eventually will go nowhere.

In the 15 minutes it takes for our child to get ready to go, she is also sharing with us all sorts of stuff about her day at school, the bug she found in the back yard and her dreams of being a dancer. If we'd just allow more time, she'd feel attended to and would behave a lot better in the coming half-hour of errands.

Our friend's verbosity is really his attempt to make sure he doesn't hurt our feelings with his answer. When we cut him off we hurt his feelings, and we both walk away upset.

The time it takes to solve a marital issue is directly related to the seriousness of the problem and the importance of the relationship. If we value our marriage and it's in real trouble, we'd better take time -- a lot of time -- to sort things out or we won't have a marriage to value.

Our mother was there for us for six decades. Six months of sadness at her death doesn't seem out of proportion. Sadness unacknowledged often leads to depression, a more serious emotional state that can cripple us for even longer and may require professional help.

Perhaps the pace of modern living contributes to our escalating impatience with ourselves and each other. Perhaps we just don't have the energy it takes to stick with it. Perhaps we're afraid we can't handle the emotions involved.

But, whatever the reason, some things -- especially the important things -- just take time.

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