These last few weeks have been a trying time for my family. My mother remains hospitalized in intensive care following four surgeries in five weeks. We have had several visits from Murphy over the summer that strained our emergency fund. The wild market swings have added a bit of financial stress as we watch our retirement balances swing like a giant pendulum. Because I try to be a generally positive person, I’ve been searching for the silver lining on this dark cloud that has shadowed much of our lives these last couple month. That silver lining has been a reminder that there is one common element in overcoming all of these negative events: patience.
Patience is a Virtue Our Society Does Not Have
I’m not exactly sure what, or who, is to blame for our collective impatience, but we’ve become an on-demand society in a lot of ways. Instant communication and instant gratification have made the notion of patience a dated idea. I’m often reminded of stories from my grandfather when he was overseas serving in the Marines. He wrote letters back and forth to my grandmother, and it usually took weeks for his letter to be received, and for her to send a reply. Often times the items he wrote about were “overcome by events” by the time the response was received.
Fast forward to today. International email takes only a few seconds to be transmitted thousands of miles. Technology has improved many areas of our lives, but has also spoiled us. No longer is it acceptable to wait very long for some piece of information. No longer are we willing to wait for good news.
Health and Patience
As I mentioned, my Mom has faced some very serious health issues over the last few weeks. While I would love for her to make an instant and full recovery, I know that it is not likely in the short term, and her recovery will probably take some time. No amount of medicine, or technology, or advanced surgical techniques can speed up the healing process required. It will just take some time. And that is okay. We will be patient, and will continue to take a long-term approach to her healing.
Wealth and Patience
The meltdown in the housing industry combined with a credit crunch, a war, an election year, increased fuel prices, and natural disasters have taken their toll on the financial markets. Those reporting on the financial industry take the side of “doom-and-gloom” one minute, and then predict the beginning of a rebound the very next day if the markets bounce back up. It is their job to provide a constant stream of analysis on the markets, but frankly I just don’t pay it that much attention. I know that over time the markets will likely trend up. And so I continue to contribute to retirement savings in the equities market. I have the benefit of time on my side, and I will apply patience to my own investing strategy.
Patience is not something we are born with–remember screaming for that bottle when you were six months old? However, patience is a virtue that is often reinforced when we are faced with circumstances beyond our control. For instance, when nothing else matters but the healing of a loved one, you have some time to take a deep breath and think, “Wow, why was I in such a hurry all the time?” You suddenly feel like that guy zipping along at 80mph to make the next business meeting when suddenly his car dies in a remote stretch of highway out of cell phone range. It is only then that he is reminded of the lesson of patience–eventually someone will come along and provide some help to carry him on his way, but it may take a while. That is sort of how I feel. I know eventually we will all get through the rough times; it will just take a little patience.