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(In?)Tolerance and Time

Posted Jun 13 2010 2:02pm

Today I thought I’d talk about “tolerance” and time. Each person has their own level of tolerance, and it builds up over time. But likewise, tolerance can wane.

For example, when I lived in Argentina, I got used to things being closed at random times — even though the store-fronts would say otherwise … and paying more if I used a credit card vs. cash. I just accepted it as something as Argentine as dulce de leche.

When I lived in El Salvador, I grew accustomed to  seeing security guards with rifles outside every bank, dining establishment, bar, theater, etc. (basically every public place) … not having regular access to hot water and Internet … and obscene heat without air conditioning.

And when I first began working out at 5 a.m., I wondered how I’d ever get used to that early a wake-up call.

Eventually, of course, those things that initially seemed intolerable/annoying/frustrating at the time became part of my lifestyle … and I came to accept them as just part of life.

I stopped being irritated at the “lazy” Argentine way of life (which now, after nearly a decade in the working world, seems lavish and desirable!). I stopped being frustrated at the nuances of living in a third world country (which now I realize was one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life). And I stopped being annoyed by  the blaring alarm (and eventually found myself not only loving it but waking up BEFORE the alarm most days!)

What’s funny to me is how over time, our tolerance can change. Regarding my first two examples, when I got back to the U.S., all those things that were a bit of a pain but generally “acceptable” in Argentina and El Salvador, respectively, would annoy the hell out of me here. Id’ go into bitch mode … “What do you mean the A/C is broke?!” (when I lived without it in the tropics for HOW long?!) or “What do you mean the bistro’s owners are on vacation?!” (when in Argentina this was a regular occurrence).

It’s like all that tolerance I’d built up … just faded to black, end scene, the moment I set foot back on American soil. Perhaps it’s related to expectations; certain things are “accepted” here? I’m not sure. But I’ve experienced this sense of intolerance on more than one occasion, and it gives me pause.

Even talking about something as mundane as my (former) early a.m. workout calls … though it was sooooo hard to do initially, after a couple weeks, it felt natural. But after five years of early a.m. wake-up calls for the gym, today, they honestly don’t fit into my life … plain and simple … and haven’t for the past year and a half. I’ve tried to bring them back from time to time, but they’re just not happening and I’ve accepted I’ve become “intolerant” of them.

On the weekends with the pup I’ll get up early and walk him, or go for a bike ride or quick 2-mile  run … but the obsessive have-to/must-do of my earlier mid-20s self has faded to black … end scene.

Now in this case, I have to say I don’t see my developed “intolerance” as a problem; I still get in my workouts at other times and with my husband always at class or studying, I usually have my evenings free — plus, it’s light here in Michigan til 10 p.m. I think I’m healthier/saner without the OCD workout schedule, so in this case, the intolerance is a welcome gesture because it shows I am learning to loosen up my own life of rules/restrictions.

But, as I explained previously, it’s not always welcome.  Sometimes the intolerance is a big, fat negative. For example, I stress and freak out when things don’t go my way. I know a lot of people would say they do too, but they probably have better coping mechanisms than me. (i.e., shopping … NOT GOOD!) It’s part of my hard-wiring, I learned that in therapy….as an anxious person, I do tend to obsess/stress more than necessary.  It can make me difficult to be around, and I recognize I should be able to channel those experiences in tolerance instead of pushing them away when challenges arise, as I learned through my gym routine experience.

Which brings me to today’s post. It probably comes as little surprise that I’m not a fan of waiting for much … my tolerance levels for people who are late runs thin as it is … I don’t like waiting for big events or holidays … and when it comes to things that are totally out of my control (such as the vague situation-I’m-in-that-I-haven’t-been-able-to-vocalize-yet-but-should-be-able-to-soon) … well, you can just imagine how low my tolerance for that is!

And that, dear readers, is why I feel like I’m being tested, given a tolerance test unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. I can’t snap my fingers and have answers in this situation, but rather am left to sit with it and learn to tolerate it, accept it, deal with it, and hope that I don’t lose sight of the experience as I’m going through it.

I think these lessons have a purpose; all life lessons do. I have always been an impatient person and I am in a situation that requires me to literally take things one day at a time … one moment at a time, if I’m being completely honest. Hopefully I’ll develop a tolerance to my own intolerance, if nothing else.

Sometimes the only thing that can really heal is time … if we are tolerant enough to allow it to work its magic. Perhaps the ultimate gift in life, then, is time … and what we make of it/how tolerant we are of it. Just some food for thought … or maybe just for myself to feast on — though I hope this makes sense to you, my readers, as well.

How about you? Are you a tolerant person? Impatient? How do you cope?


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