“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.6
Today’s meditation was direct. As Holiday and Hanselman wrote:
Control your perceptions.
Direct your actions properly.
Willingly accept what’s outside your control.
These are the three critical perceptions of Stoic thought. I read this meditation while I waited in my urologist’s office. My appointed was at 1:10. I arrived at 1:05, was called in for a urine sample at 1:20 and subsequently waited in his office for 40 minutes with no update to his status. During this time I walked the office (to get my FitBit steps), did triceps dips and performed general stretching. All in an effort to optimize my time. Once 2:00 pm approached I had to leave. My wife and daughter were waiting for me. We had lunch to eat, a farmer’s market to visit and a 4:20 movie to attend. I could have easily lit into the medical assistants (they told me I was the next to be visited when I explained to them I had to reschedule) as I was leaving. But what would this have gained me? Was my urologist occupied with an emergency? Were the assistants tending to the same emergency, and reasonably forgot I was waiting? Did I want to interrogate them as to the facts of my waiting?
Anger is the easy reaction. Yet nothing I would do after-the-fact was going to change the time I was waiting. They simply needed to know I could no longer wait, regardless of how close I was to being seen. I could then schedule another appointment time that was not an inconvenience to me.
Situations like this have a want for justice. I have been wronged by having to wait. My time has been wasted, and someone must pay. It isn’t clear that is the best way to approach the situation. It isn’t clear that justice is warranted. Who was harmed? What damages were incurred? Isn’t this the attitude that leads to things like road rage? Someone cut me off. We take it personally. We demand justice.
I can think of times when I was late to pick someone up. At times I had good reasons, while other times it was simply bad time management. Never was it personal. If I understand that it’s not personal then why should I get angry? If my perception is one of understanding that sometimes people forget, or sometimes greater priorities warrant attention, my actions can be performed in a way that understands such.
As I left my room I saw my urologist emerge from the room across the hall. He was, in fact, dealing with another patient.