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23 Aug

In Praise of Instant Gratification

‘(N.B. The following article was produced for publication before the current coronavirus pandemic began).’

I‘,m fed up of having to work at things. Does that sound bad?

The constant chipping away at those big projects – the house, the manuscript, the getting your life in order before deciding whether you might make decent parents at some point. Saving for a new pair of jeans. Waiting and waiting for things to slowly build before you can enjoy the rewards.

I want now.

I want instant gratification.

Is this why people have sex in public places I wonder? The instant pay off from an impromptu quickie, fulfilling that need to have something in your life that you haven’t had to meticulously plan and work at tirelessly for months or years on end?

I’m not really one for rolling around in communal germs and my husband has Raynaud’s syndrome, so doesn’t fair well in cold weather. Alas, no public, al fresco tumbling around for us. At least not until we’re further into spring. Just another thing I’ll have to wait for. Sigh.

I could have a bowl of ice cream or dunk another biscuit in my tea I suppose. Small, but sensible instant pleasures that might help me get through the drawn-out torture of plodding on with my grown-up goals. Although, my diet is somewhat restricted by various health conditions, so no cookie dough, caramel, chocolate frozen goopiness for me—no—a scoop of vanilla or a dipping soggy rich tea, that’s my lot right now. Sigh. Sigh.

What I really want, is for something that I really want to just come together beautifully and miraculously right now! Right this second! For a dream or plan or project to have just completed itself rather than being laborious, painful, and agonisingly ‘bit-by-bit’.

I want to close my eyes, make a wish, and open them to find all my dreams have instantly come true!

I know, I know, it’s about the journey isn’t it? Not the destination.

But what happens when we’re patiently plodding through not just one, but many journeys simultaneously? Winding through various giant mazes of uncertainty, carrying both cross-bows and picnic hampers to make sure we have all bases covered?

You start out ambling through merrily, stopping for the odd sip of tea as you lean against a nearby tree stump and tell yourself philosophically, ‘it’ll all happen when it happens’.

But then over time you find your pace quickening, your reserve flagging.

You become aware that the mindfulness mantras you’ve been chanting from the start seem to be doing less of a job than they once did at drowning out the petulant cries of your own impatience, growing more frantic underfoot.

Then one day weary, and oh-so-near to the exit of the maze (you think, you hope!), you suddenly stumble down another bloody, unforeseen rabbit hole. As you’re falling and falling through the dark you feel the Queen of impatience’s scrawny little hands reach out and grab you around the neck. CHOP! Off with your head.

Wondering if you’ve gone mad, you stand peering over at what appears to be your own candle-lit vigil; a white rabbit complete with pocket watch is stood shaking his head and tuttering, “all that waiting patiently like a grown-up, that’s what got her in the end.” As her Majesty Impatience skips gleefully around your framed photograph, with pages of your unfinished manuscript and the unsigned solicitors contracts from your protracted house sale sewn like a patchwork quilt onto her gaudy skirts.

I know.

As it stands, I have little choice other than to continue to practice patience. To keep being thankful for all the other pay offs I’ve already reached by chipping away at things over the years. Remind myself that I once would have given anything to be able to enjoy the things I now have, things that I lived in agony waiting for, tripping down rabbit holes frequently in years gone by to reach the centre platform in the maze I am now well past.

Yes, I’ll try to remember that these glorious things I am blessed with –my marriage, my much-improved health, my calmness of mind– are themselves the results of patience and chipping.

And if that tactic doesn’t work? Well then, perhaps it is off to a Maccy’s bathroom for hubby and I after all. We can balance on the sink nearest to the hand dryer and intermittently press the big, silver button with a bouncing knee to take the chill off our naked bodies, as we relent to the need for some instant gratification.

Either that or Impatience will be mounting my head on a stick.

Only time will tell.

Portia Holdsworth

Portia Holdsworth is a life-writer, journalist, book editor and photographer. Having previously held the position of deputy editor of performing arts at Artinfo magazine, she now enjoys working freelance. Her life-writing works, photography and articles have been published worldwide. Portia is a strong advocate of slow living, cups of tea, and daily laughter, as well as of equality.

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