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Delaying Gratification

When I wake up in the morning, usually some time between 5 and 6am, I roll out of bed, head

to the kitchen and push ‘Start’ on my coffee maker. I often fill it with water and ground coffee the night before, so all I need to do is push the button in the morning to begin the process that yields the black elixir-of-life I adore. Then I head to my youngest son’s room, slowly rotate the brass doorknob, and push open his door as quietly as I can. Our dog, Zephyr, is inside, sometimes waiting for me just inside the door, ready to walk into the hall, plunk herself down on the floor and roll onto her back, exposing her belly for the first rub of the day. Other times, she is snuggled up on Elliot’s furniture (yes, we are that kind of Dog People), and I must look her hard in the eye to inspire her to rouse herself and join me outside the room.

In either case, only after the morning belly rub do we proceed into the kitchen. I pour a scoop of dog food into her bowl, command her to “Sit!” then nod my head and say to her, “You may begin.” She looks up at me with the gratitude that only the family dog can provide, then stands and puts her face to the bowl. I step back and finally pour my coffee. Our ritual complete, I am free to move about the house and decide how to prioritize my day.

Many years ago, around the time I was going through my first divorce, I read the book, The Road Less Traveled, a classic of self-support, by M. Scott Peck. From it, I learned the name for what may be the most important life skill anyone can ever cultivate: the ability to delay gratification.