“I am invariably late for appointments… I’ve tried to change my ways but the things that make me late are too strong, and too pleasing.” ― Marilyn Monroe
I was planning to visit the children in Hobart, a four hour drive away. The spreadsheet file I had been working on had to be sent to my accountant by 11 am. When I checked it, I realized it had been corrupted. I spent an hour retrieving the previous saved version and retracing my steps to get it to the required finished product to send on. There were a few unexpected queries from work that needed my urgent attention. Time was marching on. The house looked like a tornado had hit it. I still had to have my morning walk, shower, dress and pack.To top it off I was fighting this tremendous pressure in my chest to make sure that I got away on time so that I could be there on time. This made me frazzled. As if reading my mind the children each sent me a text, urging me to make sure I left on time, to make sure I would be there at the appointed time for dinner. I became anxious at the texts. This was not a child’s graduation, a wedding, catching a plane, or a medical appointment. This was not a national emergency. This was dinner. When the third text came through, everything descended down on me and I sat down on the floor and cried.
It was a descent of my own making. I had not been able to put myself above the moment. I had let it get to me. I has lost control of this moment because of all the other moments that had gone before. It was all the other moments. They all came flooding back.
My life had always been that we must be on time.
I had lost so much of myself over the years due to worrying about being on time and often not quite making it anyway because of lost time in the worrying. ‘Come on, get ready. Quick, quick.’ I would never feel quite ready and would become flustered in feeling not quite ready, applying make-up hurriedly, leaving behind a mess in the kitchen, arriving to wherever-it-was-so-important-to-be-on-time all anxious and stressed.
When being on time counts, such as catching a plane or attending a medical appointment or attending to a national emergency, I can and do prioritize being on time. At other times, other things are more important to me. My priorities differ.
My preference is to always be there for people; either late or on time, I will be there. My preference is to finish what needs to be done over here so that when I get over there, I can fully engage in the moment of over there. My preference is to remain calm so when I arrive I can relax and enjoy the moment of now. My preference is to calm the distressed child, attend to the unexpected accident, take the phone call from a friend in need, mop up the spilled milk then try, as best as I am able, to get there on time. My preference is to attend to whatever I feel is most important, to take in my stride those ‘things’ that get in the way of plans and schedules. My preference is to remain calm and, if too many important things crop up, slip the ‘being on time’ to a lower priority – and not worry about it.
My values and priorities are important too.
The point is not whether being on time is a good value to strive for or not. The point is, it is not my value. It is a value that belonged to someone else. I became stressed and anxious by not living up to a value that belonged to someone else.
The reason that I was feeling upset now, was not because I may be late, or because I was overwhelmed by too much to do before getting away. I was grieving for those times I had violated my own values, for those times I had not taken the time to calm the distressed child, or mopped up the spilled milk, or taken the phone call from my friend and for those times when I was not there when I should have been because I was rushing to be on time to somewhere else for someone else.