Thursday, February 25, 2010

Late again???

This morning, we were 45 minutes late for a doctor's appointment.  This post may sound like I'm rambling, but I'm just thinking in writing about the issue of my lateness.  It seems to be connected to so many other things and I want to start being a good student of myself in this area.  Plus, I would love you early and on-time people to tell me how you handle the various things you encounter that could contribute to your lateness but somehow it doesn't!  

Several things happened that felt like they were not within my control this morning : The babysitter did not show up on time, Jaedon wouldn't have his juice, Zachary's choice of clothing didn't fit, neither did Simonne's, I had to reschedule the training session I would have had later that afternoon with a new volunteer, Jaedon decided to throw his juice down the stairs (by some miracle it landed upright on one of the steps, with half its contents still in the cup, the other half all over the wall and in the carpet), Jaedon's shoes were discovered to have dog poop on the bottom (most likely from stepping in the offensive stuff during our outing yesterday)....  Fortunately, I had made 2 appointments (2 kids ) and though I was late for one, I was early for the other.

This is but one in countless examples of me being late.  Pre-children, getting somewhere on time was challenging for me.  I recall numerous detentions for lateness from Sr. James Vincent, as I was dropped to school by my father.  Maybe he had problems with lateness.  I only got to school on time when I travelled with Desiree, the girl up the hill from me who also went to my school.  Her father insisted that she got to school by 7:20am.  They often met me huffing and puffing as I ran up the hill to their house.

I had probably just gotten it all sorted out during early adulthood.  I got to work on time while teaching.  I think this was primarily because I made sure my classes started at a reasonable time: 10:00 am.  Routines, structure, predictability and knowing my own inner rhythms help me to get where I'm going punctually.

Then came kids!  What inner rhythms?  What routines?  I noticed that with each child, I have to add 30 minutes to what I would consider 'normal' preparation time.  So, if I am to pay attention to that bit of information, I should have started kid preparation at 9:30 for the 11:00 appointment this morning.  That means other prep would need to have happened before 9:30.  I feel nauseous thinking about that.  I'm definitely not a morning person, so early morning prep as the sole adult can be a daunting task.

I think it comes back to my planning strategies.  I need more of them.  I have noticed that I do 2 things that increase the likelihood of my being late:
  1. I overestimate what can be done in 5 minutes.  There is always this huge list of things I think I need to do.  So I'm leaving the house and I notice that I can't find my notebook.  I check behind the couch, the new spot for lost things (a.k.a. things swiped by Jaedon for hoarding) and indeed, there it is!  I also notice that several items of silverware, some bowls, open markers, lipstick and other odds and ends are also stashed.  Aware that I wasn't late, I call for a broom and set to clearing out behind the couch.... 10 minutes later, I'm frantic.  Another scenario is my noticing that I'm 5 minutes ahead and decide that I should have my smoothie, instead of the nothing I was planning to eat before I left.  After all, isn't this better for my body?  Then, since there is no point making just mine, I make for everyone, then call them, distribute the smoothies, change my sweater because of the spilled smoothie on it, clean smoothie off the floor,....  You get the idea.
  2. I don't plan for the things I can't control.  This is a big one for me.  Why not say something like 'Smoothie prep - 30 mins'?  My time slots are always done based on best case scenarios.  It's like I think best case is 'normal' and unplanned happenings are anomolies.  Yet I experience many unplanned happenings daily.  Perhaps is would be easier to plan for them if I even acknowledged that they were possible.  As I stood in traffic on the I-87 because of an accident, I thought "Traffic on the 87 is quite normal.  How come I don't expect it?"
I'm going to think about this some more...
  • Not allotting enough prep time seems to be an efficiency issue for me.  If I give too much time, I will get less done.  If I'm not hurrying, I could have gotten more done.  I can't just say to myself 'Smoothie Prep - 30 mins' because there is another part of me that's saying 'that's ridiculous! You know it doesn't take you that long to make a smoothie'.  So I'm going to continue thinking about my beliefs around what is efficient and what isn't.  
  • I would like to reframe my thoughts on normal vs anomalous happenings. I plan for normal.   I usually have enough information to decide that something is normal.  Jaedon has been throwing stuff downstairs for a few days, Zachary's sense of appropriate clothing choices isn't fully developed yet, there is usually traffic on the 87.  Like the child with autism, I can be inflexible.  I resist adjusting my mental pictures to integrate my 'don't wants'.  So, I continue to be startled.
Out of the Closet
My strategy for dealing with lateness is very different from my typical strategy for personal growth.  Usually, I talk about anything I'm thinking about.  I read about it, I write about it, and share what I'm learning with others and get their thoughts.  Lateness has such a bad rap in this part of the world (it's seen differently in Jamaica, where typically weddings start 2 hours after the stated time) that I hide from it and prefer to pretend that I'm late just this once.  That has to do with what I think people may think about me.   They are probably thinking it anyway, and my thinking about it in secret hasn't been helping me, so I'm outing myself.  I tend to be late and I'd like to spend the next couple of weeks allowing myself to really be curious about this.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  How do you figure this out?

Next week:  I do actually get to some places on time.  I wonder what I'm thinking about and believing in those situations?


  1. Faith, I LOVE this post. I have never been a "late" person, but I recognize it from a time I got into a job where the was always more on my plate then I could do, and I felt I always ran behind and I never got done what I had planned on getting done. Then I found a CD package called "getting things done" by David Allen, which I listened to and gave me some insights that helped me to focus my option dialogues in a way that helped me change this behavior. One of his tips was: "touch everything once". For example: if you bring in the mail, you immediately sort it in discard (and throw it out), file (and file), or do. If the category is do, and you have no time in the moment, you have one specific do place where you collect them until you can do it. This thing also has deeper consequences: if you are making breakfast and ten alternative things come up in the middle, you stay with you making breakfast (otherwise you would start two or more times!) or you go with one of the alternatives and do not have breakfast!
    When I read your article, I see that you constantly go with what is coming next, and you are not questioning why it is important that your kids clothing fits, why you believe you have to clean the stuff behind the couch at that moment, why you have to make your smoothy before you leave instead of when you get home. You created a great landscape to explore why like to distract yourself from the task at hand... Let's do those dialogue exchanges soon!

  2. LOL, some might even 'make it up,' this common behavior choice, as a version of OCD. Goodness, there's something Pharmacuticals are probably working on. Maybe even a vaccine. Gee then we won't have to do anything ourselves, right?

    Some it seems derive a sense of pleasure at demonstrating to themselves how well one can 'juggle.' (I know this personally, to be a learned response)

    Had occasion for my family to play with mindfulness exercises recently, and it yielded useful insights. bw

  3. Faith: wonderful post. You've done a tremendous job getting aware of, acknowledging and understanding/mapping the issue, which is usually the greater part of the work. I don't recall exactly all the 5 steps of studentship that Bears teaches, but I think 'all' that remains now is acceptance and action.

    I used to be a chronically late person myself, just 3-4 years ago, and used to have very little power around it. Most of my reasons were the same as yours. At some point, I elevated it as a priority to work on, decided I wanted to resolve it happily, and did! Back then I used to be very much a 'night person' and SO NOT a 'morning person' - today I'm very much the early bird who also can be a night owl when necessary. And I tell myself - if I can do THAT, I can do anything!

  4. Re-reading my previous comment, I see that it doesn't have any details that might help somebody working on a personal lateness issue. Honestly, thinking back about how I resolved it, I can't remember doing much thinking or belief-replacing. I do remember how good it felt to be up before the rest of the house, to enjoy the peace and quiet of the dawn, and to have time for reflection - instead of hitting the ground running every morning. As for getting to appointments on time, I think my prioritization of punctuality allowed me to easily decide what to not do.

    I guess this is an example of what Iris said in her post today - you can get answers by doing too, not just by thinking. For compulsive thinkers like me, that was a pretty big insight; thanks, Iris!

    P.S. Another insight I got from my process - the 'morning person' and 'night person' definitions are not as cast-in-concrete as they might appear.

  5. Thanks Sree. I found your first comment very helpful. I find being up before everyone very grounding too... I just don't do it very often. I like the idea of priorities. I prioritize other things above leaving home on time. Actually, I prioritize things to do with the children. I'm going to think more about how come I do that. Sometimes action is really what's needed to help us get our answers... The beautiful rhythm of thought and action.


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