The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 1, 2008


Around Home I'm late, I'm latebut not in 2008

I read an article about New Year's resolutions recently that gave this pointer: to increase your odds of succeeding with a resolution, tell it to as many people as possible.

So, what better way to ensure the success of my own 2008 goal than to put it forth to 5,000 people — many of whom will be able to personally monitor my progress in the upcoming months? (If you doubt that the readership of the Mosquito is actually 5,000 — birds in cages looking down from their perches not withstanding — note that I forward my column to a lot of friends and acquaintances every month. And "becoming less self-promotional in 2008" was decidedly not one of my resolutions. Maybe in 2009.)

Thus, here it is: My resolution for 2008 is to overcome a lifetime of being chronologically challenged. Or, to put it more bluntly, late to everything.

I know I'm not alone in saying it seems that the past several years have gone by in a blur, but in my case I mean it literally: a blur because I've spent so much time rushing. I arrive at work late, get to meetings late, reach social events late. I leave the house late when I'm supposed to be somewhere, and I leave late from wherever I am when I'm supposed to be home. I miss the announcements at church and the previews at movies. Anyone who is a frequent dinner guest at our house knows that it's not at all unusual to pass me out on a run as they turn into our driveway.

My husband does not have this fault at all, and I always tell myself if I only follow his example, my problem will be instantly solved. He's always on time. And yet whenever we're going any place together, I argue with him about what time to leave and manage to stall until we're on my schedule rather than his

Every now and then, I have the surprising experience of getting somewhere early, and it always feels so wonderfully refreshing that I wonder why I don't do it more often. I inexplicably arrived at a parent-teacher conference ten minutes ahead of schedule last month — something I haven't done in the past three years of parent-teacher conferences — and not only was able to examine the bulletin board displays in the hall, which had previously just been a blur of bright colors to me as I flew by — but also had the chance to chat with a passing staff member whom I hadn't seen in a long time.

Turning myself into a punctual person would mean eliminating the physical stress of always running behind schedule: the fast heart rate and stress headache I get from watching the minutes tick by. And, of course, there are always after-effects of arriving late: weathering the resentment of those who arrived on time; fumbling for pens at a meeting when everyone else already has theirs out; missing the instructions. Or worse. With my two children and one niece in tow, I once arrived ten minutes late for a long-scheduled family portrait. The kids were so stressed out by all the rushing that they were unable to sit and pose for the photographer. As other family members were quick to point out, I ruined the plan for everyone, simply by not admitting that it can easily take up to ten minutes to get three kids from the playground across the parking lot and into the car.

But a few weeks ago, I had a breakthrough of sorts. My children and I were going to visit relatives who live nearly an hour away. We hadn't visited them in well over a year, but what I remembered most about arriving at their house in the past was that they always teased me about my lateness. This time, I decided, I simply didn't want to make that the premier topic of conversation. If for no other reason than to ensure that we'd have to find something more interesting to talk about, I resolved to be on time just to cut off that conversational avenue.

So I left my house fifteen minutes early. It worked. And I realized that if I could do it that once, surely I could do it again.

I once attended a lecture on personal organization at which the instructor observed, "Any time you get something you want, no matter how much you wanted it, there is something you will sacrifice." In my case, if I start making it a high priority to be on time, I'll lose all those little three- or five- or fifteen-minute pockets of getting one last thing done at home before I leave the house. But it's probably worth a try anyway. I can always go back, and make a resolution next year to stop wasting so much time by arriving places early.

It's highly unlikely I'll reach that point. But the idea of being able to change something negative about myself is so intriguing. Can I become a different kind of person, someone who is serene and organized and completely centered at every gathering or event? Unlikely. But at the very least, I can set the stage to try to make that a possibility.

2008 The Carlisle Mosquito