Friday, May 29, 2015

Just in Time

Mum often told me about the night that I was born. The tale had all the elements of a great story, with drama, tension, conflict: and since I was the happy ending, of course I loved it. I also liked the part about my being born exactly at midnight and Mum having the choice between May 31st or June 1st for my birthday. She chose June 1st.

Maybe that's where it all began, my fuzzy relationship with time. I've often thought that I must have been born 5 minutes late because ever since I can remember, my internal clock seemed that much behind. Left to my natural bent, even though I think that I am planning to be on time, inevitably, like clockwork, I have rolled up to church, meetings, lunch dates with friends; for life; 5 minutes late. Consistently. And exactly.

I am not proud of this bad habit but I used to rationalize that if punctuality is a continuum, then 5 minutes late is not horrible. I owned the trait as though it was part of me, like a cat whose whiskers had been trimmed and which could no longer gauge the size of the space to squeeze its body through. Part of my problem was that I lacked a realistic sense of what I could accomplish in a given space of time, always over estimating and I tended to notice things when leaving and try to do "one more thing" on the way out.

I recently faced the reality that being late was a choice and decided to choose to be on time instead. But as I was trying, something happened that hit home so hard it became the turning point for all time because it made me realize the cost of my habit.

 It was the night of our youngest granddaughter's dance recital. Paul was at a conference and was sad to miss it, but I would be there for both of us, and be taking photos as I always do, to capture the memories for all of us. I was already working on my new resolution to be on time, so I had timed out the route to the theatre and was home on time from work.

I still lagged behind though, and as my time to leave approached, I ended up rushing to eat dinner before leaving in a hurry, knowing that I was cutting it fine, especially for going to a place I'd never been before.

I was half an hour into my journey when I looked around the car and didn't see my camera and knew it was still on my kitchen counter-top  where I'd put it so I wouldn't forget it. The show was to start at 6.00 p.m. and the story can best be continued in the series of texts between our son Pete (he was already at the theatre) and me (only when briefly stopped at the side of the road before turning around.)

5:18 pm Pete: We'll save you a seat
5:20 pm Me:Ok
5:33 pm Me: Pete I forgot my camera. Going back to get it
5:34 pm Pete: We're in the middle section. Third row from front. Come down the aisle on the right.
5.43 pm Pete: Are you sure you have time--you wouldn't want to miss Em
5:45 pm Pete: She is only in one number
5.54 pm Pete: She's in the fourth number of night--more important that you're here
6.08 p.m. Pete: Starting soon--are you close?
6:12 p.m. Pete: Still have a seat saved at end of row

Imagine the insanity of committing myself to doing the impossible by going back; then sticking to this crazy course of action; realizing with a growing sense of panic that I might have the camera, but miss the whole purpose for being there.

The theatre was on an army base and I finally found my way there, to the check point at the entrance; dropping the contents of my wallet over my car seat as I hastily fumbled with nervous hands for my drivers license ID. I drove the long network of roads in, and found a parking space on a grass verge because the parking lot was full.

Camera in hand I dashed to the theatre, praying, "I don't deserve this but PLEASE don't let me miss Em unless I need to learn a harder lesson than I already have."

As I stumbled past the ticket collector, who wished me, "Good luck," at finding my way into the dark theatre, I could see her, still on stage with her dance troupe; a dainty, dark haired princess in a sparkly pink costume, and I breathed, "Thank you God." 

My eyes were still adjusting to the dark as I took out the camera. I tried to find in vain to find the seat Pete saved for me. The best I could do was aim in the general direction as I remembered it from his instructions, while snapping photos from the aisle to the embarrassing whispers of, "Can you please sit down?"

It was all totally humiliating and almost a disaster. Nothing could have driven home the point any clearer. If I needed a turning point--a booster rocket to a new way of being; this was it.

Later Pete joked that I was like Honda with their "just in time" inventory management system. I thought about the word "just" and decided that I would turn around that phrase for myself by choosing a different definition. Instead of "just," as in "at the last possible moment," for me it would be the adverb "just," meaning, "exactly," which has the following synonyms: precisely, absolutely, completely, totally, entirely, perfectly. That was how I wanted to be in future, "Perfectly in Time."

The next morning I had my first opportunity to practice the "New Me." I was meeting someone at a coffee shop in a neighbouring town at 10.00. Some people do this naturally but for me it was new to calculate the time needed to get there and add a comfortable margin of extra time to that amount. I got there half an hour early and was settled and drinking a cup of coffee when the person I was meeting arrived--20 minutes early! My reward was the wonderful feeling of being there first, and comparing that with that person being there 20 minutes early and me arriving 25 minutes later.

I have not been late since.I am truly cured my friends. We can choose to change! 


Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you are trying. As a person who usually is on time, it is a bugaboo of mine when people are late. I know it probably isn't meant to be - but I feel very disrespected when folks are late. We all have the same amount of time. The other person agreed to the time, or knew the time of the appointment. We all have "issues" to deal with to attend/meet. If I am there (or in the case of an event, others)obviously getting there is manageable. The excuses people make are worthy of a book. Especially when it is n e v e r their fault. Yes, things do happen - accidents, pets, children - but you find there usually is a pattern with folks. I need to remember that although I may be "cool" with something, someone else might not be. Ex: Smoking, Dress, Music, Scents, Cleanliness, Tardiness...
You will probably find this new habit hard, but time management is a good way to get the most from your day and from your relationships.

Anonymous said...

I used to be a fashionably late kind of gal, even for work. This was in the city, with lots of buses. Then I moved to the country, where the buses run hourly at best. My work now involves lots of meetings, lots of buses. These days I mostly manage to be right on time. Nothing like public transport to hone time management skills!

Belinda Burston said...

Dear Anonymous # 1: Thank you for giving me the punctual person's perspective on the delusional distracted folks of the world. It serves to solidify my new identity! :) I have been late nowhere since May the 6th--in fact at a conference I was at in Toronto on May 8th I was a helper, and I was there second only to one of my most efficient and conscientious colleagues--at 7.15 in the city! I made a decision that night that I was not that person anymore, and it has stuck deeply. I am now driving my husband a little crazy though--he is used to waiting for me and being frustrated. Now I am ahead of him, and since he can't yet drive, having had a heart attack, I am pacing the floor waiting for him. So funny to have the tables turned. :) I am the evidence that change is a choice.

Belinda Burston said...

Dear Anonymous#2--too funny what will effect change in our lives. You are also evidence that we can change! :) It is so encouraging that I am cautiously considering the rest of my life, while taking one giant step at a time.

mercygraceword said...

Are you officially retired? If so, can we expect to see more blogs published shortly?

Not to pressure you :-)


Belinda Burston said...

Dear Deborah,
There is only one other question that would make me feel as blessed and that is, "Do you happen to have a pie in the freezer?" Lol.

I actually officially retire on August 3rd. I felt that after 31 1/2 years I deserved to get paid for that holiday. :) I am sure you can imagine how much there is to do to wind up so many years! Today I spent cleaning out the last of my files and then cleaning my office so that it looks beautiful for Joy to move into tomorrow. I'll be spending the next few days cleaning up my electronic files and writing letters and thank you cards. I have had the blessing of Joy officially being the go to person since July 19 though, so I am not getting emails. I can't believe how quiet it is!

I am almost there! I am very excited at the transition to re-creation (rather than retirement) and am so joyously becoming people's friend instead of boss or area manager. I will still be at every party and picnic and will be having lots of cups of tea with all and sundry. My lips are smiling at the anticipation. Hugs Deborah--and thank you for letting me know that when I write, you will read. I am honoured and humbled.

Suzanne den Boer said...

I shared your post! I love your blog and your love shines through so brightly! I hope you will keep your resolve and commitment.

Belinda Burston said...

Suzanne, THANK YOU. I can tell you that the change has stuck and it's been nearly 3 months now. I have discovered the peace of being on time, and am loving it. Not only that, but I now know a powerful thing, that deep change is possible and a choice. I've also learned that not every change is as instantaneous as this one was, but I have hope for others because of it.

I will soon be writing again and your encouragement along with others, is fuel for that fire. Blessings in your own goals and life!

Suzanne den Boer said...

Thank you Belinda. You are an inspiration to me!

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your retirement. I am sending a peck on the cheek. Hopefully, not untoward.

You remain.... the Barracuda.

Belinda Burston said...

Hello Anonymous,
I am in Europe with granddaughters and while I had hoped to write as we traveled, that was a nonsensical idea. Once I am back, my unpacking shall begin and not just suitcases! Thank you for your good wishes and peck on the cheek! :)