I was late and nobody died.
I hate being late. Hate it. Hate. It. I have a weekly business meeting every Tuesday, and at least 50 percent of the time, I’m the first person to arrive. Sometimes, when I drive up and there are no other cars in the lot, I think to myself “Is the meeting cancelled?” And then I remember that I’m always awkwardly early and everyone else just arrives at the correct time.
Twice a month, I appear on a local television station to talk about entertaining, cooking, and other blog-related projects. My live segment is always around 8:45 a.m. Most of the time, I am in the TV station parking lot by 7:55. Nearly one hour early. And I only live 10 minutes away.
I guess you could say I have a phobia about being late. To me, time is one of the most valuable things I have. So I want other people to honor my limited and precious time. And I want to offer them the same courtesy.
I blame my schema. Wait, say what?
In the realm of psychology, there’s a whole school of thought that centers around mental schemas. I’m no expert, but from what little I’ve read, they are also known as lifetraps. Basically, the idea is that because of different things that happen to us in our childhoods and early lives, we develop certain negative mindsets or ways of viewing the world.
Apparently one of mine is Unrelenting Standards. This came as no surprise to my husband, who for years has teased me that on my tombstone will be written these words: She liked things to be a certain way.
This is expressed differently for different people. For me, it has to do with efficiency and productivity. Like wanting to do things as efficiently as possible. Needing to use all time productively. And being anxious if things don’t go just as they are ‘supposed to’ without flaws and mistakes.
It boils down to this….how good is ‘good enough?’ For someone like me who has the Unrelenting Standards schema, anything less than a sort of degree of perfect can feel like a disaster.
I’m sure this plays a role in my wanting to be on time, all the time.
And it rears its ugly head in other areas too. But of course hardly anything I ever do is perfect. And therein lies the struggle….being forced to live in that spot between what you expect from yourself, and what you actually get.
If you know me in real life (or even if you don’t), it’s easy to see that I am far from perfect. I say and do the wrong thing. I put my foot in my mouth. I hurt people’s feelings (not usually on purpose, but still).
But there are certain things that I can control, and punctuality is usually one of them. Until the other day.
Recently, I was invited to attend a weekend retreat for bloggers. The event organizers had put together an incredible itinerary, but it was jam-packed with things to do and places to go. For our first day, we were supposed to meet in the hotel lobby at 7:30 a.m.
The night before, I set the alarm on my phone for 6:15 a.m. AND got a 6 a.m. wake-up call from the concierge. I faintly remember hearing my room phone ring and thought to myself, “Okay, fifteen more minutes to snooze before my phone alarm goes off.” Except it didn’t go off. I don’t know what happened, but the next sound I heard was the phone ringing at 7:47 a.m. I had overslept and the entire group was waiting for me in the lobby.
For those of you who think schedules are just a suggestion and time doesn’t really apply to you, this probably doesn’t seem like anything at all. For someone like me, with the Unrelenting Standards schema who freaks out over the tiniest hiccup, it felt like a monumental fail. Every negative thought was running through my head….I was rushing around trying to hurry, feeling totally mortified and just plain ol’ starting the day on the wrong foot.
But then a thought occurred to me. I was late. Nobody died. The thing I had tried so hard to avoid had happened and the world didn’t stop.
If you don’t struggle with this issue, you’re probably rolling your eyes at me right about now. “Good grief,” you’re probably thinking. “There are starving children in the world. There’s war and plague and other terrible things. Being late isn’t that big of a deal. Get over yourself.”
Trust me, I’m working on it. But I wanted to share this because I know there’s someone else out there, maybe you, who feels like you have to keep this false facade of perfection going. Even if its only in one area of your life. I promise you that you can lay that stuff down. You don’t have to carry it anymore. And neither do I.
Here’s what I know to be true:
1. You are not defined by your biggest failure.
2. You are not defined by your most celebrated achievement.
3. You are not defined by how early you arrive or how late you stay.
4. You are not defined by how often you say just the right thing to just the right person in the perfect moment, to achieve the desired results.
5. You are not defined by how neatly ironed your clothes are when you arrive or whether you have a stain on your shirt.
6. You are not defined by the person who hates your guts or the one who wants to throw you a parade.
7. You are not defined by the meanest thing anyone’s ever said to you.
8. You are not defined by the most glowing compliment you’ve received.
9. You are not defined by the person who quit loving you even though they were supposed to continue forever.
10. You are not defined by how awesome your boss thinks you are or if you just got fired.
Your value is inherent because you are a child of God. Whether you believe in God or not. Whether you love God or not. He loves you. Who you are is defined by that. Nothing else.
Now I’m certainly not saying to eschew kindness and consideration. I’ll continue to arrive at meetings awkwardly early and sit in my car killing time. But maybe I’ll remember that time I was late, and nobody died.