Growing up, time was always a tyrant in our house. My father was notoriously late (or didn’t come home at all) and my mother was extremely anxious about this. Punctuality was a quality assigned a label: if you were on-time or early, you were “good”. If you were late, or didn’t come at all, you were “bad”.
People who were consistently late were called irresponsible, inconsiderate, and looked down upon. I too adopted this belief, and felt justified in telling myself a story about the person I was interacting with, depending on what category they fit into. We punctual ones felt we had the right to shake our heads and criticize the late ones….we felt superior.
The trouble with this stance (good vs. bad, better than vs. worse) is that we are the ones who suffer when we label others, and then tell ourselves how inconsiderate they are and how much they hurt us. We inadvertently become the victims; hoping, praying, threatening, or reasoning with them to change so we can feel better. The thought, “How dare you do this to me?” is only empowering when the next thought is, “Why am I “doing this” to myself?”
We will never get the world to change so that we can feel perfectly settled. Even if we can somehow get one of those “late ones” to become more timely, if time is my tyrant, or if I’m so jumpy without knowing what the next moment will bring, (finding free time to be unbearable), then sure as anything, another late one will show up in my life. Life offers us a constant mirror and opportunity to look at ourselves, to change and release limiting beliefs, and to grow.
If I don’t look at someone’s lack of punctuality as a reflection on me (if I don’t take it personally and become distressed by it) then I am free. I can accept this aspect of them and adjust my own thinking and action based on what brings me inner peace, without criticizing them and making them wrong.
When I started to challenge this belief within myself (that late people were somehow defective) I almost felt like I was giving up something important (the ego always says things to us like, “You shouldn’t stand for this! You are right! They are wrong! Tell them now or they will walk all over you!”) but as I stayed with it, I actually began to not mind people being late. I found that just closing my eyes and mediating, or sitting and appreciating what was before me (as I waited), was like a mini-vacation. This was a total surprise to me. Could someone being late really be a gift?!
I found, for me, that it was. I was “forced” to just be in a little suspended time bubble; having time that I wouldn’t have carved out for myself, and I loved it.
As I read this post to Jack just now, he said: “A great question to ask ourselves might be, ‘What gift or surprise showed up the last time someone was late? I wonder how many times we totally overlooked the gift?” I loved these questions and so it might be fun this weekend to look for the gift when life isn’t showing up exactly like we had planned.
“Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole ploughshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed that the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guest, an altar for the unknown God.” Henri-Frederic Amiel