I hate being late…for anything. I would rather be a half-hour early than grind my teeth at being one minute late, even when it seems polite to arrive shortly past the expected time. I do not think it is anything anal. Perhaps it is just being a Virgo or the remembered bells – and penalties – of seminary training. Whatever; I have always hated being late.

I used to think everyone was like me when rushing to beat the clock, to meet a deadline, to never keep anyone waiting. Before cellphones, I would die a thousand deaths when realizing I would not be on time. Freight trains sent me careening to the nearest underpass, accidents to side roads or exit ramps. Winter weather would have me risk life and limb as I fought to be on time.

Whenever others ran late I presumed they suffered like me and would overly assure them, “It’s okay, I understand.” Eventually, though, I learned many were not bothered at all by being late. They were rarely on time and always unruffled when finally showing up. Part of me wanted what they had but I had no idea how to go about getting it. I once asked a client, “Does always being late for everything bother you?”

“Not really,” he replied. “I’m a pretty busy guy and people know that.” Then he added, “Time works for me; I don’t work for time.”

“Oh,” I said, not knowing what to do with that idea.

Years later, in my own therapy, I discovered (uncovered?) that I was a “pleaser.” For whatever reasons – formative roots, low self-image, choice of profession – I was much better at taking care of others than myself. When pushed to realize that, I told the therapist, “But I like that about me.”

“Fine,” he said. “But aren’t you worth waiting ten minutes for?”

His question both startled and challenged me. It did not solve my problem, nor did my “Yes! Of course” reply. I will forever hate being late and will continue to “work for time,” I imagine, but the ten minutes I have been giving myself these past years have taken most of the “run” out of running late.

Originaly published Sept. 2011.