Am I late? I know the feeling so well. Today I board BART at 8:03 AM. My goal to be at my desk making calls at 8 AM. That makes me late…Or do I make myself late? Walked down to the station rather than taking an Uber, that pretty much made the difference. Talked with my wife about plans for the coming week. That made the difference. Played mini-basketball with my son. Of course you can add up each little thing or you can pick them out one by one. Each one makes the difference. What’s the net product? I’d rather be late like this than on time missing any one of these things.
Maybe the real feeling of being late that rankles is the feeling of being out of control. If I’m late by choice it’s OK. If I pretend it’s not by choice, my whining causes damage to my self. The train sits at the sunny BART terminal at MacArthur and I see an attractive woman with slumped shoulders. I have to say she doesn’t appear attractive. Maybe just for an instant before the slumped shoulders registered. It’s like being late: if you think you’re late and you slump sadly then you’re the essence of late, you’re the self-condemning late person rather than the cheerful late person, and that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?
Now I’m on time, at this moment, because I’m doing the one thing I’ve agreed to do right now. Write. Even though not everything went as planned today, I said I’d call the Uber at 4:45PM and start writing for 45 minutes at that time. Even if I haven’t written for every second of the time, I have done it. Even pulled a picture of a tree taken against the sky and placed it onto this post. Why? Because we all know the tree is not late. And I’m supposed to switch to going for a run at 5:30 PM, and no, I’m not required to do that while in the Uber as long as it gets me home within another 15 minutes. So I could be on time for that too.
Here’s the real challenge. As I was stepped into the elevator to go down to the Uber I could feel it. The resistance. Inchoate. Resistance to actually sitting in an Uber and doing my writing the whole way. And that is the failure, not the reading of emails, the quick playing a round of a video game. The failure would be in that tired moment at the elevator. So I said to myself, at that moment, look at your reflection in the elevator doors, face the resistance because this is it, here.
So, am I late? Only when not present. One thing we do that trees probably don’t do: pretend this isn’t really happening. I’m thankful for all the things I can do that aren’t getting to work on time. I’d still like to set a time and be there. More important to me, to set a goal and reach it. More important still, to have a clear intention and stand with that. So my various intentions are to follow through with some core goals, and deliverables in service to these goals. Such as spending time with my kids, making creative contributions to the world, as for example building applications and writing on subjects that others actually read. Things I’m excited to be present for.
There comes the tricky part. I know in principle, what I want to do. Yet in practice it’s easier to oscillate between two states: reacting to what’s at hand and recuperating from that. Do you notice those two things can describe a life? Technically I’m outside the iron trap now to the extent I’m not either reacting to the command to write nor escaping from my life through writing complete crap. But guess what lies outside the trap? A wasteland. Yes, you step out for a second and there you are in a beautiful, terrible and bare place where it’s cold (or unbearably hot), you have no apparent sustenance, and no one to help you. That’s how I feel, anyway. The iron trap: answer emails, then, after an hour or two, go to the cafe and try to forget. The wilderness: instead of playing a video game, checking email, jumping on the Web while I sip my coffee, I write. And the most wildernessy thing about the Wilderness is stepping into it. That’s when the resistance reaches such a peak that to submit to the desire to not move forward seems very pleasurable: “What, you dare to set aside email responsibilities (pleasure of checking, of addressing, of deleting) to create something new?” Surely not now. And the pleasure of just a momentary diversion–can’t I do that first? Or, wait, what about just writing now. Well, it’s either now or else I’ll be late for life.