On a recent visit to Chicago, friends were asking about living in Mexico. One topic that came up was time. I explained that if a contractor said they would come at 9am Monday, it may actually mean sometime Monday, but not necessarily 9am. It could also mean 9am Tuesday. Or it could be some time Wednesday or Thursday. My very Type-A friend gasped. She could not imagine someone not showing up on time, let alone my being ok with it. But things are different down here.
The BBC had a great article about how the way Mexicans speak Spanish shows their, dare I say, disregard for timeliness. Unlike Americans who believe time is money, Mexicans aren’t bound by time. I arrived on time for a baby shower a few weeks ago where the mother-to-be arrived a fashionable hour or so later. She was not being rude. In fact, most of the attendees showed up at that time or even later. That is just their flow. And I am getting used to it. In fact, now I praise one of the home services we have for punctuality because they are usually no more than 30 minutes late. They are dependable by local standards.
Does this release of time make your head spin? Imagine for a moment that your schedule is not rigid. Does it sent you into a panic or release you? To me it is really about acceptance. As you know I am still a recovering Type A, but I have learned to accept the local culture. I may still arrive on time, but maybe I won’t. I don’t chastise others for being a tad – or more – late. Accepting a different way of living, adjusting my expectations for myself and others, has helped me reduce my stress.
Back in the 80’s I loved the band the Talking Heads. Their lyric, “Time is not holding us, time is not after us,” comes to mind. How often do we feel held accountable to time? Remember that we all agreed to what units of time are and what those units mean. Time itself is a construct. So why be held by it? How much is time holding you? Are you anxious about being late? Are you angry when someone else is tardy? Do you begin to panic when things are not exactly when they are planned to be? Do you find any joy in adhering to time or does it just cause you stress?
Look to your day and your schedule. Does it feel tight and rigid or free and flowing? Does being stuck in traffic cause you stress? What if you relaxed a bit? I am not saying you need to be an hour late for a board meeting, but what if you cut yourself and others some slack? What if you approached time a little more leniently? What if you relaxed your expectations? What if you accepted that others aren’t as punctual as you? What would really be the end result?
On most occasions, we are rigid with our time because we are afraid of loss. We are afraid of losing time. We are afraid of losing money. We are afraid of losing the respect of others. We are afraid the world will end if we are 15 minutes late. Yet more times than not, none of those negatives result. So why not try to let go? Start with a weekend day so it is not as scary and release yourself from time-bound expectations. See if you can’t find a little relief in releasing yourself from the prison of time.