I have learned that I have Transition Anxiety and am a Polychrone!
"What the heck is that?" you may say.
Well, I get this electronic newsletter thing from WebMD on my work e-mail - it's part of the Big Corporation's employee wellness program. WebMD sends useful little tidbits of information about diet, nutrition, stress, and various other health-related subjects. Yesterday I got one of these messages and, being between meetings and wishing to procrastinate further on a project I was trying to avoid doing, I read it.
The lead article was all about Transition Anxiety, or Failure to Transition. Apparently, this is an affliction that causes people like me to personify Newton's first law of motion. Once I'm doing something, I don't want to stop doing it and move on to the next thing. I started reading this article and recognized myself in every description.
The article started off with a mythical person named Emma, who could easily have been me:
"Each day when Emma's alarm clock rings, she drowsily hits the snooze button several times. The shower, when she finally gets there, is so steamy and fragrant, she lingers twice as long as strictly necessary. She dresses hurriedly, only to check the mirror and change. And so it goes: Coffee savoring takes 15 minutes; lipstick experimentation, five minutes; car key searching, another 10. Emma often arrives at the office late—but that's okay, because once there, she works into the night, until an external force in the form of her frustrated husband calls to see if she's alive. Emma stays up late to offer compensatory companionship, ensuring that in the morning, when the alarm clock rings, she'll be too tired to get up.
People either think Emma is an inconsiderate laggard or they shrug off her chronic difficulty making transitions, give her lavish time cushions, and judge her based on anything but punctuality."
But, the article goes on to explain why Emma is the way she is. She is a "polychrone." Apparently people are either polychrones or monochrones. The polychrones of the world are the people who see time as "loose and elastic," not rigid, as a monochrome sees it.
-Do many things at once and are highly distractible.
-View time commitments as objectives.
-Are committed to people and relationships.
-Change plans often.
-Base promptness on the significance of the relationship.
-Have a strong tendency to build lifelong relationships.
-Do one thing at a time.
-View time commitments as critical.
-Are committed to jobs (projects and tasks).
-Adhere religiously to plans.
-Emphasize promptness, always.
-Are accustomed to short-term relationships."
When I read this, I finally understood why I am the way I am. I've been late to everything in my life starting with kindergarten. I can't get out of the house in the morning. Even when I'm at work, I'm late for every meeting because I get involved in whatever I'm doing and lose track of the time. No amount of reminders popping up on my computer screen can do the job. I start one task and get distracted by another, and end up not finishing the first one. Many a boss has despaired of getting me to show up on time, and after all the years I've been at the Big Corporation I think they've finally given up.
But my problem is progressing. Whereas once I wandered in to work between 9 and 9:30 a.m., I have now drifted to 10:00 and sometimes beyond. And life seems to have gotten more and more hectic in the morning...my standards have been declining in terms of what I need to do to get to work.
My clothing requirements have gone down a continuum of acceptability in my mind. They've moved from:
- Well put-together "business casual" outfit with perhaps a nice pair of pants and matching jacket with attractive pumps; down to...
- OK looking pants with a nice sweater and any shoes that fit and aren't too scuffed; to...
- Anything that's clean and not TOO wrinkled; to...
- Not naked.
I've moved from:
- Contact lenses, foundation, lipstick and eye makeup; to...
- Glasses, foundation, lipstick and eye makeup; to...
- Glasses, maybe foundation and maybe not, no eye makeup, just lipstick.
Someday I may not even wear lipstick.
Clearly, something needs to change before I am unable to ever leave the house again. Luckily the article provides several good tips to control these polychronistic tendencies of mine. And I told my boss about the article and asked for her help in moving me along! So we'll see what happens.
But in the meantime I started thinking about this issue in larger terms. It feels as if life is getting so hectic that no one can really stop and "smell the roses," let alone manage all the tasks that are piling up in our lives. And it got me thinking...how on earth did our parents manage to do this? My father worked until he was 68 years old! I'm not even 55 and I can't imagine continuing in this same situation for another 13 years.
Then it dawned on me, my parents didn't do this. My father did. My mother didn't work. So every night my father came home and my mother had his drink ready for him and dinner ready to put on the table. She was home all day to do the errands, go to the grocery store and buy the food for dinner, be there if a repairman came to the house, clean the house, do the dishes, make the phone calls that needed to be made, and generally keep the household under control. So when my father got home, he didn't need to do much at all - just take the garbage out a couple of times a week and mow the lawn.
I realize now, the reason DH and I feel so stressed all the time is that we need a wife.
But in the meantime, trying to be a little more monochronistic might help me deal with the tasks a little better. So I will be printing out the article's advice and putting it up on my wall to remind me of what I need to do to keep my head above water. It's the least I can do.