Friday, October 12, 2007

I Finally Know What's Wrong With Me!

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 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 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.


M said...

I think I have this too. I get obsessed with things and can't stop till I feed the obsession. And I have a major time problem, and have a hard time moving on the what I need to do when I am doing something else.

I felt like I fit the whole description except when it came to the "poly" part, I wasn't sure. So, now that you know, does it say what you can do about it?

I'm not usually late but I am always rushing and just barely making it wherever I need to be b/c of whatever I was doing before that I didn't want to stop. I can't believe this is a real thing. It is real right? Not a joke?


The Future Was Yesterday said...

".how on earth did our parents manage to do this?"
This is not meant to be insulting or demeaning to you in any way. To answer your question:

1) They didn't have webMD to warn them of everything that might be wrong with them. They simply lived until "it" killed them.

2)They did not face drug companies making up ailments, diseases, etc., so you would ask your Doctor for "xxxx." When they hurt, they went to the Doctor and THEY told them what was wrong with them, what pills they needed, and sent them home.

I'm not inferring you're a hypochondriac or anything of the sort. Our parents simply didn't face the blizzard of information (some of it outright false) that we face. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.:)

Liz Hinds said...

Thta's me too! I wasn't sure about the first bit - I certainly don't stay late at work! - but I am late for everything and easily distracted is my middle name(s).

Fran said...

Fascinating. I am early bird and my energy is in the morning, my focus is fairly clear.

The rest of the day, easily distracted and moving from one thing to another.

Somehow, here at this ripe old age I have learned some focus. Sort of!

Also...I am almost never ever late. However for years I was chronically too early, which is the same coin different side.

Now that's been dealt with!

Thanks for sharing this Mauigirl!

Mauigirl said...

M, sounds as if you have polychronistic tendencies but have them somewhat under control since you do manage to be on time. One of the tips the full article gives is to start with the end point in mind ("I need to be at work by 8:30 today") and then work backwards, always allowing more time for things you need to do than you think you need. That is certainly one of my problems. If I know it takes me 20 minutes to get to work on an ideal day, it never occurs to me that if I'm going in earlier than usual that there will actually be traffic. Or there could be an accident on the road, or I might get a phone call in the morning that delays me. I need to learn to build in cushions for those types of delays.

It isn't a joke but I don't know whether it is an official "condition" - I think it's a new theory of how people function. I found various references to it on the internet but mostly recent ones.

Future, of course I am a hypochondriac, no offense taken! And you're right, part of our current day stress is worrying about what could be wrong with us because the media are constantly telling us about things. And our parents did trust their doctors which made life simpler. But nowadays you can't - because they're too busy and time-constrained, and if you don't do your own research on ailments you very well may not get a correct diagnosis (see my Medicana blog for a few examples of this!).

And if a loved one is in the hospital these days, they need an advocate, because otherwise they are neglected because hospitals are short-staffed and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So that's another piece of time out of our busy lives, sitting in hospital rooms or nursing homes making sure our loved ones are taken care of.

In school, parents are expected to do more than ever, be more involved in raising funds, helping out in clases, and more. Every kid plays soccer or other sports, but unlike my day when parents would drop the kid off and come back for them later, parents are expected to stay and watch every moment of the game.

Our society has changed overall since our parents were young and it's part of why our lives are now so hectic - it's a do-it-yourself society instead of a society where you can trust authorities to do what's right, and total involvement is the only acceptable form of parenting. (One reason I didn't have kids!).

Of course the internet in general has added further to my polychronicity! I get involved reading blogs and then don't want to stop!

Fran, sounds like you're a morning person and probably tend a bit more to the monochrone side!

Mauigirl said...

Liz, glad to hear I'm not alone, sounds as if we're soulmates!

I'm very lucky I have friends who put up with me and just tell me whatever we are doing is starting a half hour earlier than it really is. It works really well until I figure out they're doing it and start to allow for the additional time!

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with being afraid to leave your house? You ever really look around out there? ewww.....

RUTH said...

I think I'm a polymonochrone as I seem to fall into both all depends how much I'm enjoying what I'm doing and who I'm with...LOL

S said...

I don't fit neatly into either category, so it could be that time is not one of my hot-button issues...

Interesting framework, though.

Larry said...

I never knew this had a name and set of tendencies before.

Mauigirl said...

I find it is an interesting way to look at people - I always knew that some people were always on time and others were chronically late, but didn't realize all these other tendencies kind of went with those things. It probably has something to do with the way different people's brains are "wired" - whether they're right-brained or left-brained, etc.

It does make sense that this type of things would be intertwined. I've always been a procrastinator, too, but part of it may just be the distractability element. I put off big tasks as I get distracted by little ones.

It must be genetic. I always remember Sunday mornings my father would have his coat and hat on ready to go to church and be pacing back and forth while my mother was still sitting reading her morning paper and savoring her coffee! Guess who I take after?

Mauigirl said...

Oops, "these types of things" I should have said! (I wonder where being obsessively compulsive about correcting typos comes in?)

Odessa said...

oh dear, it seems that i have this one too. i have no concept of time whatsoever and i have been late to almost anything since i was little! plus, i always seem to find so many ways to procrastinate instead of doing things that i should be getting done!

thanks for sharing this.

Mauigirl said...

Odessa, since you are a poet, being polychronistic probably fits your creative personality. (I am not sure what my excuse is!)

Mary Ellen said...

It sounds to me that what you are describing could also fit into the realm of ADHD.

Either way...I think we all have bits and pieces of those symptoms. I can get distracted easily, but I'm also the one in the house who is up at the crack of dawn, no matter how late I go to bed. I hate naps, so I don't do them and I multi-task all the time.

Although, I do have the luxury of being a "stay at home mom" and now moving to "stay at home empty nester". Which is why I spend way too much time on the blogs!

Great post, Mauigirl!

denverdoc said...

What an interesting article, and I enjoyed your take on it. I have never really been a monchronocat, but now that I finally for the first time in 26 years have no one to get out the door in the a.m. but me, I find very polychronocatatonic tendencies. Either that or the clock in our kitchen is broken, and the hands move too quickly from 7 to 8 a.m.

Unhurried mornings, however, nag-free and mine all mine, are too too precious to transition out of in a hurry. Maybe it's transitionophobia!