Some Thoughts on Timing

It’s the first weekday of Winter Break as I sit down to write this post – and it’s a few hours later than I’d normally be writing, too.  It felt good to sleep a bit longer, to do some essential tasks around the house, to spend some quality-and-quantity time with The Dog and The Cat over the weekend, and it felt even better to do the same this morning.  Timing is really important, and not just when your time is controlled and managed by external Powers That Be.

When I was a small child, we “always” went to get the Christmas tree at the same local garden store where we lived, and we “always” got a tree with long, soft needles, and we “always” bought it on the Saturday before Christmas Day.  Friends and neighbors might put up their trees on Thanksgiving weekend and toss them on the curb by noon on December 25, but not us; we “always” bought a tree the weekend before Christmas, and we “always” left it up until after New Year’s Day.  Timing was important to my mother, whose English and German heritage left her with strong opinions about the proper timing for things. I put up the Christmas wreath yesterday afternoon, the fall-themed one – which stayed up long after neighbors had put snowmen and reindeer and gingerbread men – a silent protest against the timing that starts “twelve days of Christmas” in mid-December and 24/7 Christmas music on the radio in November.

I’ve been thinking about timing a lot over the past few weeks, mostly in the context of Ms. X and Mr. Y who hurry and scurry because there’s “too much to cover” and “not enough time,” and of their “bad, lazy students” who wait till the last possible minute – or sometimes even later – to do and turn in that assignment.  On Sunday afternoon, after some friends brought over an unexpected present but before I hung the wreath, I spent some time writing and revising some Tres Columnae stories at the Local Bookstore’s cafe, and while I was there, I saw D, who’s now a department manager there, and her fiance, who had come to pick her up at the end of her shift.  It’s been a few years since D was an active member of the Latin Family, but apparently she’s told The Guy a lot about her experiences.  And we started talking about timing and procrastination, about the ten-page paper (which I’m pretty sure I remember hearing about at the time) that D wrote, in toto, the night before it was due.  “And I still got full credit for it, of course,” she said … and of course she did, because even in high school D was supremely good at timing.  After all, as she reminded me, she was working almost full-time and going to school and “getting all A’s” and, from time to time, complaining to the Local Powers about stuff that Ms. X and Mr. Y had said and done.

Timing is an important theme in the stories I wrote this weekend, too – and timing is an interesting point of comparison between the Romans and us, because they couldn’t be as precise or as demanding about timing as we can.  Unless you’re using the cursus publicus to send official correspondence, your letter will travel exactly as fast as the person carrying it for you.  The sundial will tell you which hora of the day it is, but there’s really not a way to divide that hora into smaller elements.  Things we expect to be instantaneous (or maybe even faster) take the time that they’re going to take.  Or, as a wise but somewhat lazy coworker told me years and years ago, “Don’t be in no rush.”

And yet, if you let the factory-mindset rule your heart as well as your calendar, you’ll probably always be in a rush.  “I need to hear from you today,” we tell people, or “I need this done ASAP.”  And sometimes we do actually need things done that quickly, but more often than not, it’s a want, not a need.  “We need to Finish The Curriculum before Christmas,” One Ms. X said, “so we can go back over everything before The Exam.”  But if she’d slowed down a bit, made sure that her students had processed and retained “The Curriculum” she was rushing to cover, perhaps there wouldn’t be such a need to “go back over everything.”  Urgency takes on a life of its own, and when it’s in control, we make incredibly bad decisions, decisions we would never make if we’d just slow down and think things through.

I could make a long list of  bad, urgency-driven decisions, and I’m sure you could, too.

As I finish this post, it’s “supposed to” be raining already, but the rain has held off for a bit.  It’s unusually warm for December, though the temperature will be falling after the storms move through.  Storm systems arrive when they arrive, leave when they leave – and natural, organic systems tend to operate that way.  When you realize that people are natural and organic, and when you work with them instead of against them or on them, building joyful learning communities rather than efficient teaching factories, it’s a lot easier to allow everyone’s natural timing to operate undisturbed.  And that’s good news, I think, any day of the year, but excellent news on this last day of Advent when the “Christmas rush” is in full swing in stores and factories everywhere.

Best wishes to everyone for a joyful day!  I hope you can follow your own timing today, relishing the moments and avoiding false urgency.  I wonder what other new insights await us all today!

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Published in: on December 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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