Out of time and under it, confessions of the chronically past due

Amber WilliamsEditor
Out of time and under it, confessions of the chronically past due

They say you have to “make time.” Well, that’s not true, or even possible. Time is something you have to take — like a starving peasant stealing a loaf of bread — and it’s something you can never get back once it’s gone. Taking time is a selfish maneuver for which we should all forgive ourselves and each other. For, as far we know, in the end, there was always a famine for time. And the regrets which torture us the most, is not the time we took but the time we lost.

So time is the most valuable resource we have. Too often it seems we forget that. We take it for granted, give it away flagrantly, waste it foolishly and manage it only psychologically. We don’t budget our time. Time budgets us. Or, perhaps I’m only speaking for myself.

Time has always been that laughing Jack-in-the-Box for me — springing upon me and startling my heart up into my windpipe. I keep turning that crank, knowing at any moment that creepy clown grin will pop out and guffaw at me mockingly, yet I am startled by it every time just as much as I was the first time.


We live our lives by it. We start our days with its incessant alarm sound. We set our schedules and plan our calendars, and some people are so keen with time, they even plan for the unforeseen surprises in life like road-trip detours, weather patterns for upcoming camp-outs, emergency hospital visits, death and dismemberment. It makes humans feel more in control despite life’s Wild Cards if we have a “contingency plan.”

I envy those down-to-the-last-detail uber organized folks who tap their watches at the rest of us. My attempts at molding some of their style into mine are mostly marked failures of self-improvement. No matter how hard I try — regardless of self-help books I skim or seminars I attend — no tricks or tools or discipline ever really makes me more on time. I am inherently incapable of such civilized evolution, even one so necessary and prudent. Oh, the torture of the ticking clock, time is a puzzle of infinite pieces that don’t seem to always fit. But I try.

I play guitar… solo, because I am not in time.

I am a professional at sincere apologetic introductions, because I am not on time.

So if I’m not in time or on time, then I must be out of time and under it. Perhaps there are support group meetings for people like me… to be late to, where I can discuss my affliction with others suffering from the same idiosyncratic disability in safe anonymity, free from judgment:

“Hi, My name is Amber, and I am out of time. I’ve been out of time pretty much since birth, I think. My mother said I was late then, too. In fact, thanks for starting this meeting 15 minutes late, so that I was only 10 minutes tardy. Never mind the cold coffee. It’s OK. I’m used to it.”

It took me 34 years to admit this flaw about myself, but I confess it now to the world in humble repentance, ready for your ridicule, your rolling eyes and two faces, your self-righteous soap-box advisories rightfully preaching of the importance of reliability and consideration for others. Aside from my finely printed footnote silver-lining how procrastination has made me a seasoned pro under pressure, I offer no pathetic excuses, for there is no excuse. I fear not your livid loathing, as I lead the charge of that angry mob, nor do I expect empathy, sympathy or understanding. Such compassion should be reserved for nobler causes.

But chalk me up a couple points for honesty, humility, and humble self-awareness, if you would, please, as I conclude this diatribe disclosure:

I am time illiterate, or time deficient. It’s a crippling condition. In psychology they say a bad tick, habit or routine is classified as a disorder once it begins to “interfere with your daily functioning.” Well, what’s it called when it interferes with the daily functioning of others? What’s the next tier on that classification table, doc? Assign me the jackass tax, I accept the charges.

Minute to hour to day and night, my time delay runs like ripples across the surface of still water. My life is like an old cassette tape that won’t play right, dragging demonically or sprinting on hyper-speed so Charlie Daniels sounds more like Chip & Dale. And so is time either flying by or dragging on.

But every once in a while, I can feel that rogue rhythm settling its synchronicity around me like a comfortable corona circling in orbit. It starts with something simple like catching something dropping with cat-like agility just before it hits the ground, finally scoring against the grand champion, gravity, after all its victories over you.

Like a cool breeze cutting through a humid afternoon, those timed-right moments come like a old friend you never see anymore at your door, you feel the embrace as you’re driving down Highway 6 commuting through Waukee, and you catch all the traffic lights just right, turning green for you as if controlled by your telepathic command.

Ahhh… revel your power. You notice the amber turning signal on the car in front of you blinks in perfect time with the 2-4 beats of the song playing on the radio, then the windshield wipers chime in time on the 1 and 3 like twin can-can dancers. And lightening strikes the sky as symbols crash in stereo.

The wild world is suddenly synchronized in a fleeting phenomenon as sacred and rare as deja vu.

And just when I begin to bask gleefully and rejoice in it, please, the time passes and leaves me behind, gasping for O2, as the fog of fumes from the diesel that darted out in front me seep through the seams of my car doors and trunk. You feel that too, when it leaves you — like that giant cartoon hammer smashing my pocket watch into a pile of sprockets and springs, and I’m late, I’m late, I’m late again.

Just as the universe aligns with us, so does it cycle back out of time.

Everything — and I mean EVERYTHING — comes down to timing. Good or bad, in or out, on or under. The circle of life is a constant paradox of contradictions: birth, death, matrimony, alimony, seasons circling like the hands on a clock. The sun and moon hold court for custody over the sky, turn a woman’s smile to a frown, pull the eyebrows down, and sprout from your hairline wispy grey locks, curly and unmanageable like a dumbed-down caricature of Albert Einstein.

He explained to his peers the theory of relativity, but did such a genius ever run behind? I suppose he did sometimes.


Who has it?

Where does it go?

It’s the science and mathematics behind which we measure our lives. If only we could bottle it. If only we could push pause. What a cosmic mystery of God’s trickery.

Oh, how I wish I could it tell it better.