Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Better Late Than…Dead, I Guess

I grew up with a matched pair of early risers.

My parents were extremely happy morning people. Some of my first memories are of my mom parting my bedroom curtains – while it was still dark outside – and singing that old Patch the Pirate classic, Rise and Shine, Lazy Sleepyhead! with determined gusto.

(That song is burned into my memory, and I can’t sing it or hear it without mentally revisiting childhood mornings.)

Our house ran on a schedule. We were up early, out the door early, and to school and work early. The clocks in our house were set ahead fifteen minutes, so even if we were running late, we were early.

Personally, I liked being early. It meant I could have my pick of seats or have extra time to study for first hour tests.

My first real job as a teenager was working the before-school morning shift at Berean daycare. My dad would get me up at 5:00 a.m., drop me off at Berean at 6:00 a.m., and be at work himself by 6:30 a.m. I cherish the pre-dawn memories of the two of us talking and laughing in the van on the way to work.

I learned by example. Being up early and being happy about it was ingrained in my whole being. I would hear the tingle of my alarm and practically jump out bed, singing and humming. I lived to greet the day.

Since I was an only child, I had no one to compare my early morning ritual against. So, it wasn’t until I went to college that I learned not everyone was as excited as I was to leap out of bed in the morning.

I had a succession of three wonderful roommates. None of whom were morning people. While I sang and danced my way out of bed and into the shower, they pulled the covers over their heads and mumbled death threats in raspy voices.

I was among the valiant breakfast crowd at Moody. A handful of us like-minded morning people cheerfully lined up for breakfast and called greetings to the grumpy servers who were almost all - I’m sad to say - NOT morning people.

Being early - at the very least being on time - was part of who I was. If I could have defined myself, I would have been an Early Or On Timer, or EOOT.

As the saying goes, opposites attract, and I married Brett. Otherwise known as a Late Or Really Later, or LORL.

I didn’t notice it at first. Probably because Brett was trying his hardest to impress me. The man would have jumped over the Tribune Tower if he thought it would get my attention.

Still, I didn’t see it for the herculean effort it was the first time he joined me for breakfast. At least not until the third morning in a row of him falling asleep in his coffee.

It progressed from there, as I watched him begin to rant angrily about the quality of the breakfast foods and soon realized my teddy bear was as good as covered in razor wire when it came to early mornings.

Being the EOOT of a girlfriend I was, I released him from further breakfast outings.

We never had the same classes, and our four years of dating were really laid back and casual, so I didn’t really know I was in love with a LORL until after we’d said our vows.

Soon, I learned Brett came by his LORL tendencies honestly.

The Soderstroms are almost all LORL’s. For me adapting - as an EOOT - was very difficult.

While my family planned ahead and stuck to a schedule, Brett’s family was spontaneous and elastic. In our early married years, it was not unusual for one of Brett’s family members to call us up and invite us to a birthday party that was in TWO HOURS.

It used to shock me. I mean, it takes us an hour and a half to get to Geneva, and what was I supposed to do? Drop everything and run right over? This was not on the calendar, and if it’s not on the calendar it doesn’t exist, right?

Secondly, I learned that LORL’s believe “time” is a flexible concept.

When an EOOT says the family picnic starts at 1:00 p.m., they mean 1:00 p.m. is when food will be on the table and ready to eat. In reality, most of the family is there at 12:30 p.m. to set-up.

When a LORL says a family picnic starts at 1:00 p.m., they mean they take a shower around 1:00 p.m., leave the house at 2:30 p.m., get to the park at 3:00 p.m., and start the grill around 4:00 p.m. Anyone who actually showed up at 1:00 p.m. is stuck with three hours of down time.

Brett’s family is beyond hospitable. They are one of the most loving, warm, and accepting families I’ve ever met. We’ve been invited to many wonderful events, and I am appreciative.

However, I learned my lesson early on. When they say “lunch” starts at 1:00 p.m., and we show up at 1:00 p.m., we are most likely going to find people with curlers in their hair, fresh from a shower. Now, I automatically tack on two hours to our arrival time. In spite of this, we are almost always the first to arrive.

While I was being raised as an EOOT, my LORL was being tended to by night owl parents. Even when we would visit Brett’s parents in college, the three of them would be up into the wee hours of the morning, glued to the TV, while I was yawning my way to the spare bedroom.

In contrast, I was up at the crack of dawn, bored to tears. The whole house slept until nearly noon.

In marriage, this used to drive me crazy. I was convinced EOOT’s were conscientious and courteous - the backbone of civilized society. LORL’s were immature, lazy, and an inconvenience for anyone on a schedule.

I could not understand how my LORL could sleep through his bleating alarm. I had to threaten divorce just to get him out of bed on Sunday morning in time for church.

Often our conversations went like this:

Brett would ask me, “What time does it start?”

“Seven,” I would reply.

“What time do we need to be there?”

I’d lift my eyebrows. “Seven.”

“That early?”

“Honey, that’s when it starts. We might even want to leave a little early.”

“Seven, huh?”

It was like the concept of actually being on time was completely foreign to him.

In the meantime, I had started to despise the fact my husband was making me a LORL. Thanks to his devil-may-care attitude about time, we were late for church, late for family events (mine, of course – you can’t be late for a Soderstrom party), and late for dinner reservations with friends.

The worst was being late to meet Mom and Gary. As I explained earlier, Mom is an EOOT - she’s really an EOOT to end all EOOT’s. So, whether we were five or fifty minutes late, my cell phone would ring.

“It’s Mom,” I’d say to Brett. “She’s wondering where we are. She thinks we may be dead in a ditch somewhere.”

“How can you know that? You haven’t even answered the phone yet.”

“Oh, I know,” I’d assure him. “Because if it wasn’t me, if we were other people, it’s exactly what I would wonder.”

“Well, just tell her we’ll get there when we get there,” says my husband.

“Oh well, then why don’t I just shoot her in the heart? You KNOW she timed the dinner so it would come out of the oven at 5:00 p.m. It’s 6:30 p.m. now, and in her mind it’s ruined!”

“Why’d she start it so early?”

“She DIDN’T start it EARLY! She asked us to be there at 5:00 p.m., and she meant 5:00 p.m.!”

“Huh,” say my husband unaware of the massive struggle Mom will have to go through not to kill him the minute he walks through the door and hour and a half late.

I’m not saying I didn’t try. I would wake Brett up extra early and try to prod him along. Have you ever tried to prod a 6’4”, 250 pound man whose early morning attitude reflects that of a surly 15 year old boy?

It ain’t easy, folks.

I was running myself ragged trying to turn my LORL into an EOOT and to avoid being turned into a LORL myself.

In the midst of all this, came our rough, ragged marital patch of 2006. Those were dark times, but we had an excellent pastoral counselor who helped us over some of the bumpiest roads.

I was ranting and raving at some point about Brett’s always being late and his tendency to want to go “out” after 10 p.m. (I already had my pajamas on. If the pajamas are on, they aren’t coming off!), when Pastor said something completely unexpected.

He said that the world needs all different personality types. God created us to be different from one another. It was okay for Brett to be spontaneous and flexible, because that’s who he truly was.

Would I consider the fact my rigid schedule and strict adherence to always being on time stifled and irritated Brett as much as his LORL personality bugged me?

I was speechless. I had never considered the possibility. EOOT’s were right; LORL’s were wrong. The concept was rock-solid in my mind.

Pastor asked us to try an experiment. Brett would make an effort to get up on time for work and church without my having to beat him over the head with blunt instruments. I would try to be flexible the next time Brett wanted to go to a late night movie, and I was already all tucked in for the night.

Secondly, Pastor asked me if all the irritation I was feeling was worth always being on time. Would letting my EOOT guard down and accepting the fact the being late wasn’t the end of the world relieve some of my stress?

I wasn’t sure. But I began to try to see if I could adjust to Brett’s circadian rhythm.

It sure didn’t come naturally. My EOOT inclinations weren’t easy to turn off. I had to grit my teeth at first, but eventually I learned that keeping a magazine or book handy was a way to spend time wisely while Brett putzed around.

I stopped yelling, screaming, and berating. Instead, I would calmly repeat to myself, “It’s not the end of the world if we’re late.”

Brett noticed my efforts (It would have been hard not to, it was a complete about-face) and told me how much he liked being with me when I was “relaxed.” In his defense, he also went full bore against LORL policy and started getting up on time Sunday mornings without complaint, bringing my stress level down another octave.

We both had to adjust to new schedules when Brett worked the night shift, and it actually helped draw us closer together as a couple. The EOOT and the LORL were still in love and working hard to make time a non-issue.

There are still times when it’s tough. Like when we’re late for Mom and Gary’s, or I end up twiddling my thumbs on a Soderstrom porch for a couple of hours.

But the harmony it brought back to our lives was worth it. I stopped freaking out about being late, and Brett made sure I knew what events were coming up, so I could put them on the calendar.

We started being able to love each other for who we really were, whether EOOT or LORL. Together, we became WWGTIGE – Whenever We Get There Is Good Enough.

One of my favorite movies is the Hallmark presentation of The Secret Garden.

My favorite line from the movie is when the cranky old caretaker, Ben Weatherstaff, is being badgered by a boy, Dickon, to go look at the animals.

Ben has places to go and work to do, but he looks at the boy’s eager face and says, “Well, I guess the work’ll wait ‘til I gets there!”

So, I guess the world will wait until this reformed EOOT and rehabilitated LORL gets there, even if we are just a little bit late.


Alice said...

And this is now why I permanently keep a book in my purse. :-)

mom2mine said...

I must confess...

I torture my children with that VERY SAME SONG.

I can't wait to hear them in their therapy sessions.

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

Haaahaaaa! Oh, holy cow, this is just perfect. You had me laughing line after line after line. MY family is always on time. And I do indeed set my clocks fast. I, by myself, am NEVER late. Even when I think I might actually be late, I'm still early, because my van clock is set even earlier than my house. ;-)
My husband, bless his stinkin' LORL heart, takes his shower when we need to be walking out the door! Oh, that is just so true!!
And his family-- YES, we have actually been invited to parties within hours of when they start!! I was shocked. How can people function like that??
And we invite Fred's mom over, but she can't let us know if she is coming until it's near the time for her to walk out the door. So I can't plan AT ALL. These people have ZERO concept of time.
Sorry for writing a book. It's just all so true!! I go between shaking my head and laughing at them, to wanting to wring all of their necks.

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

And, if you'll notice by my time stamps, I go to bed late AND get up early, and I'm still on time.

Seriously, though, some people just don't get the whole TIME thing and they never will...

Juliet said...

We are meeting at the Brookside Clinic at 10:00 A.M. tomorrow? The both of yous! Ha!!!!