The Bitch Slap: On Timelines

bitch slap timelinesHey buddy – yeah you. The one with the itchy scheduling finger in iCalendar/Outlook. You.

C’mere. Set your quad-shot Americano with a side of Red Bull down for a second and listen to me. I talk a lot about the Oulda Sisters (Shoulda, Coulda and Woulda) and it would appear that you’re having an ongoing gang bag with the three of them. No one moves fast enough for you. No one operates on your schedule and WHY can’t people just get their shit together and please YOU all of the time? You’re very important and have things to do. People really should get with the program!

Sit down. You’re getting bitch slapped.

I plowed straight on through the first 30 or so years of my life thinking I was the center of the universe, consistently disappointed when people didn’t meet my expectations. They were late, they didn’t respond, they didn’t call me back. I can’t tell you exactly what it was, but somewhere along the way I realized that not everybody is out of step with Johnny. What would happen if I stopped thinking about what other people should be doing and started focusing on me?

Many people are surprised when I share the fact that until 2010, I’d led a fairly charmed life. I’d experienced no death except for my grandparents. (Charmed, right?) And in four months, I’d lost a cycling friend and then Jason.

I’m the last person I’d ever thought would sit in her house for a week and not get dressed. Not bathe. Barely eat. Disappear from being online and in the social world I love so much. It was the first time in my life I didn’t know what I should be doing. All I could focus on was what I would have done if I could turn back time and each day was a struggle with what I could bring myself to accomplish.

So yeah – about those timelines.

Grief is an unruly whore. It has no respect for the Oulda Sisters and could care less what your or anyone else’s timeline happened to be. And it’s one helluva teacher on timelines.

How much of an asshole do you have to be to think that anyone or anything can dictate someone’s timeline – on grief or anything? Because I have news for you (and it was news to me): you can’t.

Shouldn’t she be over this by now?

You should move on.

This project should be done.

Well, guess what? She’s not, I can’t and it’s not.

You can get frustrated all you want about someone not meeting your timeline expectations, but there are a few things you can do to not come across like a raving asshole about it. Here are some suggestions, ranging from personal to professional:

  • It’s not about YOU. Really, it’s not. If someone isn’t meeting your timeline expectations, put the mirror down for a second and think about the fact that you can’t MAKE anyone feel, think or do anything.
  • We all deal with grief. Loss is loss, while the magnitude changes. People each make their own journeys down grief’s path. The best you can do is be there (and put down the cattle prod) and stop thinking that someone should be anywhere other than exactly where they are. More importantly, we all deal with grief differently. Yours ain’t mine and vice versa.
  • Sure, we dwell. We get focused on the fact that a project is dragging out for months on end and our bank account is a bit lighter than we’d prefer. Get over it and deal with the here and now instead of the Shouldas and Couldas.
  • Plan for delay. After a year where projects drug out to epic proportions, I now have a completion clause in my contracts. If you extend beyond the pre-determined number of days for the project (save extenuating circumstances), I’m happy to continue with a 10% extension fee of the value of the project. This fee must be paid prior to work continuing. Funny – things are moving along with deft speed so far!
  • Stop assuming. I don’t know how you think. I don’t know how you run your business. When you’re so eager to do business that your forget the business side of doing business, you’re in for lessons hard-learned. Don’t I know it. And if you’re going to pull whiny little bitch mode with me because you didn’t take the time to do business, guess who’s not really going to be up for listening?
  • The “Come to Jesus” Phase. We’ve all had moments (eras?) where our heads were so far up our ass end that we can’t hear anything except our own thoughts. When you have a friend or colleague in that space and it’s time for the Come to Jesus talk, consider one thing before putting the hammer down: there are two people in the equation, not just you.

It’s a rough job, this gig we all have of being human beings. One of my new yoga teachers said something a few weeks back that I really appreciate: we are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS. You don’t always have to be moving and if we spent a bit less time focused on where things should be and more on accepting right where they are, our life-long Asshole Quotient might be significantly less. Less doing, more being.

Your timeline is yours and yours alone. The best we can hope for is those moments where the timelines of others beautifully synch-up with ours…giving birth to serendipity, blinding coincidence and fortune beyond belief.

You’ve been slapped.

34 comments
Jim Raffel
Jim Raffel

Erika, It's been at least two weeks since I read a blog post and I picked you first (I usually do - no, take a second let that go to your head you deserve it). I know I often overuse awesome and amazing but in this case it's the only two words I can think of to describe this post. Well, that or spot on, dead nuts or any number of other phases that express perfection. You just nailed the hardest part of grief. It has no timeline. Today, you are exactly where you are supposed to be and guess what? Like it or not it's where you are. I to did the charmed life thing for about 45 years until - well, it wasn't so charmed. In the space of one year I had lots of not so fun stuff happen to me. Almost lost someone, lost someone, lost tons if money - and guess what - I survived. Know how? I got over me :) OK, off to find some more new Red Head posts to motivate and inspire me this morning. -Jim

Alysson
Alysson

I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point in my late 20s I simply stopped expecting people to live up to the expectations I have of myself. They set their own expectations. And if they fall short of what I want, deserve and need...well, that relationship - platonic or romantic - simply wasn't meant to be. By the way, the 10% extension fee is genius. I will be stealing that idea and passing it off as my own in all future project outlines & agreements.

Ms. Snark
Ms. Snark

The Oulda Sisters, just made of win. I am something a deadline asshole, think the schedule exists for a reason but know it's not set in stone, there has to be give and take. It's the "all take, no give" that gets me in trouble. I've been waiting for an answer, response for an eternity and NOW some slacker wants to throw some arbitrary deadline in my face? I call bullshit. A good slap Erika, thanks.

Susan Johnston
Susan Johnston

"Grief is an unruly whore." A to the men! I too have a hard time slowing down and giving in to being rather than doing. I'm often that person who's sprinting up the escalator instead of standing to the side and enjoying the ride. When my father died, I refused to slow down my freelance workload or miss deadlines. I didn't even tell most of my clients I was dealing with a major loss, because I thought that would be unprofessional. Then one client said he thought my work quality was suffering (I was just trying to plow through it even though it felt like my heart was breaking, so it probably was), and I finally told him what had happened. He actually fired me for not being honest with him! At the time, forging ahead seemed like the right thing to do, but in retrospect, I probably should have given myself time to heal and admitted that I couldn't do it all. I'm sorry for your loss. :(

Bhaskar Sarma
Bhaskar Sarma

About that thing of getting over something and moving on...sometimes one can be their worst enemy. I suffered a personal loss (not death, but a breakup) quite some time ago. At that time it didn't feel like loss, but you know what they say about not knowing what you have until you don't have it. Anyway as the feeling of loss dawned I grieved. And then, after some time the businesslike part of me kept egging on- Move on, dude. But another part was the laggard. The part which held all those memories. The part which might otherwise be described as a stupid fool. It has its own timeline and it doesn't want to move on, yet. So I won't. Life goes on, work goes on but I will be blasted if I label my emotions with an expiry date.

Hugo Skoppek
Hugo Skoppek

I am saddened that you attribute the name of shoulda, coulda, and woulda to your oulda sisters. To me they (shoulda, coulda, and woulda) appear to be like little gremlins which eat opportunities and shit fear.

Greg Smith MD
Greg Smith MD

Erika, I love your latest writings because you are so real. Grieve as long as you need to, in the ways that you need to. Live within the timelines that you must to operate in the world, but make time for yourself and always take the time to stop, relax, think and dream. Part of what I'm doing for myself this year is kicking back and reading while listening to Pandora on my iPad. (If you haven't listened to Epic Soundtracks, please do so now-I'll wait). Your writing is a big part of that, and I am enjoying your gritty take on the world very much. Thanks for being you and for sharing yourself with the rest of us. I shoulda found you earlier. ;) Greg

Tracy Kemp
Tracy Kemp

I don't think you are ever supposed to get over the death of a loved one. Their memory is all you have and there is always going to be that song on the radio that makes you think of them. The people that put a timeline on grief are just burying it and that's not healthy.

The Redhead
The Redhead

And I do like the practice of capitalizing Nice.

Lysa
Lysa

Thanks for that! I am my worst critic and always feel like I'm behind. This is a good reminder not to be so hard on myself.

Paul Jones
Paul Jones

Human beings. Awesome. Losing those close to us doesn't get easier. I had my first brush with that as a 15 year old and a kid in my scout troop was killed by a drunk driver. 30 some years later, I think back to that day and know not to take anyone in my life for granted. Do what you gotta do. Mourning can last as long as you care about that person.

Matt Given
Matt Given

My wife and I have this banter where she'll say, "We're getting there" as we check off this accomplishment or that to do list. To which I usually reply, with as much sensitivity as possible, "Where the Eff is there? And could you just kindly let me know when we arrive!?" Me thinks in healthy dialogues, there is a balanced quotient of staying-on-task versus smelling-the-roses. But, it sure is easy to recognize when that part isn't syncing up, huh? Anyways, take all the time you need Red, we'll be here. Wait......unless my wife needs me for something....

Karen Bice
Karen Bice

This post pulls at the scars on my heart. Erika, you do have a way with words. I never had anyone close to my die until I was 26. It was the first boyfriend I ever let myself get close to. I was totally in love. Looking back on it, I was totally stupid too, but that's another story. I was grief stricken and unprepared for what grief brings. Then at 30, after being married a few years I had a stillbirth. I was still unprepared. I remember going to the grocery store and a woman walked by with her infant in the cart, and I totally lost it. Grief pulls you in and spits you out. You're never the same. But all you can do is go on. Life is what it is, joy and pain.

Cherry Woodburn
Cherry Woodburn

This post made me think of so many things in my life (yes, this is about me). When my boyfriend was killed in a car accident and the next day there were people all over the city driving to work. What? Didn't they know what happened, how life had just been changed? It was strange to learn what a small, infinitesimal part of life you really are. - Or the times when I jumped thru hoops, put stuff with the kids on the backburner to finish a proposal that a co. HAD to have the next day only to have them sit on it or postpone all together. - but this biggest part is grief - it's not just about how long you grieve that seems to annoy some people, it's also the way you grieve. I could go on and on. Sucky way to have to learn important lessons Reds, wish you could have learned all those things another way. Hugs, Cherry

Judi
Judi

I have to remind myself about this CONSTANTLY. I must: take a breath before calling someone, tell myself that they probably have a damn good reason for not getting something done that isn't personal that doesn't have anything to do with me and.... I have to be Nice. If I am Nice when I ask them about whatever it is that is not meeting my expectations, things will decidedly go much better than if I am a raving maniac or make some dumb self-centered assumption that ultimately makes everyone feel bad. Being nice is a practice.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Don't think I'll be going for any ink that explicitly says "whore," but yeah...that's what grief is to me.

Janine
Janine

We were having this discussion last night at dinner. The only person I can change is me. And, surprisingly, there's a lot of work to be done there before I start worrying about you.

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