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I Take You At Your Word

I’d like to think I’m adaptable. I can usually handle a last-minute change of plans when I need to accommodate for something I didn’t count on happening. Often enough, I know it’s coming, and I brace myself for it.

That might seem like a funny choice of words, but the truth is, I hold people to their word. If they tell me they will be at a certain place at a certain time, I expect that they will be there when they told me they would. (Within reason—traffic in my area can be the suckiest of all suck, and I do not advocate for texting while driving. That’s what Bluetooth is for, and even then, it can mean driving distracted.) For me, it’s about respect. If I give my word to someone, I do my best to make good on it, and, if I find I can’t, I tend to apologize profusely and always tell them why. It’s because, whenever plans fail on me, I experience a pretty deep pang of disappointment. No matter how hard I try not to; no matter how far in advance I know it’s coming; no matter how reasonable and unavoidable whatever came up is, it’s still not a happy feeling for me.

Oddly, it’s very, very easy to get out of this: give me a general time frame, or say “most likely” or “probably”. The best one is “I don’t know yet, and I won’t until…/I don’t know when I’ll know.” That way, I know you’re thinking about something possibly coming up. I know I should think about that on my own, and I try to, but then it feels like I distrust a person who does wind up holding to their word, and I’m not sure what would actually be worse at that point.

I think part of this is reactionary. My family is perpetually late, or used to be. We’ve gotten better as us kids have gotten older—probably because we could all dress ourselves and help make and carry things years ago. Most of us are just bad at estimating how long something will take, which is probably why I allow myself so much extra time—too much, in fact. I’ll often sit around for upwards of ten minutes because I don’t want to get absorbed in something if I have to be or get going somewhere else soon enough. The most I’ll do is read something I’ve already read or listen to music or talk with anyone who’s around—something I can easily leave behind. Even when I know exactly how long getting ready will take, I am often ready extra early. At this point, it’s more habit than anything.

I don’t want to be a jerk or a snob because I think I’m better for holding to my word—I don’t think that, in fact. I understand that most people will by and large do their best within reason. (Hey, I can’t dictate when your gerbil will give birth or when your psychic will call you with a vague and ominous warning that you should stay in…) I’m just more stringent about it to myself. I will often go out of my way to make sure that things don’t change once I’ve set them up unless it’s a situation I can’t control. Maybe that’s a little weird—I’ve noticed that this isn’t something other people really do. Even then, sometimes, I fail. And I think, “Why should I hold other people to a standard that I can’t always meet? That’s really hypocritical.” Honestly, I don’t like this part of myself so much. I understand why people don’t do what they say they will. 99% of the time, they have really good reasons for it. Even when I don’t think they do, I try to cut them a break; I realize that I’m not the center of anyone’s universe except for my own. And then, I wonder if it’s because I let my world revolve around others so often that their actions seem to affect me so deeply. Regardless, I’m not sure how to start being more okay when things don’t work out. I’m horrible at giving up, and only slightly better at letting go. And when I think on it too much, I get upset at myself. I’m sure that, as life goes on, I’ll get better at moving on. But until then, I don’t know. I’ve just got to hang on, I guess.

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