As a pretty strongly expressed “P”(perceiver) in the Meyers-Briggs world, nothing stresses me out more than this concept of “running out of time”. Specifically, nothing stresses me out more than *other* people not being able to relax about deadlines, running late, something bad happening if I’m not there. I realise this is not a self-imposed feeling; when left to my own devices, I’m actually pretty-laid back. I enjoy life more when my schedule has room for a change of plans.

Life doesn’t feel the same way about time as I do. If I don’t meet deadlines repeatedly, my boss threatens to fire me. (“We’d rather have someone who does average work and consistently meets deadlines than someone who turns in superior work but is not dependable.”). If we’re running 15 minutes late because it took me longer to do my hair and makeup than expected, The Guy I Am Currently Dating will sit in silence in the car on the way to wherever we were supposed to be, angry and refusing to communicate, because running late stresses him out. If I’m late for an event I’m coordinating, my phone rings off the hook, as if a group of 20 people over the age of 25 can’t figure out how to sit down and have dinner without me.

I’m actually not a flaky person by nature. I’m never going to stand someone up, blow off work just because, decide to change plans on 10 minutes notice. I have too much respect for the people in my life to behave that way, and I’m aggravated to no end by people who *do* behave this way. A friend or prospective romantic partner is going to hear about how disrespected I feel if he or she does not show up for something without bothering to call, and I’m going to seriously re-evaluate whether or not I have room in my life for someone who clearly doesn’t make me a priority. I’m pretty flexible when it comes to “I’m at this other place, and such-and-such ran late” or “Can we do this an hour or two later than expected”, because that’s pretty much how I roll. I’m never going to flake on responsibilities or make the people in my life feel as if I don’t prioritise making time for them. I’m just probably going to be late, no matter how hard I try not to be. I operate on AlaynaTime.

The level of anxiety involved with “rushing”, missing a train, missing a deadline, knowing that if things don’t fit into a well-defined window and everything doesn’t work perfectly, it feels like someone is going to be really pissed and/or let down, and there will be consequences….well, I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m on anxiety medication. It doesn’t help. I *hate* feeling rushed and discombobulated and as if the world is going to come to an end if I don’t arrive at a certain place or do a certain thing according to the clock. And I really have a hard time with people who are the type who stress out immensely at running 15 minutes late. Sometimes, I think I’m clearly not the only one in the world who needs the anti-anxiety pills. Life is so much more enjoyable when you get to chill out.

This is why I enjoy traveling so much, and why others do not enjoy traveling with me (and vice versa), unless they happen to be of a similar mindset. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually *made* my scheduled flight without having to reschedule, and missing the bus, train, or cab I need is a pretty regular occurrence. I’m usually not terribly bothered by these things. What bothers me is the reaction of other people when I don’t get where I was planning to go at the time I originally planned.

When I travel to visit friends and family, I will typically plan one or two events I really want to attend, and do things like buy tickets or make a formal RSVP. That’s it. I’ll have a list of possibilities regarding what I want to do with my time, but I prefer to live in the moment and consider everything subject to change. Most of the coolest life experiences I’ve ever had come out of that openness and that mindset of “Let’s just see what life throws in my path.”

In fact, the more I plan, the more obstacles life throws in my path. I remember buying tickets for an ex-boyfriend and I to attend a fancy NYE gala in Atlanta, for which tickets were non-refundable. His car broke down on December 30th in Ohio, and we spent NYE running around Columbus looking for something interesting to do. Last year, I bought tickets for the closing weekend of a Broadway show, and missed it because the bus was late getting into NYC from Philly (there had been a blizzard that weekend.) Moving to Atlanta meant I spent 5 days in an airport, having my flight rescheduled 17 times, due to September 11th. I’ve had to learn that a willingness to be adaptable is not a bad thing; in fact, it’s one of my better traits, even if I’m disappointed when things don’t work out “my way”, or “like I planned them”. I tend to get over it a little faster than most. I think my fondness for martinis helps. :P

That being said, I’m definitely not a laid-back person. I’m that person who tends to micro-manage life, probably because of an inherent belief in “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. I’m not an organized person, but my chaos makes sense to me. Ever since I was much younger, I’d get mad if someone tried to be nice and clean up my space for me. I don’t really like people in my personal space that much, or messing with my organized chaos. I’m adaptable; I’ve lived with roommates and significant others, and I’m pretty good with the art of compromise. I’m actually a pretty thoughtful living companion. I’m not the person who’d get thrown off of “Survivor” first, just for being annoying, complaining, and whining. I don’t, by nature, like change that throws me out of my comfort zone. But after a little while, I’m there, and I just adapt. I work with what I have.

Being interrupted stresses me out. I blame this on the possibility that I may have some form of ADD; my mind tends to run a thousand miles a minute, and I can’t multitask to save my life. The only way I get things done is to get into a specific space and focus on that one task. Since we live in a world full of phone calls, messages, Facebook, and other distractions, this is a tough one for me. Sometimes, I sound like I really don’t like my friends when they call me on the phone and they’ve interrupted something I was doing. It’s more just that I don’t like my concentration being broken. I’m the kind of person who may not get it back for the rest of the day.

Yet, nothing on the “stress-o-meter” compares to the feeling of needing to rush, and dealing with those who become angry and resentful if you do not successfully get places on time. Friends and significant others have employed all sorts of strategies over the years, from setting the clocks back to telling me that an 8 PM event starts at 7:30.

It turns out, goat farming and the like aside, there might be a perfect place for me in the world, one where rushing and deadlines and the concept of time doesn’t dictate the enjoyment of life. Honestly, it sounds really cool.

And, no, I don’t own a watch. My living space has one clock, and the time it reflects is wrong. If I want to know what time it is, I look at my cell phone or my computer. If I forgot my cell phone, I’m sort of screwed.

Yet, I inevitably get where I’m going, and the world doesn’t come to an end. It’s kind of important for me to keep that in perspective.

I meant to spend time today writing about the trouble I got myself into while visiting Charlotte last week, but suddenly and without warning, got overwhelmed by work. So, on a related note…..:

It’s no secret that Americans have a lot of unhealthy habits. Study after study is being performed in order to prove that many aspects of the way we live are not only decreasing our quality of life, but leading us to live less healthy, economically prosperous, and long lives than previous generations.

America, as a culture, does not understand the concept of joie de vivre. We eat too much, drink too much, and smoke too much, but actually have little appreciation for the joy of these bad habits, engaging in quantity over quality. We work more hours than ever before, but often make less money in the process, and so few of us actually enjoy what we do, choosing instead the route of “working for the weekend”. We surround ourselves with people, yet rarely connect with them. We utilise all sorts of technology to make our lives easier and more productive, yet spend hours on end wasting time to fill our eight-hour quota at the office or because there’s nothing interesting on television.

Americans do not understand the joy of living, not really, and it’s because we are not taught to focus on that. We are instead, at an early age, taught the benefits of busy work, following rules, keeping pace with the rest of the class, suppressing individuality, not questioning authority, putting personal feelings aside when necessary, and focusing on achievement as a stepping stone to more focus and more achievement—which may ultimately be rewarded, but may also leave you feeling as lost and empty and confused as those who checked out and chose to simply not care. Not only are we not a particularly happy, vivacious culture, what we’re doing isn’t working for us. The next generation of children are the first in centuries to have a lower life expectancy than their parents, yet we’re steadily raising the retirement age to compensate for a bankrupt Social Security system. Half of college graduates in 2012 are unemployed, yet the average student loan debt is $50,000. Today’s young adults in their 20′s and 30′s are getting married, having families, and buying homes 50% less frequently than their parents. 40% of the country does not have health care, and another 25% of those covered are not covered adequately.

Yes, it’s fair to say we consistently engage in a system that does not work, but judge and criticise those who choose not to buy into that system.

That’s why it’s inspiring to me to read about the work habits of writer, feminist, free-thinker, and bon vivante Simone de Beauvoir. She is legendary for her copious writings on feminism—ideas which extolled the virtues of living alone, maintaining a self-sufficient income, polyamoury and non-monogamy within committed relationships, and nurturing creative gifts rather than children—as well as her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, a relationship documented by an incredible number of daily communications detailing their lives, together and separately. She published numerous books, was known for her great number of friends and lovers, her entertaining social presence, and was a patroness of all sorts of artists, intellectuals, and free-thinkers. She was, quite simply, very much ahead of her time, and someone I greatly admire.

However, the interesting thing about Madame de Beauvoir is that, for all her free-spirited ways, she also maintained a reputation for being one of the hardest working artists of her time. She managed to avoid burning out by working 7 hours a day—3 in the morning and 4 in the evening—without distraction, and took 2-3 months between books to travel and rejuvenate each year.

She worked far less than most any of us could imagine, and yet, remains one of the most prolific writers in literary history. On top of it, she lived comfortably, found time to have the kind of friendships and love affairs most of us spend a lifetime searching for, and was quite involved in both the cultural and hedonistic pursuits of her era.

The question is, does living a more balanced and well-rounded lifestyle not only make your life a more enjoyable one (I’m fond of saying that since you only live once, and you never know when the ride is coming to an end, it’s fairly silly to waste time filling your life with obligations and things that don’t inspire any sort of passion, as most of us do.), but make you a more brilliant, accomplished, cultured person?

Many Europeans still believe so. They don’t work as many hours as the average American, Japanese, or Indian citizen, but many enjoy a higher quality of life and longer life expectancy. There is an attitude of enjoyment rather than excess, of appreciating the simpler things rather than moving as quickly as possible, and celebrating love and friendship as keys to a happy life.

The next time I’m tempted to spend my day in front of glowing pieces of technology, wearing my PJs, I think I need to remind myself that Madame de Beauvoir would hardly approve. :P Of course, she didn’t live in the suburbs of a city that is the poster child for the evils of urban sprawl without a car, so I think she might understand why I’m not meeting friends for a 5 PM cocktail and gossip in the middle of the week.

However, my unconventional schedule is probably something that most Americans don’t understand, but it works for me. I try to get up around 11, work until 4 PM when my pieces are due, and then spend the rest of the evening socialising, reading, watching TV, or catching up with friends and family on the phone. New assignments come out at 5 PM each day, so if I have a heavy workload, I’ll start work again at 12 AM and see what I get done before bedtime, at 3 AM. If I don’t, I’ll use the time to write in my journal or work on creative projects. I find I have the most creative energy and fewest distractions after midnight, simply because I’m a night owl. Of course, this doesn’t work for me on the weekends, when I’ll typically stay out later than I should, enjoy life, have a few too many drinks, and only have the afternoons to get anything done. However, I then often have extra time on Sunday, a day I don’t often schedule anything to do…so it balances out. Most people are surprised–given my relatively laid-back, unambitious attitude toward work, love for sleeping until 11 AM, and general desire to have life be a fun, entertaining ride—when they learn that I often work 7 days a week. It’s just that I’m typically working when everyone else is not. *laughs* Like Simone de Beauvoir, I have the freedom to take time out here and there, something I would not have in a more traditional lifestyle.

I so very much live in the wrong place for me, in the wrong atmosphere, maybe even in the wrong time period. I have, throughout my life, generally felt misplaced. However, after a decade, Atlanta still doesn’t feel like my home. It feels more like a transient stop along my journey that somehow turned into a third of my life. It’s a shame, in a way, I have so many connections that are dear to me that make me want to remain in a place I’ve never quite belonged. I wonder what it will take to make this place “home” to me, other than a 9-5 corporate job, a car, and a little bit of liposuction. :P