Guest post by Kathy Frey
In my life formerly known as urban (Pittsburgh, Boston and Chicago to be specific), cushion time wasn’t something that entered my consciousness–it was an innate component of unpredictable public transportation.
I built commuting time into my day so I could arrive to work on time whether trains were fast or slow. There was cushion time for arriving to an appointment early to find the actual address in an unfamiliar sea of high rises.
After decades with a reputation for arriving early and prepared, I no longer recognized myself as I entered my 40s. I’m not talking thickening waistlines or other physical changes (well, not here anyways).
Suddenly I was always late. And not just late, but slightly frazzled, harried and disorganized.
What changed? Well, for one, I moved to a small town where — literally! — I could get just about anywhere in 5 minutes flat. That’s less time than it took me to walk down the stairs of my building in Chicago just to get to the street.
This fact continues to delight me, so I think I intentionally cut close to appointments to see if I could make it on time. Which is kinda fun, but the racing heart, wide eyes and slightly sweaty appearance is not my favorite way to show up.
Who am I? Get to know yourself
In these same 5 years of living in a small town I’ve had to get to know myself in different ways and contexts.
One notion I’ve come to embrace is that I’m an introvert. I may be the most talkative, social introvert you ever meet, but it doesn’t disguise the fact that I recharge being alone, enjoy feeling calm, and am slightly shy about being in the limelight.
Meaning: I’m way happier being the first one to arrive for a meeting rather than being the last one to whisk in, all eyes staring, feeling disruptive while pulling out paper and pen.
The simple concept of Buffering
But how to change this new way I’ve been showing up with no “real” commute time to account for?
In October 2013 I took Shawn Tuttle’s Walk Tall program.
One small take-away she introduced was the idea of Buffering. Buffering is a way of mindfully cushioning appointments in your calendar to support you in whatever you need — whether that be commuting time, time to find parking, etc. — to show up on time.
The core issues to Buffer
What she really drove home, though, was the idea of what does showing up on time mean?
For me I realized that showing up on time does not mean showing up on the dot. I like having time for a bathroom pit stop, a glass of water, and a sociable hello — which means I prefer to be early (if you know me and are snickering right now, this is a work in progress).
What used to happen naturally for me for several decades, is now something that requires mindfulness and planning.
Then there’s the other key point she drove home: how do you want to show up? Oh.
I like being calm, having any supplies ready. I also like looking a certain way. Those things all take time… whether time immediately before an appointment (having supplies ready) or in early preparation (physical appearance/getting dressed).
It seems funny to think about these things… but when processes that came naturally suddenly don’t anymore, you’ve got to analyze the parts.
With such a drastic cross-country move, I clearly went through a major life change. Routines and rhythms were no longer what they once were, which caused me to almost throw them completely out the window. Thanks to Shawn for grounding me again.
What does my version of showing up on time, on my terms look like?
Most appointments are in my calendar 15 minutes early. A 10am meeting is set for 9:45am.
I use alerts to get me out the door so I arrive at 9:45am. This gives me time to not only get settled but also feel settled. And, if I am running behind, I’m rarely even late anymore thanks to that 15-minute cushion.
Buffering = freedom to enjoy the little things
Living in a small town has its own factors too. There may not be traffic jams, but we do have our share of unpredictable moments.
I’m learning to give myself more buffer time so I can be that person who is stoked to see a flash mob, can pause to photograph a rainbow, and take a few minutes to smile and exchange words with a fellow artist.
All these things have happened during my “commutes,” part of why I moved to such a lovely town.
Buffering gives me the freedom to actually enjoy these gifts rather than see them as inconveniences making me late.
Shawn has many approaches to buffering, scheduling, and — gasp! — letting go of commitments so you can show up in the world the way you want to show up.
Buffering is just one takeaway from Walk Tall that has made a huge impact on how I show up so I can exude more confidence and be closer to who I want to be.
Kathy Frey is a renowned wire jewelry artist, author, and award-winning designer. She is marketing and design assistant for The Natural Professional.
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Rainbow over Nevada City by Kathy Frey during a commute
Photo of Kathy by Mark Einert