The First Time I Forgave Myself For Tardiness

May 14th, 2018

I’ve been working very hard at being punctual for a long time, particularly after I discovered the propensity for lateness my entire family had previously taken to be a shared quirk was actually a symptom of ADHD. For a while, my efforts largely consisted of keeping a meticulous smartphone calendar until one morning I was woken up by a call from my chiropractor asking where I was because I was 15 mins late for an appointment I hadn’t realized I had that morning.

I then implemented a new system where the first thing I do every morning is check my calendar and set two alarms for each appointment and then check my email in case new appointments have been made with me. This system has been working quite well for a long time.

Then, the other morning I was puttering around the house taking care of odd jobs before I had to leave for an appointment when I realized I’d messed up. My phone’s calendar alert beeped at me saying my appointment started in 5 minutes. I panicked, but only slightly, rechecked everything and realized that because I’d accidentally written 11AM on the paper calendar, I had been thinking it was at that time. It was in fact 10AM. I was only 20 minutes late, but it was still unfortunate.

As I drove away, I realized I wasn’t beating myself up for this mistake. I knew, deep down, that I had done everything possible to ensure I was on time, and, in the end, I hadn’t been. That was all. Those were simply facts and I was not blaming myself for what had happened. I apologized to the person I was meeting with, my wonderful osteopath, but I didn’t feel the need to punish myself.

This was the first time I can ever remember this being the case. In the past, I would call myself every name in the book every time I was late for anything. I easily forgave others if they weren’t on time - this is a skill I’m sure most ADHD coaches develop otherwise they would probably suffer intensely - but I was merciless toward myself. The case of mistaking this appointment, however, I easily forgave.

Those of us with ADHD screw up, a lot. We are constantly forgetting, being late, not following through, and every other thing that is a result of our executive dysfunction. Even when we want to improve these areas, it can seem nearly impossible, especially if we are trying to use tools made by and for those with more neurotypical brains. “Just make a list” does not cut it, just as in my case “Just keep a calendar” did not cut it, and I had to add the alarms and the daily, early morning check.

When we do find a system that works for us and we know, as I know, that we have put every ounce of effort we can into it, even then it can be super hard to accept and acknowledge that accidents sometimes just happen. No system is perfect because, at the end of the day, every system is created and maintained by human beings. And human beings are imperfect. Even those systems involving computers, we, the humans, still give those machines instructions (until the rise of Skynet) and that always allows a margin of error.

I’m sure someone more computer savvy than me could tell you all about how even the computers themselves, independent of our instructions, can make mistakes. But I digress...

I was able to accept that in this instance, me being late was nearly unavoidable and move on, without feeling the need to blame or shame myself. And it was nothing short of miraculous.

What would allow you to release yourself from blame in situations?