People tell me “Timing is everything.” And they are right.
Timing cannot be overemphasized – lack of timing or bad timing can get you into trouble. Errant timing jumpstarts dilemmas. Without a sense of timing, you can miss opportunities, fumble the beat on romantic relationships, or create painful mayhem in your world.
Just yesterday, I was looking at my list of things to do and realized I had missed multiple, yes multiple, deadlines for a set of finished stories. My inattention to timing was a pattern. Crap.
I dropped my head into my hands and had an immediate flashback to my college days. So here’s what happened:
I was one of the three girls in a macho biology program in college. The men made my life hell except for the fact – I could dissect. I was good with scissors, probes, scalpels. It kept them at a distance, a respectful distance.
One day in zoology class, we were dissecting mussels. Now a mussel is a small mollusk full of gooey material with some slimy, stringy pieces crammed in a stinky hard shell.
Our assignment was to find the intestine and the heart. We looked. We poked. We wrinkled our then unwrinkled 19 year-old brows.
I had an epiphany.
“I’ll find the anus and trace it back. That string will be the intestine and the other string will be the heart.” I was proud of myself. Fellow lab rats nodded and went on to other things, organs, whatever.
The class breathed a sigh of relief. Diligently, I worked on this problem. Getting confused. Losing my way. Dropping the damn mussel. Opening another bivalve and starting over. The mollusk oozed mussel snot over my hands. Viscous strands plopped onto my jeans.
All this time my fellow students were moving on to another organism – exploring the Legless Caecilian Amphibian (misspelled on my test as Legless Sicilian Amphibian – hey I should get points for geography – and spelling is not correlated with IQ). The mussel’s questionable anatomy was forgotten.
Twenty minutes later, in a dead space between the male students talking about weekend plans and the absence of girls in the program, when you could hear a pin drop, I exclaimed in delight, “I found my anus.”
Delighted with my completed mission, I continued, “Lookey here, this is the anus. So this string is the intestine and the string underneath must be the heart.” Dead silence. Really truly. No noise whatsoever. People were staring. Sweat popped out of every pore on my body.
There was a ruffle in the air. People started to smile. My boyfriend, until later that night, said, “I am so excited to hear that you found your anus. I could have helped.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. Schmuck. The full force of what I had literally said, that people were clueless about the importance of this anatomical discovery, that I would be marked for life as the girl who found her anus at college, hit me. I wanted to melt into the floor. The classroom rocked with laughter. Not a speck of respect anywhere.
The teacher looked at me. “I think you misjudged the timing of your announcement.” Uh duh.
The next four years were a lesson on the importance of timing. People were very helpful …
“Hey, need some help finding things?” they asked.
“Lost anything lately?” was a constant verbal companion.
“I found mine. Want some help finding yours?” they yelled from across the cafeteria.
When I graduated, I promised myself – pay bloody attention to the importance of timing.
But somehow in the decades between college and now, I lost my timing. I want it back.
Tonight, I am going out to eat mussels. I will stab them with my fork, yank them from their shells and drown them in some tasty broth. Afterwards, I will note on my calendar the due dates of each and every assignment, submission and paper. I will be on time because I understand viscerally the wreckage caused by careless inattentive timing.

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