To a Fault: Routine

Fault: Seriously dislike having my routine or schedule upset. 

Describe an experiencePlease write a short story (approximately 2,000 characters) about a time in your life when this fault created a situation that had a negative impact on your life.
I was not there when my father died.

It was early in March 2005. I had been sick for several weeks with a high fever and was behind in my writing. I had an important article due and a tournament coming up. It was going to be my first ever Veteran NAC. I had just turned 40 and was looking forward to competing against women my own age.

The weekend before the tournament, Dad had a mild stroke. I talked with him on the phone after he got out of surgery, and he seemed to be recovering, even though he had a terrible cold and his voice was affected by the swelling in his neck. I had been planning for us to go see him in a couple weeks during spring break, so I promised him I would be there soon. I couldn't come sooner (or so I told myself) because I needed to finish the article and I wanted to compete in the tournament.

The night Dad died, my son and I had gone to fencing practice. My husband showed up at the club, saying, “One of your father's colleagues is on the phone. Your father has collapsed and is on life support. You need to talk with the doctor about what to do.”

“I'm sorry,” the doctor told me when my husband handed me the phone. (I knew him; he had been one of my father's residents when I was growing up.) “Your father died just a few minutes ago.” 
“No!” I screamed, throwing the phone across the room and collapsing on the floor. “No no no no no no no!”

But it was too late. My father was dead, and I had not been there. It was worse--much, much worse--than when Dad and Mom had told us they were not going to be living together anymore. At least then there had been the chance to see him again. Holding onto my schedule and refusing to break my routine, I lost the only chance I would ever have to see him again.

I got the article finished the next day, but I did not compete in the tournament. My family and I spent spring break cleaning out my father's house. I got to compete in my first NAC the next year, but it was four years before the article came out in print.
Alternative outcome: Write a short paragraph about what you might have done differently in that situation, to minimize the effect of this fault.
My first impulse is to insist that there was nothing I could have done differently. 
My grandfather died only weeks after I moved my family lock, stock, and barrel--not to mention boxes and boxes of books--from Chicago to North Carolina for me to spend a year at the National Humanities Center writing my first book so that I could get tenure (and keep my job). The summer I was working on finishing the draft of my second book there was another family crisis, albeit no deaths.
It is almost as if disaster is inevitable whenever I start writing. If I allowed such disasters to interrupt my schedule, I would never get anything written.
But I know this assessment isn't quite correct. As a writer, I do need to keep to a routine, but I hate any disruption to my schedule. I turn down offers of socializing more than maybe I should because I am so worried about not getting my work done. And I have a very hard time accepting spontaneous offers to get together with family or friends.
Because it took so many years for the article I finished the day after my father's death to come out, I have since learned to take such deadlines less seriously, particularly for academic pieces. It is usually possible for editors to negotiate an extension. But I continue to find it hard to change my schedule at short notice. Or even, truth be told, months in advance if the offer involves travel.
I am making excuses. It isn't just work. I do not like having to change my plans. This is a virtue because it enables me to do the work that I do, which requires great self-discipline and almost infinitely delayed gratification. 
(Look, I am in the Top 1% of authors at the moment, thanks in large part to that article! I have acquired most of my readers in the past month--twelve years after my father died.) 
To react differently, I would need to change everything I think about how I work. Which terrifies me.
Guidelines for General Improvement: Now that you've thought about how you might have behaved differently in that particular situation, please think about this fault in more general terms. How could you work on improving this fault in general, so that such situations do not repeat themselves?
To behave differently, I would need to be able to change my story more easily. That is, using Professor Peterson's schema, I would need to be willing to confront the dragon, the chaos that threatens whenever I have to rethink the order in which I plan to do things. 
I spend my entire life trying to avoid that dragon. I make lists so that I know what work needs to be done. I keep a calendar so that I know how to pace myself through the academic year. I can tell you now what my schedule is going to be for more than a year advance, almost to the hour. Asking to meet me for coffee requires reorganizing plans that I have had in place for months.
Do I want to live this way? I'm not sure. I envy Milo his seeming ability to live on the edge, changing his schedule to fit whatever comes his way. But I suspect much of that is illusion: he did have his tour dates set well in advance for the Dangerous Faggot tour. Nothing gets done if you cannot make a story about what you would like your ideal future to be.
It all comes back to trust. I do not trust myself not to procrastinate or to find ways to distract myself from doing the work that needs to be done. Nor do I trust that if I get interrupted or have to change my schedule that I will be able to find time later to do the things I had originally planned. But above all I do not trust myself to have made the right decisions in the first place about what I should do.
Being asked to change my plans means being asked to change my estimation of what is important for me to do. My father was a trauma surgeon. His schedule was never his own. Growing up, we almost never got to have vacations, except after he left to live with our stepmother. And even then, the hospital might call, and we would have to turn back. Except we didn't, not really. He could have let another doctor take the call. But he never did.
No wonder it is so hard for me to change my schedule. I'm damned if I do. And damned if I don't.
I am not sure I am doing this exercise correctly! 

--From Jordan Peterson's Self-Authoring: Faults program.

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