I Am Beholden to No Deadline

A deadline is a big fat bluff. It doesn’t matter what kind. Could be a writer’s deadline, or a regular-life deadline, such as, I need to be at the airport by 3:30, or I’m supposed to buy a present for my wife today.

They’re all bluffs. False threats. Intended to make me afraid.

What if I don’t finish a project when I said I would? Will the sun blow up? Well, actually, yes… but not for 5 billion years. Or what if I’m late for an important appointment? Will it give me cancer?

Whether or not I meet today’s deadlines, tomorrow will bring more. They never cease, these attempts by life to make me worry.

I started meditating every day in 2003, and I am writing this in 2009. I now know, in theory and in practice, that whenever I worry about something, it represents a lapse in my practice. It can always be eliminated. (Which is not the same as saying that I am always able to eliminate it.)

Worry is a reminder of the things I need reminders of. It’s an opportunity to practice suffering reduction. When worry arises, if I make myself mindful, then the worry itself becomes the object of my attention. This causes the object of the worry – be it a deadline or whatever else – to evaporate into irrelevancy (temporarily).

But that creates a new problem, socially…

If I make a commitment to someone to do something by a certain time, and I don’t meet the deadline, wouldn’t it be rude and disrespectful to not feel at least a little bit bad about it?

Aha! There he is. The Deadline Devil, doing what devils do best: making me feel bad. He knows that when I shed my shame, I feel good, so he tries to make me feel guilty about shamelessness itself. I know how to handle this…

Dear Devil,

You’re fired.

Good riddance,


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