Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tick Tock

Clocks make me anxious. Their implacable measurement of time creates deadlines I have no way of eluding. Bed time, meal time, time to leave the house – all are boundaries by which I mark my days, rushing from one to the next, hurrying to meet appointments already past or rushing up so swiftly that I cry out in frustration, snapping needlessly at those around me, as if the endless march of seconds is somehow their fault.

Two days a week I have mini-vacations – time when my children are being cared for by others. I fill that space with errands but often find that without the fuss of car seats, stopping to select and pocket random small rocks, discussions of “why I am eager to leave the store/bank/restaurant now that my task is completed and I understand you’re still investigating something I don’t begin to comprehend but can we please leave now?” I have time to sit for a few unexpected minutes. Once I filled that space with books or radio or writing lists, but now I sit, reaching for stillness, and appreciating that found time for the gift it is.

On vacation, the mere act of removing my watch slows me down, liberates me from self-imposed structures of hours and minutes, allowing me to savor a few extra moments of dark sleepy night-time storytelling with my son, or a mischievous demand for just one more bed-time song from my daughter. Not hemmed in by a morning alarm, I find myself more readily leaning into my husband and chatting into the night about upcoming schedules and not-so-distant plans, or talking more quietly and intimately about our dreams.

This week I had to take my watch in for repair, and I won’t see it again for four whole days. I feel naked and mildly panicky, worried that I’ll miss something. I don’t know why, since I have the cell phone, the computer, the car, and two clocks in the kitchen (one of which is on the oven and reads 350 when I bake, which confuses my husband to no end). I wonder if not having a watch on my wrist, physically tying me to the passage of time, will change my perception of the week. I know I put everyone to bed nearly an hour early tonight, but I can’t tell if that was due to the darkening sky or some less pleasant motive. I decided this evening, though, to believe that not having a watch means I am on vacation, and I will practice relaxing instead of fighting the rigors of a timely life. Perhaps this is a lesson for me: what a blessing to sometimes step outside of time, to find a place where there are no consequences for a late night, or a long morning walk, or an extra story or two.

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