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.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Change of seasons

Winter stopped by today. We have been graced with a slow fall, drifting from green to yellow and red, with a glorious blue background each day. Yesterday our front yard was a frenzy of leaf raking and neighborly child labor, with a brief break for homemade chocolate chip cookies to recharge. Today the cool gray sky warned us to break out coats and mittens, which my children willfully disregarded, much to their chagrin fifteen minutes later. We warmed up in a bundle on the couch, in front of a slow fire in the new wood stove and relishing a rare weekday movie. I have become sleepy with the cooler weather, slowing my frantic efforts to tidy the house and instead melting into my easy chair with ancient magazines which are no longer relevant but lightly pass the time. I can barely bring myself to go outside, preferring instead to peruse recipes for slow-cooked food like bread and hearty roasts. I get more time with my children, too, who are drawn reluctantly inside when it becomes too dark to distinguish one child from the next. Instead of digging up my front yard, my son sits in front of the fire, mesmerized by the flames. If I approach carefully, I sometimes can get quiet insight into his day, which is otherwise summed up with a careless "It was good" which leaves me aching for the hours I don't see. Winter is a time for reacquainting ourselves, I think, after sharing our days with the neighborhood. The intimacy of darkness brings us close.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Waiting with bated breath

I'm having nightmares. Friends being kidnapped and murdered, children being hurt. My sleep is so deep I can't swim up, and the dream is past by the time I wake, so that I am only bemused and anxious, rather than free to cry and release the tension which shakes my bed. I believe I'm translating concern about the election into creative fear, but I don't know for sure where my anxiety comes from. I pray it is over soon. Forgetting the unpleasantness of the flyers in the mail (what a waste of resources and money, I think, as I dump them into the recycling bin), and the ceaseless ads, and the light political jabs over the dinner table, I just need to know what comes next. I don't like stories that never conclude, and this has been endless. I think I've been telegraphing my unrest to the children and the dog; we all have short tempers right now. Perhaps, after the 4th, we will sleep again, and find harmony in each other's company again. I wait. We all do.