I never took off my watch. I slept with it on. I showered with it on. I had sex with it on. As a police officer, I lived by my watch; 11:46am call received, 11:48 responding, 12:02 arrived on scene, 12:06 suspect in custody. As a dog trainer, my evenings were back-to-back appointments; 5:00pm Mocha, 6:45pm Toby, 8:30pm Fritz.
I was always enticed by the idea of slowing down, you know, living in the present. I had designed my life to function without an alarm clock and had given up on call waiting and incoming email alerts. But I continued to push life. One of my quirks. What will I be doing in 5 years? Next year? What will I do this weekend? What will I have for dinner next Tuesday?
Whenever I worked in my home office, one eye scanned the clock, “what is taking so long?” or “look how long it’s taking you, what’s wrong with you?” or “it’s almost lunch time, let’s eat,” nagged my inner voice.
I wanted to live in the moment. But what exactly did that mean?
Only eat when you’re hungry?
Ok, my watch says it’s 12 o’clock, lunchtime, I’m hungry.
Go to bed when you’re tired?
Yep, my watch says it 11 o’clock, bedtime, I’m tired.
This year, I had planned to skip Christmas and drive south for some California sun. No definite destination. No time frame; maybe one week or six weeks. Wasn’t this living in the moment?
On about day five, I lost my watch, or just the face to be exact. I noticed it missing while exploring Carpinteria, the small town closest to my campground. But you can bet that I acted like a booze-less alcoholic while searching my car, my tent, my camping bins and my duffel bag looking for it. I even looked under my dog's bed as if he was part of the conspiracy.
I continued wearing the faceless watch strap like a smoker going thru withdrawal needed to hold his Bic lighter.
Over the next two days, I greeted strangers with "d'ya have the time" instead of "good morning". The intensity of the question increased, "there's somebody, ask him, ask him, ASK HIM".
Why didn’t I simply buy another watch? Good question. I have a quirk about spending money (another story) and couldn’t ignore my inner voice nagging, “you have another watch at home".
On the evening of the second day, I chucked my watch strap in the garbage can. I promptly fished it out, hesitated and finally tossed it in and walked away. I twisted a phantom strap around my wrist for the next twenty-four hours.
The weather turned cloudy so I headed north. As my inner voice allowed, I perused dollar stores along the way, but I did not find a replacement watch. And I never asked a sales clerk the time.
I stopped when I wanted to stretch my legs or had to go pee and not every 60 minutes as per the Road Trip Master Plan. I stopped for lunch when I was hungry, and not when my watch said its ‘lunch time'. I stopped for a hotel when I was tired and not when my watch said it was 9pm.
Upon arriving at home, the busy week before Christmas, I was less dependent on time. Store closed? Oh well. I had no reference to meal times and ate when I was hungry, which, it turned out, was not very often. I walked my dog for an enjoyable time and not for the pre-scheduled 60 minutes. Everything slowed down. I felt calmer. I never did put on my second watch.
Then it happened. I was at my neighbourhood grocery store and asked “are you open tomorrow?” “Yes, miss, tomorrow yes, yes and Christmas Eve too, yes, yes” she said as she slid the green onions down the rigid stalks of the celery in my cloth bag.
Uh… what was she talking about? Christmas was Saturday, Christmas Eve was Friday so that meant today was Thursday. Thursday, Dec 23. My hand remained suspended laterally as she put my debit card into my palm. While I was getting a kick out of not knowing what time it was, I did know the day. Thursday. Not Wednesday, Thursday, the day before Christmas Eve. While I could've just asked her what day it was, it was like I needed a second opinion, like a third person is needed to settle a trivia bet.
I drove home quickly. I didn’t have a clock in my ‘98 Honda. As I entered my apartment, I scanned my walls and dvd player and they couldn’t provide evidence. What DAY was it?
I heaved my groceries onto the counter, flipped open my laptop and eyed the bottom right-hand corner. 2:42pm. I hovered the cursor over the digital clock, and the floating white bar clearly said “Wednesday, Dec 22, 2010 2:42pm”.
At the most chaotic time of the year, I had gained a full 24 hours.
I love proof. Show me it works, even a little bit, and I’m a believer. Whole hog. A fanatic, really. Another quirk. Gaining a full day was proof that living in the moment slowed things down. Hard-core here I come.
While I do have a clock on my stove, when my timer went off a few days ago to signal my laundry was done, it had stayed at 0:00. I liked it. The clock is only a push button away; but the funny thing was, I no longer pushed it. Yesterday, I put my whole alarm clock in my nightstand drawer. Today I turned off my computer’s display clock. Over the last two weeks, I’ve lost my dependence on time and I’ve never felt calmer.
I drove to California for the winter sun and came home with the lesson about the gift of time. As the saying goes, “when the student is ready, the lesson appears”.
© 2011 Michelle Sevigny. www.michellesevigny.com. Reprint permission granted with full copyright intact.
Photo by: filtran