It made me smile when I read the Deva Premal post on Instagram that showed a photo of her and Miten and she commented “must have been a very long time ago, the days when we still wore watches” but it also made me think. Its been a very long time since we wore watches too or, rather, I stopped wearing mine first. My husband kept going, insisting he had to “for work”, then he went down to where he wore it just occasionally, on days when he had meetings. At some point he stopped altogether and, for a few years, has worn a black tourmaline bracelet where it used to be. I’m not sure when any of these milestones passed us by; like with Deva, its been a very long and yet…now I look back…utterly life changing time in ways we had no precognition of when we made these apparently inconsequential choices. Like we removed the nail out of the centre of some far more formidable structure that had been imposing itself upon us in countless ways, no longer having time, quite literally, strapped to our wrists seems to have changed everything…
We also used to have an inordinate number of timepieces around our house; well, I used to nurture a fondness for them, something about nostalgia and an aunt who used to do the same. I especially loved them if they chimed; got a somber black slate Victorian thing for Christmas one year, from a flea market. But it knew better than me what I really wanted since it largely refused to chime or even keep real time, even after I spent more than the price of the clock getting it serviced. Again, that was a very long time ago…back when I upheld the ideal of a home with a comfortable “tick” marking the moments. For quite a while after it ceased to work altogether, it just stood there; the strong but silent marker of a former time in time’s absence; a paradoxical thing, like a pillared mausoleum to times past. Picturesque as it was, that clock’s heavy presence went from my mantlepiece, along with all the other clocks, one by one…until my daughter got into the excuse of claiming the reason she was always late for everything was that we had no way of telling the time in our house anymore. It was a facile excuse since she almost never has her phone out of her hand, but I admire her for trying it so persistently. Incidentally, my first husband wore a particular watch as his fondest status symbol, more precious to him than flesh and blood; I never did understand.
Another pool of nostalgia has just opened to me as I plunge this topic; remembrance of the pride I felt, on my 6th birthday, when I was taken to the watchmakers’ shop where my uncle use to repair watches, to choose my little gold Oris, made in Switzerland, with its little red strap and its tiny wind-up button. I couldn’t wait to put it onto my left wrist (ironically, above my so-called “creative” hand…now brought into line with “tick tick tick”) and I wore it every day for years; always the first thing I reached for every morning before I was fully awake or, sometimes, I liked to keep it on and attune to its sound close to my ear as I slept. I was “strapped in” to the system from that day; the day from which timekeeping was drummed into me as just so important, almost the most important thing to which I must adhere, pivotal to all my so-called “successes” and ways of measuring worth. How much did the rhythm of those subtler than subtle gears suggest themselves into my biorhythms from that day forth? How often did I look at “the time” from that moment on; most of the time, not even noticing how much I did it, marked it, lamented its shortfall, wished it would get slower or faster but never content with where it was. I became subconsciously fixated with it, as we all do, at the expense of so much else. One of the most detrimental effects of this is how we are made to feel lacking of it, there is apparently “never enough time”; like the bedrock of a whole mountain of shortfalls we imagine ourselves to be living beneath the burden of for the remainder of our lives.
What did it do, this subtle gesture of unstrapping ourselves from the structures of hourly timekeeping; how did it make things different? Looking back, it is as though a heavy-iron grid of structure was removed from “life” as much as it could ever be removed without day-to-day activities involving other people collapsing altogether. For me, especially…working from home as I do, seldom having appointments to keep…I was able to disengage from that grid and become soft, fluid, impulsive, intuitive, attentive, aware; listening to myself far over and above any outwardly imposed “thing” that would otherwise have me fixated or dancing to its tune. I see how that influenced those around me (no accident my husband then softened and is hardly the same man I see smiling out of our wrist-watch-wearing photos). In fact neither of us is; our transformation has been incalculable, massive beyond descriptive words, no need (in fact) to quantify it except to say I, for one, feel truer to my own essence than I ever have. It’s as though I have shed a hundred weight of external armour, or trappings that once hung around me like leaden baubles on a reluctant Christmas tree wilting in an over warm house, wishing it was still out in the snow.
Now, in my mind’s eye, I see myself in my linen shift (my clothes have also become so much simpler..) with bare feet on the ground in my summer garden and I see, mainly, the very essence of who I am, not what I wear, what it cost, where I have been or have to be, who I know, what tunes I have to dance to in order to be deemed “acceptable”. In fact, I call my own tunes and…like the way I play my “flute” whenever I feel like it…I prefer to make my own tunes up, there is no sheet music. I guess the removal of that watch was like the first move, the pulling of a lynchpin (I said lynch…not grenade; how people fear what will happen if they unstrap themselves from time, how they fear the phrase “out of time” as though it means the show is over instead of only just begun). Things only got better and better, the landscape of life more expansive somehow like a balloon released from a tight corner; the sense of burgeoning yet undefined possibility in every moment the most assertive thing present.