Getting Too Detached From The Clock

There is only one room in my home in which a clock is visible. In fact, you have to actually enter the room to see the time. You can’t see it unless you’ve gone out of your way to peer into the room or pause as you’re walking past it to look at the only clock visible from the hallway. This room is the kitchen and it has three clocks because my oven, my microwave, and my coffeemaker are all fundamentally attached to time in a way that I no longer am. It is a privilege, to be sure, to largely not need to run my life by the steady ticking of the second hand or the silent but swift change of a digital clock, and I appreciate the many factors of my life that make it possible. My largely malleable sleep schedule (I need a few days to change now, sure, but I can get used to any repeated pattern), my lack of a specific schedule at work (my boss only cares that I do my work, not when, so long as I keep it reasonable and don’t miss meetings), and a pretty accurate sense of the passage of time (I can usually tell how much time has passed within a few minutes over one or two hours and within ten to fifteen if it has been more than two hours). As a result, I’ve gone from marking the passage of my day via the steady counting of hours and instead mark it by events.

The three written and deleted initial attempts at this post make it clear to me that this isn’t about the events that fill my day (they’re largely mundane and I don’t really have anything interesting to say about them), nor are they even particularly interesting. I live a fairly routine life, as far as my day-to-day life goes (Spain trip nonwithstanding), but it just isn’t attached to the clock like most peoples’ lives are. I don’t think my way of doing things is necessarily better, just that it’s better for me and avoiding the constant negative self-talk that comes with being late to things. I can’t be late if I’m not attached to the specific and exact time of the clock and the internet, after all. Instead, I can spend my time focusing on doing what I feel I need and giving things as much of my day as they require to be done to my satisfcation. The downside to all this, of course, is that it makes it difficult to go to any store that isn’t open twenty-four hours a day. When that happens, I’m required to adjust myself back into the confines of the clock until I’ve run my errands (which has come up a lot, lately, as I prepared for my trip).

I was hoping that living this way would help remove some of the jostling and frustration I usually feel when the clocks change. I always feel like my normal rhythms are wrong when the time my alarm goes off and that traffic gets heavy is suddenly out of sync with my internal clock. This is one of the few times I dislike having such a strong internal sense of time, since it makes adjusting to the Daylight Saving Time coming or going a multi-week process. Sure, my sleep schedule can usually make the adjustment easily enough, but my sense of when I’m done working for the day or when I need to hurry through my morning routine is off-base. Even if the only result of detaching myself from specific, numerical time was that I was less hard on myself for showing up to work closer to lunch time than I’d like because, really, it is an hour earlier than all the clocks that crowd my workspace say, I’d have been satisified.

Instead, it has become more clear than ever that the amount of light isn’t the reason I’m struggling this winter. It has nothing to do with leaving work after the sun has set. Being awake to see dawn has done nothing for me, despite how much I used to love it. What has become clear is that I’m really struggling with my depression and all the stress of the past six months and that the changing of the clock has done nothing to help or harm me. Time was never the problem. Turns out the problem has always been my mentalh health.

In retrospect, it seems obvious. I live pretty quietly, stick to my work and hobbies, instant message people throughout the day, and eventually go to sleep. That’s not particularly good for my mental health, three years into a pandemic, but it is what makes detaching myself from the clock possible at all. If I was meeting up with people more often, I’d have more reasons to stick to a schedule. If I had more events in my evening, I’d try harder to get to work early. Only because I know that it really doesn’t matter what time I leave work, do I find it more and more difficult to push myself to leave bed in the morning. Even attempting to bribe myself with a “you get a reward for going to work by certain times, decreasing the later in the morning you get there” system only had results until the non-work aspects of my life tossed my mental health into the trash. Now, I’m too deep in and too burned-out to do much about it.

Hopefully things will calm down, soon. I am almost to the point where I can put my time and energy into finding a new place to live. I’ll finally have all my major non-moving expenses behind me for the year and I’ll be able to figure out what I’m doing with my money beyond scrambling to make this international trip work. I’ll be able to carefully and slowly start thinking about the future because most of my big events and hurdles will have passed. I don’t know that things will be better, but I’ll definitely feel less stressed about all of it since the big unknown event of my year will be over. Which isn’t to say I want the trip to be over so I can relax, just that I’m aware that it’s a giant, scary, new thing in my life and it’s difficult to properly relax when it’s looming on my horizon.

Soon, this will all be over and I’ll be looking back on my trip, taking comfort in that fact that I went and did a new thing that I’ve never done before and now I can finally focus on finding a new place to live. No matter how it turns out, I’ll at least have that.

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