I don’t wear a watch. I have watches, very nice watches, in fact. I don’t even know where they are – probably in a drawer somewhere.
I don’t wear a watch because I have a thing with time. I learned early on in my recovery from alcoholism and depression that “time” was a problem for me. A very big problem.
I didn’t realize my “time” problem until a friend in recovery asked me one day, “What time is it?” I looked at my watch and told him the time. Then he asked again, “what time is it?” And I looked at my watch again and told him the time.
“No,” he said. “What TIME is it?”
I looked at him like he was crazy and said, “I don’t know. You tell me, what time is it?”
“Now,” he said. I had a D’oh Homer Simpson moment and then understood what he was trying to tell me. I was not in the present. “That’s why I don’t wear a watch,” he said.
You might think that wearing a watch would bring you back to the here-and-now. For me, it does the opposite. It reminds that I have to be somewhere at a particular time and that I only have so much time to finish what I’m doing so I can get to where I need to be.
Or, looking at my watch would remind me that it was just a few minutes-, hours- or days-ago that something had happened and I’d wish I could turn back the hands of time.
In other words, knowing exactly what time it is pulls me out of the present. So, I took off my watch. I arrive when I am supposed to arrive and I am rarely late. Life seems to happen more smoothly when I don’t know what time it is.
The company I work for used to give you a watch on your 20th anniversary. They didn’t just hand you a watch and say “thanks” – they let you pick your watch. You got to go to this fancy jewelry store on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach and pick your watch from a smorgasbord of timepieces that cost waaaaay more than I could ever afford to spend on a watch.
It was a very nice gesture but I didn’t wear a watch. Still, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity for a free watch with a price-tag well into the four-digit range. What was I going to do with a fancy watch? Shove it in a drawer? Sell it on E-Bay?
At the time I was in the deepest, worst depression of my life. I was consumed by guilt, regret and hopelessness. It got me thinking about time and who I had harmed most with my total disrespect of time. Could I use this fancy pants watch to make up for lost time?
No. I realized you can’t make up for lost time with stuff. Ever. No diamond, car or fancy watch is as valuable as time. You can never, ever replace time with money. Ever.
The time you spend making money – no matter the amount – is not worth missing a precious moment. I used to look at the clock in the newsroom at 3:20 and imagine my 7-year-old daughter jumping off the school bus and running home to a mom in the kitchen pulling a sheet of chocolate chip cookies from the oven.
I know it’s a syrupy Hallmark kind of image but it made me regret the time I had spent working instead of being a stay-at-home mom. I had missed so much time with my daughter.
Like, going back to work when she was just six-weeks old and missing all those irreplaceable blissful days of early motherhood – like nursing rather than pumping your milk in a bathroom stall at the office. Rushing to put on my make-up and blow-dry my hair to get to work rather than sitting on the front step with her, waiting for the school bus.
I thought hard about that watch. Who – besides me – had missed the most by my total disrespect for time? My daughter.
I decided she should get the watch. She was just 14-years-old at the time, much too young to be wearing a fancy watch. Still, no one deserved it more. I took her to the jewelry store and let her pick out a watch. She picked out a classic Cartier. I told her she could have it on her 16th birthday. That was six years ago and she has worn it every day since then.
Time is no longer my enemy. I know that if I do not use it wisely – right now – it will fuel anxiety, regret and guilt – three essential ingredients for my depression.
So, what time is it?