In early youth, before I aligned my mind to the movement of the clock, days had a different measure. Time was told by the fiery ball of the sun, appearing in the morning to dazzle the front of our house. Rising up, it crossed over the roof, ending in a slow divebomb of colors in the sky as it disappeared behind the backyard pines. The glowing sphere of the moon soon followed, more fickle than the sun in its regularity of appearance, governing a sky of stars that was my night. But that all changed in grade school when I was taught the math of time. I was an eager student hungry to master the clock. Ready to decipher the mystery of that ticking ring of numbers whose hands pointing their way around its somber clockface. With this new knowledge, my moments translated into numbers, each made accountable to hours, minutes, seconds. Life became a linear progression, like the chanted countdown for sending rockets into space.
“How are you feeling about retiring?” friends and colleagues ask me. I answer, “Ready.” That doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. In truth, I expect to do much un-figuring. Curious to see what my days will be like when the clock no longer dogs my steps. I am eager and ready to remove the watch from my wrist and let it rest on the bureau, transformed from a necessity into luxury.
Not that I will abandon the clock. I remain grateful for all the mornings it signaled me to get out of bed to go make some money. Thankful for the way it kept my world coherent and on track. Grateful for its support. For me, being on time felt more like being late. I set my watch ahead to ensure I was always early to the plane, the train, and the party (yes, I am thatguy).
But now, the clock and I are both ready for a change. Willing to let the day unfold in a different way. Ready to let breakfast, lunch, and dinner be decided by the want of my stomach and not by a preassigned number. Ready to sit and read a book until the book is ready to be put down. As a child, I was fully engaging in whatever entertainment the moment provided, unhampered by the crawl of shadow on a sundial, free of a numerical schedule. Now the clock and I will rediscover this new way, invite back the sun and moon to their generous unveiling of night and day. We will entrust time to the rhythm of a heartbeat. Flow in time to the curl of waves comingled with the wind. I followed the clock for all of these years; now, the clock can follow me as we unwind and make room for all these new days to explore, play, and wonder.
Dr. Lou Storey is an artist and recently retired psychotherapist living on the coast of New Jersey. His writings have appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times’ Tiny Love Stories, Beyond Words Anthology, and various mental health journals.