Time and Us

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Daylight saving time has come and gone again for another year. Is there any event that is more useless than this? As a child, growing up in Arkansas, there was no daylight saving process and life was fine. Maybe the idea made sense for Ben Franklin’s time, but useless today, a carryover that will not go away.

But maybe the real problem isn’t daylight saving at all; maybe it’s the proliferation of clocks that is our demise, causing our annoyance with the twice-yearly ritual. As a child, my family home had one clock, a Baby Ben that sat on a table in my parents’ bedroom. That was it. We didn’t really need a clock: we awoke when the sun came up; listened to Don McNeil’s Breakfast club (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_McNeill%27s_Breakfast_Club) during breakfast (which let me know when it was time to leave for school and Dad to leave for work); had dinner after Dad returned home from work; and went to bed when Mom said to. Who needs a clock in that world? I certainly did not.

Today is so different. Knowing the time, right to the atomic clock second, seems mandatory in our daily lives and that is evident from our fascination with clocks and more clocks. The one advantage that daylight saving time brings me is a renewed awareness of the many clocks in my world as I go through the twice-yearly dance of changing clocks ahead or back.

First, there are the three clocks in the kitchen (don’t ask); followed by relearning how to set date and time on the answering machine (every six months I swear to write the steps down, but never do). Moving to the dining room, there is a lovely pendulum clock that usually gets out of whack by being moved so that the time can be set and returned to the breakfront where it stays.

The living room goes easily, with just one tabletop clock, usually finding the battery dead as we never look at that clock. (Oops! There is also a clock on the wall in the foyer, but it’s so high up that I let it go unchanged some years, making it useless for telling time.) The master bedroom has its three clocks, with one on the wall and one on each side of the bed, presumably to let each of us have our own version of the time?. Needing to replace at least one battery is the norm here. The two idle bedrooms are easy: one clock in each, usually changing one of the batteries in the process. I forgot: there is a clock in each of our two bathrooms (don’t ask). All of that adds up to thirteen clocks, thirteen clocks that need personal attention every six months. Do my wife and I need thirteen clocks? Why are you asking this question?

Whew! Almost done. One of our cars’ clocks resets automatically (a prayer of thanks to the joy of technology), but the other one requires rediscovering an icon to click to do the reset. And then there are my five watches (you’re dying to ask why I need five watches, but don’t, as it’s a long story). Yes, there is always at least one battery to replace and one of the watches has both analog and digital settings, so it amounts to setting six clocks. This usually goes smoothly, yet my Mickey Mouse watch shows time, date, and the day of week; when that goes awry, my day becomes instantly destroyed while I reset all of that.

Did I mention my two phones? Yes, one is a flip phone and the other a smartphone and I use them both. Fortunately, both of them set time automatically. So, whenever I’m away from home, I always have at least two ways to determine the time: watch and phone, and sometimes the car. Do I need two or more ways? That’s the question we always avoid, isn’t it? Another unwanted/unasked question is whether we need to know what time it is to the atomic second. I can’t imagine such. It’s now expected.

But what of our use of our time and whether we even value our time? That’s another topic, isn’t it? Or is it the *only* topic? I vote YES. We use time as though it were an infinite resource, yet it’s the most limiting of all.  What of the many things we do that prove useless, destructive, or harmful? And, more important, what of all the time we just throw away, whether puttering on our PCs, watching a mindless TV show, or other activities that bring no result, tasks done to “pass the time?” And then, in our senior years, we lament the many things we did not do because we “didn’t have time” to do them? The topic is too overwhelming for us to even consider addressing it.

In our lives, all events fall into one of three categories: useless, urgent, and vital. Some events meet two of the three categories, but none meet all three. The vital events are the important ones, such as finishing one’s formal education, establishing a workable plan for retirement, or maintaining one’s health. These are the ones that too often are not done at all or not done well, despite being vital in our lives. Urgent events may also be vital, such as rescuing a person who fell out of a boat, but more often we find urgent issues have little value but are where we place our routine priorities. You know, the ones we have on our ‘to do’ lists that don’t get done. And then there are the useless tasks; we do these when we don’t want to face the important issues in our day. That important report you need to write? But first you want to reorganize your desk and answer a few emails, right? That room you need to clean and dust, but first you want to view a TV show, right? And the time slips and slips away until that important (urgent) task is now rescheduled for tomorrow. And tomorrow we start all over again, don’t we?

We have this one life, this one expanse of time on Earth to enjoy, to help, to share, to love, to contribute. There is no redo; there is no way to fix yesterday; tomorrow is only a dream; there is only today. Living this one day is all we have. In all of this, I struggle daily, creating a mental list of things I want to do, yet finding at the end of the day how much I have failed. This will never cease, so my hope is to find acceptance, the ability to make more of my life but not punish myself for the failures that are inevitable. The clock of life continues to click away the minutes of my existence and, as each escapes from my grasp, I must be content with those that are left, hoping I will spend them more wisely.

Remember that answering machine’s clock I mentioned earlier? Well, I lied. I haven’t reset it yet, as I am still trying to figure out how to do that. But give me more time and I’m sure to fix it. Yes, I’m sure I’ll find the time.