time is not even a thing

9.22.19 ~ timeworn hardware at Mystic Seaport

And this means that time is a mystery, and not even a thing, and no one has ever solved the puzzle of what time is, exactly. And so, if you get lost in time it is like being lost in a desert, except that you can’t see the desert because it is not a thing.

And this is why I like timetables, because they make sure you don’t get lost in time.

~ Mark Haddon
(The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

For me, this might be why I like (need?) clocks. Getting lost in time for me is more like being lost at sea. (I’ve sailed across the ocean but I’ve never seen a desert.)

I hadn’t thought much about it before I read this book, but I have a clock in every room of my house. Clocks were one of the few moorings I had at school when I was growing up. The bell always rang at the right time. A difficult class could only last until the appointed time. Thinking about all this also brought up a fond memory.

Many years ago, long before I knew anything about autism, and long before there were cell phones, we were visiting Tim’s aunt and subconsciously I was looking, one room after another, for a clock, feeling very anxious. At some point it sunk in that I wasn’t going to find one and before I could check my tongue I blurted out, “you don’t have any clocks!”

Tim’s aunt said she guessed that was true, and a few minutes later she kindly brought me a watch to keep with me for the day. That’s one thing I love about her, she accepts my quirks and does what she can to make me feel welcome and comfortable anyway. ♡

It was almost three years ago when I found out that I was on the autism spectrum and thought that I would blog about it a lot more than I have. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been observing my interactions with the neurotypical world and sorting through memories with new understanding. It’s been a journey of discovery, fascinating but difficult to articulate, probably because of my brain thinking mostly in pictures.

I prefer analog clocks to digital ones. When I see the numbers on a digital clock my brain translates them to the clock pictured in my mind. And it takes a bit of time.

I enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a mystery novel written from the viewpoint of a teenage boy with autism. The author doesn’t have autism so it’s amazing that he can describe the train of thoughts running through the brain of an autistic person. I read the book in one day! It was so easy to picture everything he was talking about.

I dislike feeling unmoored and lost in time, simply because there is no clock around to anchor me. But then I remember, our brains are as mysterious as time, and oftentimes anxiety happens.

Being awake. Resting in the happening of this moment, exactly as it is. Relaxing the need to understand or to make things different than they are. Opening the heart. Just this — right here, right now.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Resting in the Happening of this Moment)

10 thoughts on “time is not even a thing”

  1. How beautifully written and expressed, Barbara. I never thought of clocks the way you describe them here, but upon reflection, I love clocks. Not because I love time (I dislike time and agree with the first quote that time is not really a “thing”). I love real clocks (digital clocks have no personality) that sound off. For instance, our mini grandfather clock that my guy found during an old estate sale long before he met me: it has ding donged our time together for 35 years, every 15 minutes, and somehow the sound is comforting. Our cuckoo clock we bought in Switzerland 15 years ago- it delights the grandkids and I know they’ll fight over it in the future, when we’re long gone, about who will get to keep it. And our ‘bird’ clock that sings a different bird song every hour – how I love listening to the tweets, trying to guess which bird it is. Again, I don’t care about the TIME, just the song.
    But I love how you explain how clocks anchor you. Perhaps in that way, each moment is anchored in love.

    1. Thank you, Pam! I loved hearing about your grandfather clock, the cuckoo clock and the ‘bird’ clock. You’ve reminded me of the little grandfather clock my grandparents had hanging above their refrigerator and how it chimed every fifteen minutes, around the clock. If I woke up in the middle of the night I could tell what time it was without opening my eyes. Very comforting. When we stayed the weekend my grandfather would be up first in the morning, starting his big old pot of oatmeal on the gas stove. The smell would bring me downstairs for some special one-on-one time. Sunday morning he would climb up a step stool and wind the clock by hand with a key. I loved watching him while I was eating my porridge.

      I’ve always wanted one of those ‘bird’ clocks but I think the tweets would drive my husband nuts. 🙂 Yes, indeed, each moment is anchored in love. It would seem that clocks are the sextants we need as we navigate the great boundless sea of time. Thanks so much for your warm and thoughtful comment. ♡

      1. See what special memories grandparents hold in our hearts? And may we do the same.
        I’m laughing at your comment about the bird clock. For my brother’s birthday about 15 years ago, I bought him one of those bird song clocks (he doesn’t particularly like birds and was complaining because a bird kept knocking on his window – we think because of the window reflection). My brother hated/hates the clock, but he dutifully hung it up in his home office 15 years ago, and every time I visit him (he lives 9 hours away) I notice the clock keeps on singing every hour on the hour. So maybe he loves his sister, anyway. 🙂

        1. I adored my grandparents ~ so many memories and still so close in my heart. I even have a fond memory of my great-grandmother. That same bond is growing each time I see my grandchildren. Memories in the making. ♡

          How wonderful and loving of your brother to hang up a the bird clock even if he wasn’t fond of it. (Maybe he only hangs it up when he knows you’re coming? 😉 I’ve been guilty of doing that sometimes.)

    1. What a fascinating definition of time! I will have to mull that one over, especially because I have my doubts that space is even a thing.

  2. I found this post very endearing, Barbara, thank you. I find the discussion about clocks most interesting, and truly loved the story about visiting Tim’s aunt. Your observation, and her accepting and warm response. Time, mystery, life, each other — it all seems to be about accepting. My warmest thanks for this beautiful story.

    1. Thank you for your sweet, kind comment, Jet. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. It’s amazing what a difference a small act of kindness makes in another’s life, how it can stay in one’s memory so vividly after so many years. I agree, it is about accepting, not trying ‘to make things different than they are.’

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