I am one of those annoying people (despite my best attempts not to be) who are meticulously on time to the second, or early, no matter how busy the traffic. I often have to keep driving to whittle away the time before I turn around so that I will at least not be too early and throw the host/hostess into a tither. I seem to have a built-in atomic clock so it takes a serious effort to make myself late for anything.
Having said that, I stopped wearing a wrist watch a couple of years ago as it felt redundant except for decorative purposes as I could, like everyone else, check the time on my cell phone if necessary. A couple of months ago, I decided that I did need to wear one again and because the ones I had were in storage somewhere, so I bought a nice new one. For no particular reason I really liked the simplicity of its design, the colour (silver) and the way it looked on my skinny wrist.
Then I lost it. One minute I was wearing it, the next my wrist was bare. I searched the car inside and out, the house and an area where I put the garbage in case it had dropped off there. No luck. I was, in my mind, unreasonably upset (it wasn’t a family heirloom nor had it been particularly expensive) and couldn’t stop dwelling on it and featuring it in my WhatsApp conversation with a friend or two, for a couple of weeks. Two days ago it was found in the car and I was unaccountably delighted and am still checking it now that it is back on my wrist.
The big question for me became the “why”. Why was I so upset when I lost it and so thrilled and relieved when I found it? Out of proportion I thought. I have always enjoyed my material possessions whether jewellery, décor items, furniture, books, artwork et cetera. but at the same time have always been ready to let them go if and when necessary as at the end of the day, to me, it has always been just stuff and not the real stuff which gives any life a meaning: the appreciation and pursuit of learning about other people, other societies; giving and getting love, caring, friendship, enjoying nature and many of man’s artistic creations.
The answer wasn’t so hard to find really; no psychologist necessary. The last 18 months has been plentifully sprinkled with losses of various depth. It seems an avalanche started when I lost everything – my job, my home and just about everything in it – a big disruption in lifestyle, followed by a relocation to another country with no opportunity to settle at least semi permanently in one location; an inability to find work for many months; negative reaction and rejection from a family member, and ultimately the most dreadful loss of all: the death of my much-loved, beautiful, young daughter-in-law. Although I was coping well and hanging on, even if only by the fingertips, I didn’t fully allow for the considerable impact of accumulated griefs or the underlying and growing sense of a lack of control over my own destiny.
The loss, the grieving, the lack of being in control of one’s life compounds itself and eventually and stealthily invades every particle in your body. It becomes you and you become it until you realise what has happened to alter your way of being in the world. On the surface you are coping because you have to, but the grief is firmly lodged within. I realise that subconsciously this little watch had become symbolic of my regaining something familiar and tangible in my life, but the loss of it had little to do with the watch itself. It had encompassed all the greater losses, including the frustrating and frightening sense of no longer being in control of my life. I am reminded of a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson which helps me and perhaps some of you: “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.”