Bittersweet is the tale of the alarm clock. I don’t think I’ve written about the time several years ago that we were by default separated. In true Dicken’s fashion, it really was a time of contrasts for best and worst, learning and stumbling. By the way, when I do stumble, it makes onlookers hold their breath for the sheer infamous magnificence of its level of catastrophic stupidity, not unlike watching an accident in slow motion.
When I was living away, I was working twelve hour shifts selling cars for a major corporation. Can you believe this? (I barely can now) Throw in a commute that had me pulling over to micro sleep on my way home after work, and it meant that when in bed, I lived by a working alarm clock, and when awake, by the watch on my wrist. I’m not a person with innate awareness of time. At any point in my life, without a clock or watch, if you ask me what time it is, I’ll typically have no idea. I also don’t have a very good grasp on how much time has passed. Was I thinking for five minutes or fifteen minutes? Lost in thought is a real thing for me.
When I came back after living away, the alarm clock came with me, but since my husband (without asking me at all) had put the older kids in public school, one of my sons soon asked me if he could have it. It was just a basic, plug in little clock. Sure. Inwardly I shrugged, and was glad to actually have some small thing to offer my son.
Aha… can you guess what problems giving away the alarm clock created for me since I was married to a passive aggressive man? He still had his alarm clock on his side of the bed.
The funny thing about his alarm clock was that it seemed to malfunction whenever I needed it to work. This was actually very rarely. I tend to function on a routine body clock, and that works fine for waking up before getting kids off to school. I value my quiet time, so my body seems to usually just wake me up. It’s trickier if for some reason, if I’m abnormally tired, or need to get up at an unusual time that’s not routine.
This is where you say, “Buy another clock!” My girlfriend did say that. Actually she said, “Buy a damn clock!” A few years ago, I’d missed a flight that was gifted to me from her, and almost missed a trip. The whole trip was a gift, and I just needed to show up (and still had clothes that fit). I was so angry that his clock ‘malfunctioned’ that time that he paid the fees for me to take the next flight, and it was like having to buy another ticket for that leg of the flight. Me, who agonizes about money, didn’t care in that moment where that money would be taken from, because three friends were waiting in a city somewhere for me to arrive, and it was a worse nightmare to not go than to bear the fear of spending money we didn’t have to fix that.
Buy a clock. Once upon a time, I would have thought it the simplest thing, but that was before I lived through the PTSD levels of feast and famine with a passive aggressive husband who was self-employed, and didn’t want me to work outside the home. Every single month worrying about utilities, food, and gas. Cringing painfully and trying to act normal when your kid needs money for some normal school thing like pictures, or yearbook, or a field trip. This meant there were times of my literally calculating the cost of each kid having an apple for their lunches, where meal planning meant high anxiety, and well, forget money for anything extra. Anything.
It’s a very humiliating existence. You’re so busy trying to keep it all together and keep it as normal as you can for kids, that your personal needs just get buried somewhere. Your bucket is bone dry empty, and it’s not getting filled. It’s like running out of gas, and when someone wonders why you’re running late, it’s because you’ve been traveling by trying to push the car from behind. Holidays? You dread trying to pull those off. Birthdays? Pit of the stomach sadness and depression, because whatever little thing you manage seems so less than it should be. There were birthdays where you weren’t even sure you could buy the ingredients to bake a cake. Gifts for kids are often I.O.U. a birthday gift. You bake a cake and sing and feel like a failure. It feels that way. You pray that the car doesn’t break down because there is no Plan B for that. Dentist? Why not fly to the moon?
This is what it’s like to live near the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. I read about a young couple once that wanted to experience real poverty in the first person. They moved to some extremely poor village overseas, and decided to see how they could manage any differently (with whatever advantages they had in education and upbringing) than the poor natives. It was a shocker for them. One huge crisis they had to navigate was spilling what they’d managed to create for soap. Basic hygiene and the ability to wash their clothes suddenly became out of reach, and it almost paralyzed them. In true poverty, there was no quick or easy remedy for that basic need. I’m trying to say that sometimes you don’t know what you haven’t experienced. Imagining is just not the same.
This is not explained for pity. We live in a beautiful area in a decent house. We eat very healthy, and have much to be thankful for.
I have no way to explain (unless you actually know) how buying a simple alarm clock was added to the pile of numbness. Eventually, I got one from the thrift store. Well… another son’s clock broke, and he asked if he could please have it. Then I got one for two dollars later at a moving sale. My youngest daughter begged to have that, because it was frustrating to share one with her sister. I gave that to her.
An alarm clock for my life right now is easily also one of those out of sight, out of mind things. Until something like last night pops up. One of our sons is performing in a play about an hour from here. He’s been staying up there, but was able to come home later last evening to spend the night. He needed to leave early this morning to perform in a group that plays bagpipes and clogs for a parade.
And the alarm clock? When I’d asked him to set the alarm so we could give our son a blender breakfast, quick goodbye and hug in the morning, there was a pause so subtle that only years of living with a passive aggressive man would detect it.
Here is the sweet. I prayed instead, and asked to wake up in time. I did wake up one minute before the alarm ‘would’ have gone off. Woke up, made my son breakfast, got to get a hug from him.
Except, of course, his alarm clock must have ‘malfunctioned’ and never went off. You know how understandable that is, all those tricky things to set when you’re tired.
Uh huh. Whatever.