The last time I can remember taking off my watch for an extended period of time was in December 2004. While attending an Introduction to Anusara Yoga weekend retreat at Kripalu, I decided to mark my visit—the third—by doing something different. I glanced at my watch, which I put on every morning and take off every night like a ritual, and realized that removing it for the 48 hours seemed symbolic. By not knowing the time, I could tune out the outer world and turn inward. I could be present.
Almost eight years have passed, and I am once again watch-less. This time, however, it is not by choice.
On August 18, upon arriving at le Polyclinique de St. Jean de Luz, a modest, two-story “hospital” in the southwest corner of France, I removed my watch to prepare for surgery, handing it, along with my wedding ring and earrings, to Philippe for safekeeping.
I had no idea, then, that my road to recovery would be so challenging, requiring a second surgery to correct the first and seven and a half weeks of almost complete immobility of my right hand. There was no way my semi-free fingers could maneuver the clasp of my watch on my left wrist, making it impossible to wear.
At home in Raanana, I placed my watch on my nightstand. That way, at least, I could glance at it when I woke up and before I went to bed. It stayed there for days, which slowly turned into weeks, neglected but ticking. Whenever I was out and about and in search of the time, I would check my cellphone. When teaching, I would surreptitiously peek at students’ watches.
But as time passed, I noticed that my need to know the time was fading. Aside from a few morning yoga classes, I oftentimes didn’t have an agenda. Occasionally, some friends made plans to visit, while others took me out to run errands, but overall, I spent a great deal of my time at home, alone, resting, reading, writing and watching movies. My recuperation meant letting go of having to be somewhere and do something at a certain time in a certain place. For me, the only thing pressing in the past two months was healing.
As family time keeper—the only one of five who wears a watch—the kids are used to being able to ask me the time. “I have no idea” or “You tell me,” I found myself saying. Sometimes, I would hold out my forearms and say, “A freckle past a hair as Grandma would say.” Not only did I lose track of time but also of the day of the week and date. August turned into September into October. The month-long Jewish holidays came and went, and I marked them only in relation to October 9, when I would be removing the pins and cast.
Almost two weeks have now passed since my cast and pins were removed, and my wrist and arm and fingers are feeling a little bit stronger every day. I can hold a pen and write semi-legibly. I can cut a soft tomato. I can hold and drink a cup of water with my right hand.
As my strength and mobility increase, my days and plans are filling up too. Aside from teaching yoga in the morning, I go to physical therapy and occupational therapy several afternoons a week. Today, I began teaching a seven-week Creative Nonfiction course at my dining room table.
Not knowing the time and not having a schedule for the past two plus months wasn’t all that bad. Freed from the daily grind, I had no choice but to slow down and rest and enjoy the small stuff. With time on my hands, I was uber aware of what I could and could not do because of my hand, where I was in relation to people (walking on their left), how my body felt from head to toe.
My fine motor skills are good enough to fasten my watch. Maybe, soon, I’ll pluck it off my nightstand and put it back on.