Tick….tock….tick….tock…. the sound drills down into my brain and quickens my breathing.
Tick….tock….tick….tock…. I try to block out the noise and focus but the harsh, unforgiving, mental metronome is winning.
I screw my eyes shut, ball my fists, and let rip a low, guttural growl which makes my hair vibrate. Bearded Moon circles like a hunter stalking its quarry, ready to draw me in to a gravity defying embrace; catching me as I uncurl from the tense contortion into which both mind and body are now interlocked.
You see, with my anxiety disorder, time is not just a concept or even a physical thing, it is a despotic master. Omnipresent thanks to a heady mix of ubiquitous technology and woeful sleep, I always know what the time is and I always obey. I want to know. I need to know. What the time is. All. The. Time.
And for some things that’s great; nobody wants an egg that has been on the hob for an hour – that baby will bounce! Likewise, making sure our son goes to bed at an hour that won’t make us look like we are taking parenting tips from Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood is definitely preferable to him descending into something that not even Golding’s boys in Lord of the Flies would have condoned.
Moreover, Alexa has now brought time consciousness and scheduling into a whole new level of ready-meal level convenience to my life. No longer do I have to hunt out a digital or analogue timepiece to ensure that I am ending a task or beginning a new one on the precise arrival of a fresh, new minute; her reminders and alarms, synchronising and weaving together in a seductive dance of beeps, bells, and sirens. And no longer do I need to make lists of tasks on scraps of paper which are so heavily edited on an quarter-hourly basis that Spiderman would be forgiven for thinking I have just designed him the mother of all web upgrades. The measurement of intervals between my activities is now governed by Bezos’s matriarch.
Although, who am I really kidding? Even with her digital assist, even now with just one turn of my head, I can (and always ensure that I do) still see at least three phones, two laptops, a tablet, a Fitbit, and a wall clock all blinking their co-ordinated, illuminated displays. But my fail safes are not entirely illogical; what if she goes offline? What if she refuses to answer or alert me because she has had a better offer in the virtual world? Anxiety may be a cruel overlord but, with Plan B through Z locked in, at least I’ll know precisely when Alexa deserted me to the eternal wasteland of relativity.
Trust issues aside, now, I can simply ask Alexa and (when she chooses to listen to my Orvil worthy pitch) her dulcet tool enabled tones calmly remind me of the hour, minute, and second just passed; activating my internal panic station sequence that initiates knowing just how much there is left to do in so little time. Mocked mercilessly and silently by my own virtual PA.
On a professional level, I also swim in a sea of deadlines everywhere. In some cases, the dates have passed before they have even been set; “I need it done yesterday” is my corporate normal. I wake up at 5am to get ahead of the onslaught but that just means an extra four and a half hours where more cases can be assigned and more timetables moved up depending on clients’ whims and desires. Not waving but drowning, as Stevie Smith would say.
Perhaps ironic, or maybe just as well then, that my anxiety disorder and personality type pre-dispose me to a career choice which feeds off and fuels the fire inside like a sealed central heating system; pressure rising and absorbing, never venting, never escaping. Warms my eyeballs if not my heart.
Since Lockdown began in 2020, with restrictions endlessly changing, my focus on time has never been more laser pointed. Briefings happening, headlines publishing, vaccine approval dates coming and going; R ratings rising and falling; the need-to-know-now is never off.
As somebody who just about holds it together using a combination of sticky-tape routines and super-glue strength organisation, the disruptions to timings has been