Saturday, May 5, 2012

Great Expectations

The year was 1985.  I was a couple of years out of high school, I didn't have much money, and I needed a new watch.  Fortunately for me, I also happened to be in Switzerland at the time.

So in the checkout line at a grocery store, I picked up an inoffensive-looking plastic watch from one of those displays that preys on impulse-buyers like myself and handed over the amount shown on the price tag.  It was twenty Swiss francs, the equivalent of about ten US dollars at the time.

It became virtually the only watch I owned and wore for the next fifteen years.  The other day, now 2012, I put a new battery in it and fitted a new black leather strap so I could start wearing it again.  For old time's sake I suppose.

I didn't have great expectations of it at the start, but I gradually came to appreciate the extraordinary quality and durability of this uncommon timepiece. It's 27 years old and works perfectly. Today I simply can't believe they were able to sell me this watch for next to nothing.  Sure, it looks like just another a mass-market plastic throw-away watch, but how many watches do you own that say this on the back?

It says "PAT PEND MONDAINE WATCH LTD ZÜRICH."  Mondaine normally makes the sort of high-end timepieces worn only by those individuals who are extremely committed to being on time for stuff.

Of the many watches I am lucky enough to own, this one if not the most attractive is the most special.  It has seen me through most of the defining events in my life.  It got me to most of my classes on time when I did four years of Physics at Arizona State University.  I say "most" because once I was 20 minutes late for class after a physics lab involving alpha particles and magnetic fields.  My watch seemed to be working normally, but was 20 minutes behind when it usually gains or loses no more than 0.5 second per day.  So what happened?

Did I accidentally discover a time portal into the very near future involving alpha particles and magnets?  The actual explanation is much more boring.  Checking my lab notes, I found that the magnetic field I was working with had been switched on for a total of exactly 20 minutes.  I hypothesized that the strong field had caused this watch to temporarily cease keeping time, and a subsequent experiment confirmed this to be the case.

After graduation, this watch accompanied me to various jobs, and eventually back to university for a Master's Degree.  I was also wearing this watch from 3 AM to 3 PM on the Sunday that my son arrived, the most traumatizing twelve hours of my life. Because this timepiece has far exceeded my expectations, it makes me very happy.  And there's the trap.

Are you waiting for something external to make you happy?  Real happiness either comes from within or not at all.  It is expectation that creates my unresolveable tension between the present situation that I can't change and what I ASSUMED being a father was going to mean.  That tension, which is a form of stress, saps a person of energy, strength, health and new ideas. And it is entirely a product of thought, not of anything real.

Is it possible to change the way I have been conditioned to think, and thus make the unendurable tension vanish? Is it possible to let go of judgement and expectation, and simply allow things to be as they are?  The pain in my heart is "bad" because I assume it isn't supposed to be there.  Couldn't I just accept it, instead of slowly killing myself through resistance to it?

It's only the little voice inside that holds me back.  It tries to tell me how others will judge me if I appear unstressed, unconcerned at a truly disgraceful situation.  Few people would justify a mother intentionally taking a child 6000 miles away from a loving, caring father.  Most people would be absolutely outraged to know that the child was influenced and encouraged to have no contact with his father.  By that standard, I should be in a continual state of outrage 24/7.

And I easily could be.  I would also be dead within 6 months from the stress.

Think of me then what you will, but I am changing my expectations of what fatherhood means.  I'm just here, he's just there, and whatever happens, happens.  I've done everything I can do. I have grieved the loss of my fathering life.  It is time for me to move on.

It's good to know exactly what time it is, isn't it.


  1. Time to move on is exactly what time it is. And you don't need a Swiss watch to tell you that.

    1. True . . . but it is still better to have a Swiss watch than not to have one, if you can help it at all.

  2. I have got one of these, bought in 1984, so had it 30 years now and still working normally! I still have the packaging with the girl in the bikini.