Musings on My Friend the Ticking Clock

I love clocks. I think they can be beautiful decorations in a home. Growing up, we had a massive clock over the mantle in the living room. It didn’t even work, but I always loved the piece. But clocks obviously do something besides hang on the wall: they keep time. And some of them tick to do so. I have a clock on my desk that ticks, and as I’ve been working from home, I’ve realized that, at least in my view, ticking clocks tend to get a bad rap.

I will say, I don’t want a clock that ticks loudly in my bedroom. When I lie down at night, I usually fall asleep within a few minutes—but if I don’t, it takes me 30 or more. I think that a ticking clock would probably tip those scales more towards the 30 minute end of the spectrum, and that’s not something I want. However, when I’m working from home in a quiet apartment by myself, I’ve found a ticking clock to be the perfect friend.

When I’m writing, I need silence. I’ve never been someone who could listen to music while working. In college, I would walk past all the students in the library’s large, main reading rooms wearing headphones until I found a corner where I didn’t need to manufacture quiet. When I was working in an office and there were sounds I needed to tune out, I would occasionally put on classical music, but only because it served as a sort of white noise blocking out the noises that were distracting me. Now that I work from home most of the time, I adore the silence. It is exactly what I need to focus and get my creative juices flowing. But as anyone who spends time in quiet spaces, whether a librarian, someone who works from home, someone who meditates regularly, or anyone else, constant, pure silence can sometimes be claustrophobic.

That’s where my ticking clock comes in. It isn’t large, and you can’t hear the ticking from anywhere else in the apartment besides when you’re seated at the desk. It isn’t a loud ticking, and for me, it creates the perfect subtle, ambient noise I need to punctuate the silence without impeding my ability to focus on my work. (They recently turned on the fountain in my courtyard, so when I open one of the sliders the bubbling water also does the same thing—though that occasionally comes with the noises of cars, sirens and workmen, which isn’t always helpful.)

Here, I’ll play devil’s advocate against myself: Hey Lyss, having the ticking of the clock as the only sound punctuating the silence of your apartment doesn’t force you to obsess over the passing seconds and contemplate your life and your mortality? In short, no. Though I understand that this is what a ticking clock might do for some people, if you’re someone who has never enjoyed being alone.

In college, I had roommates my freshman year, and then opted for a single room for the following three. At the time, I adored being alone. When I fell in love (aww) and moved in with Jeff, I discovered the thrill and joy that comes with living with another human, the comfort you get from sitting silently watching TV, but doing it while sitting next to someone else. I began to dread being alone, and that dread was compounded when Jeff was away on an internship for a summer. But since we moved and I’ve had time alone (often filled with work, but still alone) during the day and then together time at night, I’ve come to appreciate being alone once more. But of course, no one likes to be truly alone, and for me, my small ticking clock is the perfect companion.

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