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Watches and Alarms

"To change a habit, make a conscious decision, then act out the new behavior." Maxwell Maltz

I was watching this show on Disney+ called Life Below Zero. I find it absolutely fascinating and connects with me on a primal level. Maybe you’ve heard of the show? Or something similar? It is a reality television show that follows a handful of people who live near the Arctic Circle in Alaska. We’re talking sustenance hunting, a strong connection to nature around you. A simpler time. One of the guys on the show was sharing that when he first moved up to Alaska, one day his watch broke. And he remembers thinking to himself, damn… my watch broke. Two or three weeks later, he thought to himself, I am so glad that watch broke. It solicited in me a memory of the alarm clock.

I am a millennial and I’m not entirely sure what image you will conjure up inside of you because your life experience is as unique as you are but I didn’t grow up with cell phones or pagers. I did however have an alarm clock. The type that plugged into the wall and also was a radio. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a slave to this device. I was on the drill team in high school and we practiced at 6:15 AM nearly every day of the school year. I got myself up and out of the house. My mom was likely already at work. She owned a coffee shop that I worked part-time at too. In high school is when I got my first cell phone and I don’t remember it serving much more of a function than calling. Of course, there was texting but rarely did I have reception, and half of the time the battery was dead. No apps. No camera. No selfies. The older I got, technology evolved. Instead of the alarm being plugged into the wall, I now slept with it next to me on a nightstand or sometimes in bed with me in the form of a cellular telephone. I have vivid memories of setting 3 or more alarms daily for work on my phone. All related to different aspirations I had. Of course, they all revolved around my image. More specifically, work. The story would go something like this. If I get to work 2 hours early, I can do XYZ. If I get to work one hour early I can get X done. The alarms would go off for the next two and a half hours. Yes, you read that correctly. For years, my days started well over two hours before I was consciously awake. With terrible sleep due to going to be late because my body and mind were full of anxiety. And then the alarms I had set to wake up and was subsequently snoozing through. Again, all are related to an image. It was the opposite of acceptance but I couldn't see it and the environment I had created only affirmed these self-limiting beliefs. I wasn't good enough the way I was. I was also working for an insecure company culture that needed to know your every move. Because of that, you had to document everything you did. Every phone call was supposed to be documented. And I carried out that expectation with others too. When everything you do is questioned, you start to question your ability to make decisions for yourself. I would inevitably, snooze my alarm until I would have only 15 minutes to get ready. Normally, hungover but that’s okay I thought, I’ll take my Adderall and in an hour, I’ll be at the office and can get a cup of coffee too. I’ll be rolling full steam ahead within 90 minutes. How I chose to start my day, five days a week, for years, was two and a half hours before my feet even hit the ground with my alarm. I know that I am not the only person who does this. Many coworkers and friends did the same behavior, their intentions varried but the root was always the same, I am not enough as I am.

When I resigned from that job in 2020, I stopped setting an alarm immediately. I challenged a manager on a Tuesday, was suspended the following day Wednesday, and resigned that Thursday. The bizarrely beautiful thing that happened next I could have never predicted. I got my circadian rhythm back. A circadian rhythm is a natural, sleep-wake cycle normally taking place within 24 hours. I would naturally wake up when the sun would rise, 4 or 4:30 in the morning, and was in bed asleep by 9 or 9:30 with the rising of the moon. I stopped sleeping with my phone in my bedroom. I left it in the kitchen on an entirely different floor. My cell phone stopped serving the purpose it did before in so many ways.

Today, I still don't set an alarm and I sleep with ease. I rewrote that agreement and behavior with myself the moment I decided to make a different choice. Sometimes those things happen by chance and other times, it takes a concerted effort to effect change. And as I write this I wonder if there is a habit you have that you don't need. One that serves your ego which operates out of fear but not your heart? Maybe your alarm clock is social media and your value is dependent on the number of likes or views an 8-second video of your dancing does or doesn't get. Or it's the bar you pass on the way home from work you find yourself stopping into more and more often under the disguise of the day being hard. Maybe it's a prescribed medication that you know deep down, on a soul level, you don't need as I found with Adderall. What I do know is how it feels to free yourself of the cages you have yourself in. You may not have put yourself in it but once you reach adulthood, it is your job to find the keys. Happy hunting and healing my brothers and sisters.

"To change a habit, make a conscious decision, then act out the new behavior." Maxwell Maltz


Tiffany Hill Cook

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