The watch featured in this post was kindly gifted by Jord Watches, but all words and opinions are my own.
Of course we landed in the middle of a street parade. My hands feel sticky from the flight. The natural result of melted chocolate, sickly sweet smelling hand-wash and poor water pressure. It is hot. My body aches and I am both nervous and excited about what lies ahead. It’s the second of January. We left Zambia and made it to Cape Town for the next chapter of our long and winding road. Our enthusiasm was stopped in its tracks by a queue of cars who had to give way to various brass bands marching through narrow streets.
I look outside the taxi window and try to take it all in. Unfamiliar spots that will become landmarks and memories. I’ve been here before, but now that we’ll get to call it home for the foreseeable future, I am seeing the Mother City in an entirely new light.
We turn into Long Street. What was slow traffic turns into a complete standstill. I scan every inch of the street. Every facade, every letter in every font on the various shop signs. A vintage book shop, restaurants, tiny holes in the wall. I watch people walk by, interact and go about their lives while we are at a standstill. I listen to the distant brouhaha from the parade, punctuated by the odd impatient klaxon.
Then, just like in a movie, the background starts to blur as one face starts to stand out from the crowd. A man’s face. I don’t know him. But I can’t stop watching him listening to his friend. He is sitting at a high table at a street bar. The reason why I am mesmerised by this seemingly ordinary scene, is that I haven’t seen anybody listen to anyone with this level of attention in a very long time.
The man is hanging onto every single word uttered by his friend. His jaw drops, and his eyes are as wide as his big mop of curly hair. He is not breaking eye contact. I can’t hear a word they say, but I can almost watch the story unfold on his face. The world around him simply doesn’t exist. I can’t help feeling drawn to words I can’t even hear but are sketched on his face. What I am looking at, dear reader, is a perfect example of a state of flow.
The taxi painfully makes progress, one inch at a time. We turn into our street.
When last did time stand still for you?
Why am I telling you this story?
I am telling you this story, because my mysterious wide-eyed protagonist, for a brief moment, made time stand still. Time stood still for the friend he was talking to, feeling like he was the only person in the room. Time stood still for him, as he allowed himself to be so fully absorbed in the tale that he started to morph into the story itself. Time stood still for me too, as I captured a fleeting moment of pure, unedited and authentic human connection from a taxi window.
Now let me ask you a question.
When last did time stand still for you?
When last did you make yourself unapologetically unavailable to the rest of the world, to be fully present with one person?
When last were you so immersed in an activity that everything around you started to fade away?
We live in a strange time of complex progress and simple regression. The very tools we use to simplify our lives made us forget how to live simply. We think we are being productive filling every minute of every day with an uninterrupted flow of content and notifications, when in reality, we use our phones as a source of distraction and comfort. We feel uncomfortable when left alone with our own thoughts. We feel a bit awkward just being, observing, waiting.
But here’s the deal. Living life through our phones gets in the way of real life. Major breakthrough and tiny magical moments alike.
A constant flow of bite-sized opinions, idealistic snapshots and more or less accurate facts is a huge source of distraction, which prevents us from focusing on one thing fully. Ah, the lost art of focus! The truth is without focus, there is little to no chance of creating anything of substance. Without focus, we constantly feel rushed, busy and scattered. Without focus, we damage our relationships.
When we are able to focus on the present moment however, we experience a shift. Time starts to feel more expansive. We feel more inspired and fulfilled. We feel calmer and less rushed.
It wasn’t until I started being more intentional with my time that I discovered that time is a very delicate, somewhat whimsical creature that one has to tame. I learnt that even though time is limited, it doesn’t have to feel like a lost race. The key to making time stand still is to change your state of mind, and set very clear boundaries.
There is no such thing as just checking the time on your phone.
I hadn’t worn a watch since getting a cell phone. My previous watch’s battery died and I started checking the time on my phone. How convenient I remember thinking. Little did I know this would be the beginning of jumping from a mere “what time is it?” to inevitable “I’m worthless, everyone is so much better than me, pass the chocolate” moments. I found out there is no such thing as just checking the time on your phone. You somehow always end up checking how you rate on the social media scale too. You know, just in case.
Then I got a watch. A simple watch. It doesn’t keep track of the steps I took or hours I slept. It doesn’t answer calls or reminds me of things. It simply ticks along and tells the time. And you know what? It changed everything:
Time started to stretch.
I found I was able to leave my phone in a drawer for longer and longer periods of time (like any habit, I find small steady steps work better). I was able to focus on one thing at a time while listening to my own thoughts, which allowed me to explore new ideas. I could immerse myself in a book, or play with Louis until dinner time. When I focused on one thing only, time was ticking along quietly. Gently. And all of a sudden, it felt like I had so much more of it.
I realised time is not Linear.
Each fraction of time creates a little snapshot in the mosaic of whatever season you find yourself in. The question is: what do you want your picture to look like? Each little moment contributes to your overall wellbeing. Here’s a shocker: snapshots of mindless scrolling don’t rank particularly high on the scale of self care.
Life became quieter.
I started being a lot more intentional with my use of technology. I got rid of unnecessary noise and distraction by removing all notifications from my phone and checking my emails and social media accounts once or twice a day. Instead of consuming content, I started asking myself: who do I want to be influenced by, and why am I reading this?
I found magic in the mundane.
You want to experience more of the tiny pleasures in life? They don’t happen through a screen. They happen when you are mindful. They happen when you wander on a walk without listening to a podcast or refreshing your emails as you go. They happen when you start noticing the colour of the sky, the singing of the birds, the feeling of the fresh morning air on your cheeks. As I spent less time on my phone, I started to notice the little pleasures in life more: listening to music, a pot of tea quietly brewing, the way a shadow is cast in the morning. Everything started to be more colourful, more subtle, more delicious.
When you make yourself unapologetically unavailable to the rest of the world and give your undivided attention to the humans in your life, you will rediscover their little quirks, the beauty of their freckles, the unique way they laugh. You will start loving them from scratch every day. You will feel more grateful. You will be reminded that in the greater scheme of things, nothing matters more than the human moments.
I’ve been reading a lot of beautiful things lately about nourishing yourself, about feeling grateful, about cultivating a sense of wonder and creation, about leading a wholehearted life. Well it turns out these things need space. Breathing room. These things need you to let time stand still. For a minute or two.
So before you make any radical changes to your lifestyle, try taking a deep breath. Put your phone away and try keeping track of time with something as simple as a watch. Look at what your watch is telling you. Make time count. Make space for humans. For wonder. For gratitude and creation.
I promise, nobody will get hurt.
The watch featured in this post is a Jord Frankie 35 in Sandalwood and Slate. I love its lightness, minimalist design and the touch of the wood against my skin. The fact that it is a sustainable option definitely appeals to me.