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How Bad Thoughts Are Like a Ticking Clock

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I have this thing about noises. They can drive me noix (pardon my French). Loud talkers on the bus. Restaurants that feel the need to crank the tunes, so everyone has to yell. That high-pitched laughter coming from the party next door. (Annoying because of the sound, but also because I’m a part-time grouch and I’m easily angered by laughing people — even though I love to laugh myself. So, yes, I’m a part-time grouch and a full-time hypocrite.) 

But for some reason, the very worst is the sound of a ticking clock.  I’ll be sitting on the couch late at night, reading something poignant on this site, and all I can hear is the endless click, click, click… It seems to be getting louder, jabbing me in the brain with every tick.  Often, I’m driven to take it off the wall and bury it in the closet under a pile of woolen berets.

You may be asking, “Why do you own a clock, then?” A very good question. You may also be asking, “Why do you own a pile of woolen berets? Who has so many berets, they add up to a ‘pile’? Is their only purpose to muffle the sound of the clock you don’t even want?” All excellent questions. And the answer is simple: I live with someone who, unlike me, enjoys ticking clocks and berets.

The author wearing a beret
The author, a part-time grouch, wearing a woolen beret.

Anyway, here comes the analogy part, my favourite (pardon my Canadian). 

Imagine that you find ticking clocks as annoying as I do. Now imagine a ticking clock that you can’t bury under a pile of berets. A ticking clock that you can’t walk away from or smash or return to IKEA. It’s always ticking, and the ticking starts when you wake up and continues until you somehow fall asleep. And the next day, it starts again. Worst of all, the clock doesn’t tick every second — it ticks infinity times a second.

That clock is my brain and those endless ticks (you guessed it) are my thoughts. 

Sound familiar? Are you lucky enough to own the same model of brain? (Mine is a NUFFRA, but you might have a SNOFSA or a SNIFFA or a PUGG. They all tick the same).

How do we escape it? How do we live a life where the ticking clock doesn’t ruin every experience we’ve ever had or will ever have?

For me, the answer is my cure for everything: Music. 

And by music, I mean the literal kind and the metaphorical. ‘

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Literally: something to drown out the clock and give the mind a chance to experience different sounds — a funky bassline, a calming harp, a joyful banjo or a soulful voice. 

The metaphorical kind is anything that captures your interest, sparks your imagination or entertains your mind. For me, that could be going online and reading about something I’ve never thought about — like game theory (which, as it turns out, has very little to do with Pokemon or Pacman, sadly) or hurling (a Gaelic sport, not the result of partying too hard) or warping and wefting on a loom (which may be a good way to supplement your woolen beret collection!).

It could be playing my ukulele badly or singing even more badly to Aretha’s Greatest Hits. (Technically, these activities should probably fall under the “Literal” category, but I’ve decided to mess with the whole Literal/Metaphorical spacetime continuum, so please forgive me). Or it could simply be sitting down and writing a ridiculous analogy about thoughts and clocks and berets and bidets. (Wait, I just gave away the subject of my next piece: “How Bad Thoughts Are Like Broken Bidets”).

As usual, I’m rambling now, so I’ll finish up and let you go ahead and play whatever music stops your clock.

Getty image via tigerstrawberry

Originally published: November 10, 2020
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