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The Times They Are A-Changin'

To keep or not to keep?

To do or not to do?

Stay right here in this place or go somewhere new?

My life feels like a Jeopardy board. But I usually don’t answer myself in the form of a question. Maybe I should start that.

“What is - my radio alarm clock?”

It all began the day after my birthday, my freshman year of college. My alarm clock apparently stopped working, and I missed my 9:00 a.m. psych class (thank God I never missed another college class). A friend in the class later MSN messaged me (it was 2003, that’s how life worked) and assumed that I was hungover from celebrating. Au contraire, I just didn’t wake to some jam on an FM station.

So later that day, I did what any self-respecting college student at UND did: I headed to the Super Target. There, I purchased a blue, Sony, FM radio alarm clock. It had a black face with large neon green digital numbers. I bet it cost $30 that I didn’t have, but I loved it.

From that day, until three nights ago, that alarm clock has been perched beside my bed, and has allowed me to wake to various music blaring from the radio. I don’t hit the snooze, but I may lay in bed and listen to songs that play right into my semi-awake dreams. Like its final morning of use, “Sing us a song you’re the piano man …”

Beginning in 2018, that clock became the sight of the night’s terror. Those neon numbers put together like toothpicks haunted me as they changed shape. 1:00 am; 2:00 am; 3:00 am … The green blur taunted me.

In June, 2018, when I “awoke,” I realized there was a lot of dread around me. Buried in a lot of things and places.

I immediately asked Sean to remove the maroon bedspread, and matching maroon plaid blanket with a soft white backing, from our bed. I preferred it to be burned, but being the earth conscious person I am, I allowed it to be donated. The sight of that bedding after the tortured insomnia shook my body and mind.

It had to go. Now. But what about everything else?

I knew that I was going to start grieving a loss, my own, and because of that I assumed all the rules applied to me. Don’t do anything big for a year. Others around me repeated it too: Just sit tight and let’s see how this unfolds.

Give it a year.

I’ve debated it all. Cut my hair like the rockstar P!ink. Get a cool tattoo on my right shoulder to commemorate my illness and recovery. Get rid of work clothes that silently hang in the closet. The dust on them after years of no use. Sell our house. Follow my old dream of living on the East Coast. Become a meditation nun in a cave. Sell everything we own because it all has a memory. A smell. Move. Change it all. Throw it. Or run far from it.

It’s been three years now.

Yet we remain steadily steadfast. Still unsure of what’s ahead. Still unsure of where we’re going. We don’t make sudden moves. And I still debate what to keep around me. And where to go. What’s the best path ahead?

Sean finally begged me to get rid of the alarm clock. Unacceptable, I told him. It’s only 18 years old and in perfectly good working condition. I know it and it knows me. Even though I hate it from the memories it evokes and how it still stares at me when I can’t sleep and swear I will not roll over and look at those green numbers marching on, I need it. I’ve had too much change. I need to keep this the same.

I received a new, fancy alarm clock for Mother’s Day. As my kids unwrapped it for me, my daughter said, “Mom, you need a new clock, yours is really old from high school.”

The new one shines like the sun and moon (literally, it has a setting for that). It has a USB cord. It can sound like a waterfall or birds chirping. I have no idea how to run it, and my son has turned up the glowing sun to blinding levels. The numbers are too tiny. I don’t want it. I want my old one. But I hate my old one. It’s comfortable. It’s a reminder of an old life, the old ways.

Time for different. Time for shiny new.

I wonder what’s next …

Stay brave in this ever-changing world. And if you’re threatened by fancy alarm clocks, watches you can talk to, music that’s not on a CD, and books that you can’t hold, it’s OK. I’m right there beside you. If you can’t answer what stays or goes in your life, know that I can’t either. We just keep swimming. #StebbinsStrong


"Come gather 'round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You'll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin'

And you better start swimmin'

Or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'" ~ The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan


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