It’s 10:30pm: do you know where all your clocks are? Count them. Include digital clocks on your computers, CD or DVD players. Don’t forget cell phones. I’ve located a staggering 21 time tracking devices in our family of four! There’s no excuse for not making up for lost time or for being late for an appointment. Oh…I forget: there’s a clock in my car too.  No excuses at all. One more in my husband’s Jeep. Make that 23. Twenty-three reminders that, even though my life is on hold while I heal, time keeps ticking by. A few weeks after the accident, my vestibular therapist told me that I was only at the beginning of my recovery. I refused to believe her. How long could it possibly take? A month? Six? Four years down the road I finally understand what she meant. This is an interminable process. The world is getting its busy business done and I’m trapped in limbo. I’m Odysseus’ Penelope*: I’m trying to hold on what I hold dear while voices all around and inside me demand that I speed up the pace or beg me to move on.


Penelope is not very popular these days. Feminists decry her faithfulness to her straying husband. They point at her needlework with contempt and laugh at her unnecessary steadfastness. I used to question her decisions too. Twenty years is a very long time to wait when you have no assurance that what you hope for will ever come true. Unless…

Unless you’re waiting for a beloved part of yourself that’s gone off on a mysterious journey. Sure, when that journey turns out to be a hero’s rough voyage of discovery and growth, it’s easier to turn the other way to distracting tasks or resigned suffering. But that is not what love does. When the going gets tough, tough love endures and keeps the faith. While the hero travels in search of meaning, his counterpart sits still and nurtures their healing. She keeps life’s noise at bay and remains faithful to their ideal of wholeness. She accepts things as they are but never gives up. She waits, unwavering.


The trek itself is no fun: storms of doubt and demons of false hopes abound. Some days this endless waiting drives me crazy. Sometimes it makes me cry. If it wasn’t for the sweet promise of coming home to myself I would have given up long ago. If not for my inner Penelope I would believe that my Odysseus is lost at sea. She encourages me to look at the clocks and shrug: what’s another few minutes, another day? Time cannot be lost: my body does its best and my mind is at work; my spirit is growing and my soul watches with pride. Time is my ally, really: it flies and I’m flying along. My life is not in limbo.  Every tick is a witness to my will to get well. Every chime prompts me to love myself here and now while holding the picture of a better tomorrow. Time is not of the essence. Patience is. And trust. Watch me hope around the clocks. All 23 of them. Tick tock. Tick tock.

 *Homer, “The Odyssey”

Maryse G. Copans © 2010

14 thoughts on “TICK TOCK…TICK TOCK…

  1. I like the way you caught our attention to show us how time conscious our society is! 24 images with the time! geez. And I’m sure I have just as many if not more in my own house. your posts are like treasures, you are obviously not wasting your time. Just taking things slower. Sending much love and healing your way.


  2. Maryse, you remain an inspiration to me. What a wise soul you are! I needed to read this wonderful piece today. These words will stick with me: “Time is not of the essence. Patience is. And trust.”

    BTW, I might have clocks in my house (less than 23), but have refused to wear a watch every since I was 13 years old. I’m really grateful for that.

  3. Wow Maryse, that is an awesome conversation you are having here about what is going on for you. To talk like this in your situation; THAT takes some doing, I can only guess how much but I am sure it would take all my will and courage to see life this way and to keep faith and trust. You are amazing and I agree, an inspiration.love Wilma

  4. Maryse, your essay reminds me of an extraordinarily low point in my life. I was 10 years old. I had been in the hospital for a long time. At this “moment” crying would not stop. My parents had been given special permission to come and see me. My father came alone this time.

    He brought a “Mary Marvel” watch with him that glowed in the dark. My Dad told me about my Uncle Joe who had been in the SeaBees, in the Philippines during The War. The soldiers were either in battle or experiencing extreme boredom waiting for the next battle. Out of desperation my uncle “discovered” his watch – the tick tock of the clock. He reasoned that each tick and tock he heard meant that that much bad time was gone and the time passing would bring him that much closer to coming home. My father brought the watch so I could use the tick tocks the same way Uncle Joe had.

    My father told me years later that my face brightened, my eyes lit up,
    the crying stopped. I listened to the tick tock incessantly – day and
    night. And – I could read the clock face even at night because it glowed in the dark. I could actually watch the time pass because the watch had a sweep second hand – and – a tick tock sound!

    There is always a ticking clock somewhere in my house. To me it is a friendly, soothing sound.

    Love, Gladys

  5. I love that you’re channeling Penelope, Maryse. You are a very wise woman. If feminists truly decry her waiting around, then they are missing the point. In fact, I consider myself a feminist, but I also know there is a Penelope in all of us, man or woman. Just as there is an Odysseus. The myth is there to teach us about patience, hopefulness, faith, and trust, which you so clearly have in abundance. This was just beautiful to read, and I will now think more about cultivating my own inner Penelope, which I can use a bit more of these days too. Love, Patty

  6. As I recall, Penelope’s father had not wanted her to marry but she choose Odysseus (Ulysses). Once he had disappeared, other men demanded she choose a new suitor, so she invented her task of sewing the shroud that she unraveled every night to buy time.

    It seems to me that Penelope created a way she could gather her thoughts (sewing) and release worry (undo the stitches). She had 20 years of not taking care of a man (other than her son).

    Choosing to wait for her wandering husband instead of finding herself in another marriage, does not seem to me to be a passive woman.

    Choosing to allow yourself the time to heal instead of telling yourself “enough already!” is the self-respecting thing to do.

    It is no mistake in our busy technological world, young people are knitting in conferences and taking up quilting. Their busy hands enjoy the focus and rhythm of the routine in response to the “noise” of reality. It centers them in the present.

    And I have noticed, many of them knit things that don’t necessarily ever get finished. Penelope may be more alive than ever.

    Blessings, Pamela

  7. I enjoy reading your insights and thought provoking writings. Often times your messages bring me to think about life again and again.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    love, Lisa K.

  8. Hi Maryse! Wow – you did it again! Simply superb writing – and I know it is from the heart! Penelope – like everyone else – is a teacher. There is something to be said about her patience eh? Clocks drive me nuts – I prefer not to pay much attention to them except if I have an appointment somewhere. Hubs has a very annoying habit of checking his watch constantly. We are total opposites – a wonder we survive together! ha!

  9. Hi Maryse, This is lovely. I love the imagery of Penelope that you weaved throughout your story. I love that in the end you are embracing the present moment rather than waiting for the life you remember to arrive. May your journey grow sweeter with time! xo, Jodi

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