Watch Yourself

I noticed that my watchband, the lovely, textured, fairly recently purchased, yellow, leather band I adore, was discolored on the side of the strap to the right of the watch face. It hadn’t cost a fortune but it had been somewhat pricey for my wallet. I grew up in a house where someone modeled taking these kinds of things very personally. The normal response would be to immediately blame the discoloration on the watchband manufacturer. Of course it may well have been the manufacturer’s fault, but this blame would be served up with a loud side order of outrage. “How dare they!?” The main point here is that no one did any discovery before or after this type of pronouncement was made. It was obviously the manufacturer’s fault. End. Of. Story. There was no doubt that the company had tried to pass off a shoddy product as something of much higher quality and that they had tricked the purchaser into paying top dollar for substandard goods. They needed to make it right.

The behaviors we see modeled in certain situations during our childhood stick with us. It’s a Superglue level of stickiness. It takes work, intentional, dedicated work, to unstick them. When I looked down at my watchband, even though I worked hard to train myself out of auto responses when it comes to problem solving — I did design and teach, and write a book on Creative Thinking after all — I still went immediately to believing that I had been charged too much for the watchband. The discoloration was proof that it had not been well made. This irritated me. I had only had it for a few months. It wasn’t as if it had worn out after years of wearing. I had spent many years trying to rewire my brain. The rewiring from all that work began to try to get my attention. It whispered a question. It would have been easy to ignore but I made myself listen. “Could it have been something you did?” it asked me. I immediately answered “No”. I always take my ring and my watch off when I come home. I have a little silver monkey holder — the ring goes in the small plate above the monkey’s head and I place the watch on my dresser next to the monkey’s legs. I don’t do messy projects wearing my watch either. I wasn’t feeling or exhibiting the anger I had seen modeled. This was a good thing. Even better, my irritation had morphed into disappointment, but I was still quite sure the discoloration had nothing to do with anything I had done. It appeared as if I was doing some discovery. I wasn’t. I was simply trying to prove my innocence in the situation, to prove that it was indeed the manufacturer’s fault.

I took a breath. A deep breath. Then I paused and made a conscious effort to review everything I did while wearing the watch to determine if there had been anything that might have caused the discoloration. I was no longer trying to prove that it wasn’t my fault. I was attempting to discover whether or not it could have been my fault. I was finally doing some actual discovery. I had finally burped myself out of my original wiring’s pathways. I reasoned that I didn’t do any gardening or other “dirty” types of activities while wearing the watchband. I always put lotion or sunscreen on my arms before I put my watch on. Wait! There it was…I keep a spray bottle of tick repellent on the counter right next to my door. This reminds me to spray myself if I’m planning on walking anywhere near the woods or wetlands. I spray all over my exposed skin just before I walk out the door. I am already wearing my watch when I do this. The spray is made from natural ingredients but something in it undoubtedly discolored my watchband. It even makes sense, based on the angle at which I spray my forearm and how I turn it over to spray the other side, thus protecting the portion of the watchband on the left side of the watch face, that only the right side of the band would be affected by the spray. It was me after all. I did it. I made it happen.

I was happy I had figured it out. A little sad that I had discolored my watchband but I’m okay with things not being picture perfect. I was cool with it. I also knew what to do to keep it from becoming worse. Even though it had taken me a while to get there, I ended up acting better than my original wiring had invited me to act. I hope I can do as well next time I screw up. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep watching myself.

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Cinse Bonino

Cinse Bonino

Cinse, a former professor with a background in the psychology of human learning, writes nonstop, and is addicted to capturing the human experience in words.