Just a Number

I am 65 years old, just a number right? 6+5=11, 6×5= 30, 6-5= 1 and 6 divided by 5
= 1.2; just playing around with numbers. I know my years add up to 65, but nothing else seems to add up except wrinkles! If I could, I would multiply all my good times and subtract the bad, but dividing the good from the bad is not as easy as it sounds. Hindsight sometimes reveals what I once viewed as bad ends up being the catalyst, the “learning experience” propeling my life forward in a positive direction. Doing the math fails to quantify the mysteries of life.

When I was a child we said: 5 takeaway 2 is 3. I like that old-fashioned way of explaining subtraction, takeaway, not minus or subtracted. People pass away, they are not subtracted from our world. The world minus Roger is not the reality of death and grief for me. 5 minutes waiting for Santa does not equal 5 minutes waiting for biopsy results. So this relationship between numbers, time and life and death is a conundrum. Einstein proved that energy equals MC squared but even he did not find a formula for what equals a “good” life or for that matter a “good” death. What really counts in our lives?

At times I have added up all the things that were wrong with the world and with me, and the total was: it’s all wrong! It never occurred to me that reality is more like a balance sheet with some days in the red and some days in the black. What counts is that I am blessed to add entries every day because I am blessed to be alive! The running total is what life is all about.

The universe is infinite and numbers are infinite; I can never reach the biggest number there is. When I was a child I found the concept of infinity to be unfathomable. There has to be an end somewhere doesn’t there? Inside, outside, beginning and end contained and limited my childhood world. Infinity and forever were scary concepts for me. I thought about counting my entire life and still not reaching the end, or traveling through space and never being able to stop at a final destination.

“How much do you love your Momma?” or “How much does Momma love you?” Tyler would spread his arms wide and say “This much!” As if the space between his left arm and right arm could contain Love. I have learned a few things and I am positive Love is infinite and forever and is the only thing that counts.

Easier Said Than Done

We all know that actions speak louder than words and most New Year’s resolutions are forgotten by February. I make promises to myself and others, and I am ashamed that I have a trail of broken promises behind me: “I will never have another cigarette.” or “”I promise not to tell.” I meant them when I said them. When I don’t act with integrity, guilt and shame are my emotional costs. We all want to believe that we are people of integrity even though we may not always act with integrity.

“Talk is cheap. Put your money where your mouth is.” Money is one of my most precious resources. Recently Colorado Public Radio had their fund drive, and even though I listen to them a lot and “thought” it would be a good idea to contribute, I didn’t put my money where my mouth is and actually contribute. It’s easy to talk about saving money and budgeting, but I often just give it lip service instead of really saving money. I can talk, and talk …and never get around to “Just do it!”

12 step programs and fellowships are full of wonderful axioms regarding actions and words. You can “talk the talk” or you can “walk the talk”; basically are you doing the work of the 12 steps or just talking about it. Question: How do you know when an alcoholic is lying?” Answer: If their lips are moving, they are lying. Matching words and actions is difficult and not only for the alcoholic. What parent hasn’t wanted to say to their child “Do what I say, and not what I do!” Kids are great bullshit detectors. I cringe to think of what kind of example I was to my son Tyler in my crazy moments. Fortunately, he turned out pretty good in spite of me.

When I find myself trying to rationalize my choices or behaviors I know I am on a slippery slope and may slide right past my self respect. Freud was on target when he defined the ways we humans attempt to evade responsibility for our choices and behaviors. We blame, deny, project and rationalize and then double down on our excuses. The longer my excuses the more likely I am fibbing, stretching the truth or just plain lying.

Saying just one word can be the closest we come to saying what we mean and meaning what we say. “Help” is very direct and transparent. “No” really is a complete sentence and doesn’t need further explanation. Sometimes our “yes” is compromised, it’s more I am afraid to say no or I want to manipulate your opinion of me. The most honest yes is the “Yes” punctuated by arms raised in the air in victory. Yes!

In the meantime I will be learning to do the right thing so I can love the face I see in the mirror.

Lost in Space

Have you seen me? Where am I? My compass is broken. My GPS is playing tricks on me, my navigator is asleep on the job and the blips on my radar are all illusions. I am lost in space. There is a tiny dot in the infinite universe that is planet Earth, and I am a tiny dot on Earth. I am small and I feel even smaller. There are phases of the moon and I am in a dark, small and dry phase. For the last two weeks I have tried to write a blog post, but my words have been a mirage in the desert, disappearing the closer I get to them. To be without words scares me to death! How can I call out for help?

When I was a young woman I wanted to be petite, girly, tiny and beautiful and what I got instead was 5’6”of “big-boned” Iowa farm girl, like my aunts on my Dad’s side. Women like me were far from petite and I was recruited to throw the shot put my senior year. I went to practice a few times, smoked some cigarettes after practice and decided that being strong was not nearly as lucrative as being pretty and flirty. Young men were not attracted to big women. It was several years before I whittled my body down to “size” and men began to notice me. I was smaller, but I was more powerful in the arena of dating and romance. Small was good, big was bad, but vice versa for a man! I remember those ads in the back of magazines from long ago for the Charles Atlas bodybuilding course. The “before”picture was a skinny guy who got sand kicked in his face, the “after” was the guy on Brawny paper towels. Big is better, a lot better.

“How far along are you? The standard question put to pregnant women everywhere. When I said I was 6 months I heard, “You look too small to be six months along.” I thought I was Moby Danita and I was “small”! Being pregnant is filling a tiny uterus until it feels so big it will burst. After giving birth the uterus becomes small again and what is left to hold is a tiny baby. Of course baby grows bigger and bigger…. while Momma shrinks as she ages. On the other hand, noses and ears seem bigger with age.

Big bucks is good and so is a small waist. A big head and a small mind is pretty common these days. It’s all relative: big, bigger, biggest and small, smaller, smallest. I keep waiting for the “just right”designation from Goldilocks. My current state of feeling small might mean that I recognize that I am not the center of the universe and have acquired some measure of humility. I am a tiny dot on planet Earth but I can still use big words.