On the last day of my first (and I originally thought only) Year^{1} of Living Non-Judmentally, I wrote this, in a footnote:

* I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, regarding my feelings about numbers. I love numbers, sometimes. However, numbers are not my native language, so sometimes they challenge me. Hmmm. I don’t like the way I said that. “They challenge me” is too mild, too wimpy a statement. How about this? Sometime, I hate numbers. Nope, too strong. How about this? Sometimes, numbers make me crazy. Nope, “crazy” is not a great word for me to use. How about this? Sometimes they make me angry. Nope, people have trouble with anger. Arrrghh! What’s the right word, regarding me and numbers? Damned if I know, right now. Maybe I’ll figure that out next year.

It’s well into next year, and I have yet to figure out my feelings about — and relationship to — numbers.

Here are some things I know:

- I definitely notice numbers.
- I can have trouble holding on to them. For example, yesterday I had a 3:30 appointment with one of my doctors, and, in my mind, it was a 2 PM appointment. Another example: today I’m meeting an old friend from college, and I can’t remember how many years it’s been since the last time I saw him.
- Remembering numbers can seem critical to my survival. Therefore, when I can’t access a number quickly, my automatic response can be negative (anxiety, self-criticism, worry, etc.)
- There are lots of numbers to deal with, from the past, present, and (I assume) future.
- I can’t quite figure out how important numbers are, for me.

Some numbers I’m thinking about, right now:

- How many more days should/will I stay home from work?
^{2} - When I go back to work, how many hours per week will be the “correct” balance, taking into account my (a) health and (b) finances?
^{3} - What’s a good-enough weight for me, right now?
^{4} - How many more items will there be in this list?
^{5} - How many more words in this morning’s post, before I’m done writing?
^{6} - How many pictures will I show here?
^{7}

Hmmm. Some of those questions have more obvious answers than others. As always, I shall do my best, figuring things out.

Okay!

I’m going to conclude this post with some recent photos I’ve taken. In order of appearance:

Here are some numbers regarding that photo. The number of times I’ve walked by that sign: 100’s. The number of words — and legs — on that sign: 2. The number of days since I took that photo: I’m guessing … 5. Wait! There’s some data I can check, to find out the actual number. Aha! I was wrong (but very close) … it’s 6.

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How many limbs there? 2. How many limbs was I expecting? 4.

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As you can see for yourself, there are lots of numbers in that photo.

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How many dandelions in that photo? 3. How many blisses? The answer depends on what — and how — you’re counting.

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How many times have I been to that restaurant? 1. How many days before I expect to return? 3.

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How many people in Massachusetts have a license plate with the word “Toad”? I’m assuming more than one.

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How many strings on that instrument? 6. How many stripes on those cushions? Ahhhh … forget it.

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How many papers is Harley sitting on? 1. What’s on that paper?

Eeeeek! Math!

Thanks to numbers everywhere, to people who have varying reactions to numbers, and to you — of course! — for reading this today (one time, I assume).

1 The year I started blogging was 2013.

2 Most likely, I’ll return to work in 2 days. ^{8}

3 I’ll probably start out working about 12 hours/week, increasing as I can. ^{8}

4 Weight is such a loaded issue. I’m definitely NOT going into that now.

5 There were 6 items on that list.

6 I’m too impatient — or it’s just not important enough to me — to find out how many words I wrote after that.

7 I showed 9 photos. Or — more precisely — I showed 8 photos I had taken, plus one zoom, blow-up, close-up, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

8 These numbers are subject to change.

Good post Ann and your beauties are still at your best photoes, at least for me 😀

I thought of you (and other cat lovers, too), Irene, when I was deciding which photos to include. Great to see you here.

😀

I adore numbers. Sometimes they feel like a more natural language for me than any words. 🙂 I also adore that even though this post addressed your number-induced stress, it also demonstrates that numbers are everywhere…we can’t escape them, so we might as well snuggle up to them. 😉

I adore that idea of snuggling up to numbers. Thank you!

How many smiles did your post and photos give me this morning?

Depends on whether you count how many muscles I engaged in the act of smiling or how many times my lips parted when I smiled or how many….

Tee hee.

And btw — numbers intimidate me.

Hi, Louise! As always, great to see your smiling face.

I remember responding to a previous comment (and it may have been yours) something like this: Don’t be intimidated by numbers. You’re bigger than they are. (Or, maybe not.)

I know you have exceeded my number-toleration level today, Ann. Interestingly, to me at least, it went on the Bliss query, where the plain answer was two, but you tweaked for deeper meaning. I usually thrive on deeper meaning. But I had reached my number limit? …

I would never, ever buy peanut butter powder that begged for you to add water. In exactly what situation would this product be better than actual peanut butter, I wonder?

By the way, other than my dear wife Karen, my wonderful daughter Elisabeth, and my sisters, I cannot remember any birthdays or anniversaries, no matter how significant. And there are plenty I wish I could and would remember.

Great post today, once you add it all up.

Great comment, Mark, no matter what kind of analysis I use. Like you, I cannot calculate a use for powdered peanut butter. Perhaps that product appeals to (1) campers or (2) astronauts.

I guess, Ann. But campers and astronauts can take hydrated PB .. or maybe not. I just not don’t. I can’t crunch numbers and I can’t crunch powdered peanut butter.

Smooth, Mark. Very smooth.

Love this

I’m infinitely glad. Thank you for the visit and this two-word comment which I love, quite a bit.

How about this: Your relationship with numbers is “strained”. Strained sounds like a decent word given your description. 🙂

As someone who is good at math and science I am very good with numbers. I think what is kind of cool about numbers is that they exist in a metaphysical way. And if we were to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe they might have a totally different way of communicating, but they would definitely have numbers. It’s a universal language. I try to teach my students that math is a language for which we can speak logical ideas in an efficient way. The language of math would also be universal as well. Other beings on other planets might count different things than we do, but they will still count. 🙂

Given your profession and how you think, I can tell that you are good at math, even if you don’t like numbers. What I mean by that is that you are able to think logically and come up with the correct answer, but as someone whose passion lies with a field of study for which each person you deal with falls under a slightly different set of variables and equations no one answer fits everybody. You deal with the human equation, for which there is no equation (as of yet) to define a human being. Numbers are exact, and your field is inexact.

But it seems to me what you are better at is probabilities and statistics. Your field involves this quite a bit, and you are probably extremely good at drawing correlations, recognizing outliers, analyzing quality research from bad. Numbers cannot only represent “exact” in the theoretical sense, but more often represent a measure of “approximately”. For some things it is unimportant the exact number. It’s approximately 100’s of times that you past the sign. You know it’s not 10’s and you know it’s not 1000’s. I tell my students that having a feel for something by order of magnitude is a great first step in helping you arrive at a correct answer and knowing whether you have done your math right. For things you have to be more exact for like doctor’s appointments, well their are calendars for that. Despite the fact that I am good with numbers that doesn’t stop me from misremembering times. Our attitude towards time I think is different than how good we are with numbers. You, like me, are probably fairly hedonistic, in that you live in the present and thus aren’t constantly mindful of future events that have not happened. So don’t sweat it…the world will keep spinning. 🙂

This comment got me spinning, in many good ways. Thank you for all these thoughtful insights, which are precipitating countless reactions and new understandings. Your perceptions about my math skills are appreciated and, in ways, proven: in college-entrance exams, I actually scored better in math than in verbal tests.

All in all, you are One Rocking Reader!

Swarn Gill offers some good insight here. Math is a language. Numbers are exact. But (to paraphrase) we shouldn’t define our math skills too narrowly. You may not be crunching numbers like an accountant all day long, but you have a good sense of the math that you need for your profession – including some complicated things like recognizing outliers.

Today’s post resonates for me because like you, I am fuzzy with numbers and becoming fuzzier every day.

However, as a fan of your blog I have noticed that you use your imagination a lot. You imagine what other people are thinking and feeling. You imagine different outcomes. You imagine stories behind images you capture with your camera.

And, guess what? In math, there are imaginary numbers! The imaginary number “i” is negative 1 when squared. And that’s impossible, right? Because when you multiply a negative number by a negative number, you get a positive number — we all learn that in elementary school. So, negative one by negative one could never return negative one. But the imaginary number “i” allows us to do this. And using this imaginary number, engineers accomplish all kinds of useful things. So there’s this wonderful, quirky, imaginary part of math that underlies a lot of very precise calculations.

I can’t actually do any of that math, but I can imagine it. And I can also imagine that when you are (like me) forgetting the time of your appointment or not noticing where a decimal point is, it’s partly because your mind is connecting to your imagination and doing a different, magical kind of math. The kind where beauty and humour are the units. You know — blog math!

I can’t imagine my blogging world without you as a reader. A kashmillion thanks for all you notice and express.

A gravestone that says “BLISS” is particularly creepy, no offense to the Bliss family, and could inspire generations of bad sonnets: “One day I came upon the death of Bliss / among the dandelions in the grass / and looked for lips no longer there to kiss …” well, you get the picture. We don’t even have to speculate on what rhymes with grass.

Jeff, you made me laugh out loud! But, better that we came across the death of Bliss than the ghost of Bliss. Or the corpse of Bliss. I don’t think I’d even try looking for the lips to kiss. I’d give Bliss a miss.

(I hope that it’s okay for readers to comment on other readers’ comments. Not sure if there is an established etiquette here.)

…if there is an established etiquette for commenting on a comment that’s essentially bad tombstone humor in sonnet form, then we’re in trouble…

No trouble at all, I would say.

Bliss, for me, is people writing amazing comments. People commenting on each others’ comments? Bliss squared.

Nice kitties; a fun post to read, it must have fun to write.

It was especially fun to read your comment. Thanks!

Just out of curiosity, Ann, why is that Jin’s fortune cookie purple?

I was pondering the fortune, “Benefit by doing things that others give up on,” and wonder if it might be just as wise to say, “Benefit by giving up on thing that others do.”

Like the dishes, hopefully.

Maureen, that fortune cookie may LOOK purple, but it’s actually (use your imagination for a moment, regarding cookies)

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chocolate!

And I like your twist on the fortune, also.

Ann, I do love how you engage every person who comments in such a loving open funny way! It tickles me 🙂

This comment tickles, engages, AND gratifies me in countless ways, Val. Thank you, thank you, thank you, etc.

I have never been a numbers person math, bookkeeping, budgets, etc were stressors. Thank you for introducing numbers in a new way. I enjoyed the alternative and now have a new appreciation for numbers.

I truly appreciate this comment. Thanks so much for letting me know.

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