Friday, November 28, 2008

So, What Exactly is the Perfect Number?

I have a love/hate relationship with numbers. To tell you the truth, I would like to feel indifferently toward numbers, but that just isn't reality.

Numbers keep things safe and orderly. I definitely want my doctor to know the proper dosage of medication to prescribe. I like a clearly displayed house number. If I ever need firefighters or the police, I can easily be found. When I have to wait in line at JoAnn's fabric department, those little numbers you pull come in mighty handy. It's good to know the date and time. I like a nice, round 70mph speed limit. So you see, I appreciate numbers; however, there are times when numbers just wreak havoc, and they irritate me.

I am going to work on freeing myself from the numbers that bug me. I am 5 feet 3and3/4 inches short. I weigh 137 pounds. As you can tell by the not even 5'4", I am what some would call "vertically challenged". And, I can promise you this, every pound of the 137 jiggles, wiggles, flaps and flops. Nothing on my body has been firm since somewhere around '93. Not to mention, none of those pounds are properly proportioned.

In my closet, you will find a vast assortment of sizes represented: 9s, 8s, 4s, 6s, smalls, mediums, larges and xlarges. For a girl who likes order, this is total chaos. It makes my head hurt. And, some days it frustrates me. Not for the reasons you might think. If I decided to be 17 pounds lighter, I would stop drinking the nectar of the gods (that was for you Aubrey), I would not eat ice cream before bed, I would eat six small meals a day, and I would increase my exercise level from practically non-existent to somewhat existent. It really isn't rocket science, it's simply good, common sense.

So, why do these numbers (137, 5feet 3and3/4 inches) frustrate me? Because I am not a girl inclined to care what others think. If I told you that I never wish I could have the figure of the women I see on tv and in movies, I would be a liar. If I scoffed at you for mentioning how freaking awesome Brooke Burke looked this season on DWTS, I would be a hypocrite. Nine times out of ten, I do not give a rat's rearend what anyone thinks of me. But, if that tenth time involves you seeing my upper arms (which, given their flapping ability, could be used as deadly weapons) or my muffin top, I will care what you think. That frustrates me.

My mom will not even discuss this with me. She will say this is all a matter of perception, and mine is her opinion. But, I think her perception of herself is off and completely wrong. She is obsessed with numbers, and it bugs me. Most women I know (whether they admit it or not) are obsessed with numbers, and it bugs me. Many women base their worth on those numbers. Some feeling superior because their number is smaller than their friends'....others beating themselves silly because their number is higher than their friends'.

I honestly don't care what size you wear or what numbers your scale spits at you. I don't judge others for their size. But, I constantly judge my own numbers, and I would like to stop. Maybe I have completed one step in freeing myself from obnoxious numbers by displaying my weight for all the world to see.

Numbers can be entirely too subjective. For example, PG-13 and R rated movies (no one under 17 admitted)...I would much rather a 13 year old see The Patriot, Gladiator, or The Last of the Mohicans than watch the crude Austin Powers stupidity, or any of the countless sexually suggestive PG-13 movies. Yes, I completely understand many will say a 13 year old shouldn't see any of the movies I mentioned. I know we have to use our own solid judgement as parents, not guidelines set by an industry. I was simply making the point that numbers can be confusing and subjective.

If you allow them, numbers will limit you. Tomorrow I will be 36 years old. I am happier with myself than I have been in many years. I have accepted that many people love me, and just as many don't really care for me much at all. I am perfectly okay with that. I like the perspective age brings. Recently, I remembered that I have big dreams. I refuse to let some silly numbers limit me. I am going to work for my dreams, even if I work until I am 100.

If you allow them, numbers will make you feel inferior. Depending on who I am around, my number of children could cause me to feel inferior. Women not of my faith sometimes look at me as though I am irresponsible..."Three children, really? Are you sure you can support all of those kids? How will you pay for their college? What were you thinking?" I will not allow numbers to make me feel inferior. I can support my children. I will find a way to send them to college, and I was thinking.

Then, there are women of my faith, saying things along these lines...but these things only apply if you show up to church with four or more children: "Oh, she is such a faithful woman. She is just amazing. Bless her sweet soul. She is so valiant." In many conversations, a woman is described like this: "You know so and so, she has five kids"...or four, or six, whatever. You fill in the blank. This number is used to define the woman. I will not allow numbers to define me or make me feel inferior. I am faithful and valiant, as are most of the women I associate with, whether they have seven children or none at all. In fact, some of the most amazing women I know have yet to fulfill their dreams of motherhood. So, when we talk numbers, let's remember those women. I have no doubt they are among the most valiant. A woman's worth does not increase in value with each child she brings into this world. It is both unfair and greatly lacking compassion to insinuate otherwise.

If you allow them, numbers will trick you into thinking you have failed. My son blew the top off the Maryland standardized tests. Unfortunately, he felt like a failure when he was not among the number of students recognized at his school. The school made a decision to honor only the African-American students who attained high scores.

The Captain and I would not allow the numbers to trick our son. It was a poor decision on the school's part; however, the number of students recognized will not take from my son's achievement. It was a hard-learned, but valuable life lesson for him. You do your best, you give all that you can. Not for recognition at school or anywhere else, but for your own sake. We know he did his best, and he knows it. That is what matters. And, if his best had been far below blowing the top off, that would be okay too.

I love a good quote, one that makes me feel something or think on things from a new angle. This one I read recently, and it immediately landed on my list of favorites: "Numbers are funny. They can measure you, time you, analyze you all they want. But, they know what really's how you play the game. The truth is, they can't measure any of it...heart, want, need. You can't measure a dream." ~Author Unknown

So, what exactly is the perfect number? I guess it depends upon whether or not you can measure the situation. Are you playing golf, trying to get in law school, hoping you get enough sleep tonight, or setting a Guinness record? I do not want numbers to rule my life. I want to be free. I don't want numbers to limit me, to trick me, or make me feel inferior. Numbers will never measure what is in my heart or the dreams I have to dream. The perfect number? Forget it. I am much more interested in how we play the game.


RitterB's said...

First off... Blast that darn scale.. The numbers on it have Haunted me for some time.
There is not a time I count the numbers of syllables in a word that I dont think about you...I know crazy but work with me here!
I have 4 kids and still want more. If I were peeking at myself I may think I were crazy!
Nat... Numbers or NOT you are amazing!
Happy birthday!

KC Mom said...

Who doesn't like you??? Let me at 'em.☺
I will repeat this post in my mind everytime I think of the numbers in my life. Funny thing is...I'm not so good with numbers but I'm still obsessed with them.
If you think about doesn't matter what language you speak or where you live...we all still speak the language of numbers...especially us women!
Can I put my counting fingers away now??? Keep up with my therapy posting.
I hope you have a Happy Birthday! Love ya!

Rachel Taylor said...

Another great blog. Amazing topic. I know what its like to have numbers rule your life. Its not a good thing. Have an amazing birthday. You are still incredibly young. Funny my mom and I were trying to figure out how old you were, because I knew you were so young when I was in young womens. You are barely 7 years older, lol sure isn't much in the game of life.

shahna said...

My numbers are about the same as yours girl!

I can't believe they only recognized the minority kids! What is up with that! That WOULD NOT HAVe gone over well around here!

You say everything I fell Natalie - but much more eloquently.

Aubrey said...

I like that I'm mentioned in this post (very classy! Hehe.)

Anyway, I definitely agree--especially about the movies. I would do anything to be able to watch R movies without feeling guilty--I saw the Patriot and Kingdom of Heaven at school (parents weren't so happy, and I didn't chose to leave the room...I mean, hey, I was rebelious then.) I'd much rather watch a historical R movie that's fully of decapitation and bloodiness then watch at PG-13 movie full of crude, sick, sexual humor (ie: Adam Sandler's stupid Zohan movie. GROSS!)


mom said...

One number you will never escape. You will always be my #1 girl!!!!!
Happy Birthday!
I love you.............

Lori said...

Happy Birthday, Nat! Just remember; however, there is STRENGTH in numbers, especially when you look behind you and see all those that are standing WITH you. We love you and your ability to tell it like it is.

Sue said...

I'm not a numbers girl either, but I will definitely celebrate your new "number" with a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (What's great about "happy birthday" numbers is that no one needs to know them...)


PS. This becomes a more important caveat with age,, by the way.

Carly said...

Happy Birthday!
As usual, I love this post, and hate the numbers in my life too.
As someone with sisters-in-law who consider breeding a competitive sport (no, really, one told me her goal in life was to have more kids than her sister and mom!) I especially love this quote. "A woman's worth does not increase in value with each child she brings into this world. It is both unfair and greatly lacking compassion to insinuate otherwise." That is how I have always felt, and I was starting to feel like a lone lunatic for feeling that way. "Multiply and replenish the earth" is not a personal challenge for one family to perform and look down on all others for not filling their own astro van!

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if numbers we didn't place such importance on numbers. OK, like you say, we want the firefighters to find our house number in an emergency, so they are vital sometimes.
As for the perfect number, how about 42 - as it's the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything (according to the supercomputer Deep Thought in the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy).

Kim said...

Happy Birthday to you! Loved this post about numbers. Amen to every word!