The value of numbers

At my job, I’m trying to work on KPIs—Key Performance Indicators. It’s a way to define how well my team is doing their work.

For this kind of things, numbers are very appealing. They are so easy to manipulate and analyze. Truly, numbers are hypnotic with all they can do. Children learn very young to tell others how old they are. It’s part of who they are to other people.

There are other times when numbers are like the gaze of the sphinx. I cannot look away. Election nights can keep many people up to see the tallies.

I will never forget spring of 2020 and how the numbers of covid deaths were so compelling. I couldn’t stop checking the websites that reported them all over the world. Then my city. Then my state. Then the world.

I could not look away. The sphinx’s gaze was turning me to stone.

For work my KPI numbers are meant to be a way to support decisions. Are we spending our time and money they way we want to? Can we track it and make sure we are being wise?

Numbers help. And they can also stop us.

On a podcast, I learned something about Jewish prayer practice. I already knew that a Jewish prayer group requires a certain number of men, about 10. Which is a strange way to put it—is it ten or not?

On the podcast I learned that they are not supposed to count the number of men. Yes, there are supposed to be ten, but they are not supposed to be counted. The lecturer, an Orthodox Jew, said he used a verse from the Torah that had ten words and ticked off the number of people against the words in his selected verse.

I am staggered. How could it be required to count people without counting people?

And yet, the wisdom seems so profound I have to check myself.

People are not numbers. That data being collected and aggregated and put in a scroll on the news is not people. I don’t ever want to forget that.

They numbers have to be subjected to care and courage. Those little kids showing their fingers to show how old they are? They know their number is only part of who they are. The numbers have no soul. When it comes to the story of people, numbers cannot be the main point.

progressing toward hope

I’m a person who has landed in unfamiliar and dangerous territory. It feel like a sci fi novel, landing on a hostile plane with unknown dangers and environment.

I’ve been used to my body for my whole life, and I have a sense of what I can do and what I can expect.

No more. Experiencing chemotherapy means my body is the dangerous territory. And thisis a long journey so I don’t know how things will change, but I’m pretty sure they will.

A podcast today told me a psychologist truism, that progress towards goals are the source of positive emotions, like hope and enthusiasm. That is exactly what I’m looking for.

Enthusiasm is harder to reach. I’m working to set myself up to make progress.

Progress is also harder to reach.

Not impossible though. Just like an alien planet, I feel like I leapt and skipped so far to get here, and now I’m down to inches.

I’m going to have to apprecieate those inches.

That’s where I’m going to get the hope from. Did I move at all? That counts. Many people don’t.

I will.

I shall remember what I’m able to do, and do those things. I’ve been hopeless before, sometimes.

I don’t have to be now.

It takes effort, will, and determination.

And I will have to take care of myself in all the other ways. Eating and sleeping are harder than they were.

Well, progress there counts too.

I’m not going to lie to myself with toxic positivity, but I desperately want to have some lights of hope in this time.

And even enthusiasm.

I’ll have to keep the faith and do the work to give those to myself.

I am making progress. And I can rejoice.

boundaries and goals

Games are something people do. I’m not sure if animals do it. We set up rules, which are basically constraints to accomplishing a goal.

Look at this ball…It bounces. Can I bounce it this way? How about with only one hand? Maybe I can’t touch it with my hands to move it at all. How hard would it be to get it to the goal then?

Kids come up with little games all the time. They learn more complicated games and pass them on. The common thread is to create obstacles to doing a relatively simple thing.

Sometimes it takes others to do the game. Sometimes it is a game against myself, a personal best. But there is that goal to reach for.

Games are human nature.

Yes, I am chafing against a constraint. This restriction wasn’t MY idea. I am struggling and burning against the boundary.

It’s not a game. It’s an affliction. I did not choose this. It was thrust upon me.




I would not have chosen this, but since it is upon me, I can choose how I see it. What if I could make it a game?

What is possible for me in this space? With this time, these resources of strength and stamina, what can I do?

I’d better pick carefully. It will only hold a certain amount.

I am wasting my energy on resentment and anger. I can shift to what is possible.

What can I build? What needs to be fortified?

Taking inventory and tracking my personal to-do lists are part of the game.

Resources I have taken for granted are denied. How do I resupply? What can I do with what I have?

Let the game commence.

do it again

As a young mother, 14 years ago, I felt nailed down. This child, this new life, was priority one. I  had to make sure she slept and ate. If she did, then I could.

All my stuff, all the things I wanted to do was second place at best.

I tried to leave the house. I remember Saturday at 5:30 AM trips to mcDonald’s playland frantic to leave my house and be around humans. I had my book in progress and all my side notebooks, working to keep ahold of myself in the wasteland.

When she started kindergarten, some people said “The time goes by so fast!”

Not for me. I felt every moment.

That is me. I feel the moments.

And when the oncologist gave me treatment plan, 5 months of chemo to be followed by another batch of radiation—the rest of the year at least!—all the moments strung together like an impossible cliff.

How could I do it? I had to find a way.

It is not the sickness that I fear the most. Although that is bad enough. The isolation and the lack of productivity is the worst.

And I remember the notebooks spread out at Playland. The notes, the drafts, the road I travelled and what I learned how to do.

Those were hard repetitive days.

As I recall, I need to keep a lot of notebooks at the ready. I had to make the time, make the habit, to string the words together. It doesn’t happen without effort.

I still found a way to be creative and be myself. I will do it again. I will do it still.

actual vs. possible

If there were anything in th world I could do what would it be?

I”m chewing my knuckles at how restricted my life will be during thiws treament.

and I’m also mad that even before I wasnt’ doing much that impressed me. I had a couple things, a could process and projects in the fire.

Now? Is it all blocked off?

When have I been the person who did nothing?
I could come up with a list of possibilities, and set some goals. I feel so trapped by my own body.
But I’m not. There are still options. And I am not sure what they are but if I don’t try I won’t discuover them

There’s a freedom again in this blog because almost no one come to see it anymore. It’s a tiny corner of the internet that has been abandoned. Maybe one person a day comes here…

But I want to remember how to write. I want to be creative and write the things I am thinking. I am still thinking.

I think I am thinking. I do feel stuck in quicksand, with the state of my body under renovation. I am doing things, things that seem faily mindane and barely worth doing.

Yes, I have a job and a family. I am doing the work to maintain those things, keep the momentum.

But I want to be doing bigger things. i want to create something.

I have two manuscripts–Works in progress –that are worthy. I want to get those done.

I think of a circus or an event has a critical mass that people can join in…something that is already in motion that others can jump on and be part of the thing that.

but a writer writes alone. All momentum has to be generated by me.

That’s why I’m writing this this morning. So generate a little motion, a little momentum. I would like to write a little every day. Until I write a lot every day.