Game Of Numbers.

Fifteen. The number of years my father’s been languishing in an ornate box in the ground. That’s fifteen years of no hugs, no phone calls, an infinite amount of change. I have to assume he can see me and is watching as I stumble through life, making and repeating past mistakes before finally seeing the light, changing course, and making new ones. Fifteen years’ worth of decisions I had to make without his input. My mother has had to play two roles and weather my incessant questions about the man my father really was, the man I never had the chance to know. I was eleven when he died, peacefully in his sleep, and left me to wonder for the rest of my life. I have millions of questions I would ask if I could see him — are you proud of me? Am I doing this right? Do you approve? Who are you? What did you like? — the list is endless. Fifteen years of cherishing the same memories without the ability to create new ones.

Two. The number of years I haven’t self-injured. Not that the temptation hasn’t been there, the temptation to find something sharp and dig into my skin with it. But I haven’t. Two years I’ve kept the promise I made myself to do better, be better, and be nicer to myself. It’s also the number of guitars I have, beautiful guitars I’ve wrangled music from with my unsteady fingers. Eleven is the number of years I’ve played, six since the recording of my first EP.

Eighty-nine. The number of original songs languishing between the covers of a plain white binder. Each melody, every chord, and every lyric erupted from somewhere deep within me and splashed itself across the page. There’s a private story for every song, a layer underneath resonating with truth. Occasionally I’ll share the story when asked, but more often than not I’ll settle for the songs to be open to interpretation. It remains to be seen if they’ll ever be committed to recording. Each one brings up a new memory of the head-space in which I used to live. A darker place.

Four. The number of published articles I’ve written. Some better than others, but each one a part of me. I never thought I would make any money at all from writing, but occasionally I tell myself that maybe there’s something to this. Maybe there’s a reason I spent my entire childhood locked away in a world of books, using them as substitutes for the friends I didn’t have. Maybe my love of language and lust for the perfect sarcastic sentence isn’t all for naught. I tell myself that, and keep writing. Fifty-five is the number of blog posts I’ve published since starting this journey.

Thirty. The number of days in November, the month of NaNoWriMo. Say what you want about the quality of writing one can wrangle in such a small amount of time, but as long as it’s creative gasoline fueling literary fire, it’s a wonderful thing. I wonder if all writers are frightened procrastinators and think it might just be me, so next month I’ll be speed-writing the book I’ve been afraid to talk about. Not editing, not judging, just pouring out the story and characters that have been living in my head for so long. Setting them free, to live on the page before I go in with my editor’s knife and chop bits of them away to discard and trim the story.

One hundred twenty-four. The number of days since I last bought a pack of cigarettes and used them to slowly destroy myself. I’ve found new ways to tame the demons in the attic of my mind, using gum and tea to appease my oral fixation. I couldn’t even count the number of cups of tea I’ve consumed recently. Occasionally I’ll be doing something mundane like cleaning the bathroom at work and I’ll be hit by a wave of craving so big it could be classified as a tsunami. I wait, and it dissipates.

One. The number of lives I’ve been given, to spend however I choose. Do I choose to be afraid to seek that which fulfills me? Do I choose the banal over the spectacular? How many minutes will I waste on things that don’t matter to me, things that will never bring me joy, peace or knowledge? None. Beginning today.

There is no point living if the life is not one of my own design.

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Sorting out my life by writing about it.

6 thoughts on “Game Of Numbers.

  1. I’m impressed. I showed your blog today to an Aussie friend (human – not Australian Shepherd…though it’s a valid query).

    “She’s a battler,” he said. The highest Antipodean compliment.

    I can relate to so much of what you’ve written. I stopped taking narcotic pain meds in June, partly because they were becoming ineffective, and partly because I wanted my own mind back. Didn’t count the days, though. Quitting smoking is hard. I know!

    4 – number of hours since my last cheap cigar. My doctor said I should smoke them for pain and nausea, and when I asked about the long-term effects, he said, “You don’t HAVE a long term.”

    26 – number of dogs we care for. They give me meaning.

    ? – number of years since I’ve last deliberately burned myself. I used to think it was tough, like the scene in “Lawrence of Arabia” where a trooper, aping lawrence, holds a lit match until it burns his fingers. “Ow!” he says. “That ‘urts! What’s the trick, then?”

    “The trick is not minding that it hurts.” I didn’t realize that I was seeing how deep my emotional numbness really extended.

    16 – number of years since my biological mother’s husband died. This month, actually. hard to see anyone die, but it was hard to mourn the passing of a man who drowned my brother’s kittens.

    And that’s enough, I suppose.

    Jennifer, you have my unqualified admiration. Look up courage in the dictionary, and they’ll find your picture. I’m not kidding. I know the road you walked, and walk.

    1. I really can’t put into words how much your comments mean to me. And I thank your friend for calling me a battler, because I do feel like I’ve been fighting my entire life. You and I both know what it’s like to walk the roughest paths in life, and somehow we’ve managed to hang on and press on even when it seems like the very universe is working against us.

      There is no greater friend or enemy than the inner workings of a person’s own mind. It’s incredibly difficult to come to a place where you’re kind to yourself, and forgiving of your own faults. Although I may seem like a tough person, I know there are many more people out there fighting harder battles and contending with things I could never imagine facing. But we all fight our own battles, I suppose. What might seem like nothing to one person might completely devastate someone else. To me, you are far braver than I could ever be. I’m proud of you for getting off narcotics! My father was addicted to prescription medications (he had to take them after his kidney transplant and he had a lot of other medical problems as well) so I know how difficult that can be, especially when those meds help you manage your pain. So major kudos! It makes me sad that a doctor told you you don’t have a long term. I mean, no one ever really knows when their time is up and in the end, none of us really has a “long term” anyway — it just seems to me that’s a harsh thing to say to someone.

      I definitely miss cheap cigars. My favorite were flavored Prime Times.

      Dogs are my favorite animal and I wish I was allowed to have one in my apartment. Good on you for taking care of 26! That’s a whole lot of puppy love.

      Self-harm is a subject I’ve rarely delved into publicly (by which I mean I don’t usually talk about it) because it tends to make people pity me and that’s something I cannot stand. Congratulations on no longer burning yourself! People don’t seem to realize that folks who turn to self harm are usually doing it because they’re numb inside and need to feel something. Even the people deemed “attention-seeking” are still in need of help and it can be really difficult to stop harming because that quick rush of endorphins can be very addictive. It’s a terrible quick fix for a deeper problem and I’m proud of you for stopping, too.

      Your biological mother’s husband doesn’t sound like a good person at all. Anyone who hurts animals is disgusting. I can relate to that feeling of “it’s sad when anyone dies but I’m not sorry to see him go” because that’s exactly how I feel about my abuser. He’s passed on and while I don’t allow any anger toward him to linger, I wasn’t particularly upset when he passed on. I was relieved, actually, because I knew I’d never have to fear seeing him again.

      You have no idea how much I admire your courage, and thank you so much for your kind words. You make it easier for me to write about this stuff, get it out of my head and let it go. If my photo is in the dictionary with “courage”, yours is there, and it’s also next to the entry for “kindhearted”.

      At the end of the day, it’s a relief to know I do not walk this road alone.

  2. You deserve to love yourself freely. You are special, wonderful, full of talent and insight. I lost my mother at 4, my whole world. I was angry for years, but it does no good. I focus on the good now. It takes constant work, constant effort, constant mindfulness. You sound like you are on the right path, and I’m very happy for you. Hear the good words.

    1. Thank you very much. Your words have touched my heart, and it helps to know that other people have been through similar things and have come out on the other side intact. 🙂 Losing a parent is something no one is ever prepared for, no matter what their age, but I know that in my case my father was suffering and passing on was probably a relief for him — he could stop fighting and finally rest. I try to live a life that would make him and my mother proud, but is also personally fulfilling, and in a way it’s fun to try different things and see where they take me. I’m learning to be kinder to myself every day — I think self-acceptance might be one of the hardest lessons to learn in this life.

      Thank you so very much for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate your kindness. 🙂

      1. We all deserve kindness, and your words made my heart ache. So many of us are quietly unhappy. We need to speak our story, accept support and then give support to others. That’s so much better than quiet pain.

        I’m sure your dad would be proud of you, and he is probably watching over you right now. I read that butterflies are messengers from loved ones that passed away. I smile at butterflies. I also light a candle on my mother’s birthday. I wish you luck and love on your journey, too. 🙂 Warmly, Brenda

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