I count everything; it is a small, and I hope harmless obsession.
I count words. I have to, as a writer, especially considering that my personal motto seems to be "why use ten words when a hundred will do?" It is more granular now, counting not words but characters in a text, though they keep changing the rules and I have no idea how many characters are allowed in text. My son thinks me very unhip for not knowing.
I count steps - both the move-yourself-forward-from-one-place-to-another as well as the move-yourself-up-an-down-in-a-building. There are fourteen steps to a floor in my building. There are 1,500 between me and the nearest Starbucks.
I use six grape tomatoes in my salad, cut in half. Always. If there are olives, there are five.
I count calories, points and carbs in some complicated kabbalistic iteration. I am not as obsessed with this as I should be, as the pounds on my scale will attest. I count pills out and calculate how many ccs of insulin I need to take. I am much more religious about counting these out, and I resent every one of them.
I have 852 friends on Facebook and 28,732 people have viewed my blog. I am not particularly proud that I know these things, but I do, nonetheless. Just checked - make that 28,797 views. And since I was checking, I have 87 drafts and 193 published posts there. I counted once, about 4 months ago; there were about 80,000 words then. I'm guessing (and yes, I'm sure I'll check after I've done writing this) there are another 10,000 words since. Maybe more.
It has been 8,066 days since my last drink. Twenty-two years and a month, exactly. I could do the hours and minutes, but that's not a an accurate picture. In the early days of my sobriety, time didn't function well. There were a few passes through eternity then. Ad even now, every once in a while, there are minutes, or hours or days that seem to stretch well beyond the borders they are supposed to measure.
Three years, eleven months and 30 days ago my brother died. I would give anything to stop counting those days. Or rather, to have no reason to count them. Thing is, 1,460 is just a way station. Tomorrow the count will be one more than that, and one more the next day, and on and on. it is a meaningless, impossibly difficult calculus. Tomorrow will be his English yahrzeit. I will mark it. I will remember and perhaps cry. And I will relive it, this sadness and mindful remembrance, in a few weeks - in eighteen days, to be exact, for his Hebrew yahrzeit. Lucky me.
I count, and I measure, and I count again. I add time and things and steps - as if any of this mattered. As I walk through this month of Elul, and dive a little deeper bend the light around me differently, live my days more mindfully - none of that counting matters. For me, it is an attempt, sometimes clever, sometimes manic, but always, always, always - it is my attempt to control my life. It is not a calculus of grief, nor am I solving for X. My counting is so much more hopeless: a magical incantation to make all of the disparate and desperate strands of my life fit neatly on the little boxes I have labeled for them.
I cannot control all of those pieces. I can't. I have learned that lesson again and again. Life - and death - are what they are: a perfect tautology, but true nonetheless. Where I find peace, where I find that place of comfort and I fit inside my own skin - it is when I stop counting, when I stop focusing on all of the things that measure, and let my life - and all of the swirling pieces that fill it so fully - just come. Just flow. I am not here to measure my life. I am here, with all the grace I can muster, to live it.
(c) Stacey Zisook Robinson