Anxiety likes numbers.
I only recently realized that a lot of my anxiety fixates on meaningless numbers. I like to know how many there are of a particular thing and then attach meanings – usually sinister, sometimes hopeful, always unreasonable – to these numbers.
How many words are in this column? Six hundred exactly. Why are there 600 words? Because I once read that 600 words was a good length for a column, I have always written exactly 600. Never more. Never less. But if my wonderful editor suggests I let an extra word in or suggests a hyphen that makes two words become one, does this bother me? I am proud to tell you this does not bother me – very much.
How many pounds do I weigh? How many pounds should I weigh? Does the fact that I weigh less today mean I am at a better weight? If I weigh less tomorrow, would that be better still? How many days would it be better? When would it no longer be better? Because there is no exact answer to this question, I’ve decided it’s better not to weigh myself. Instead, I take notice if I can no longer get into my pants.
How many steps have I taken? How many should I take? Should it bother me that I took 500 fewer steps today than I took yesterday? Should I try to take 500 more tomorrow? What if that works out to be an odd number? Wouldn’t it be better if it were a nice even number? Should I run around the bed a few times until there are at least two zeros at the end of whatever number it is? For obvious reasons, I have never had a fitness watch. It was my brother-in-law who pointed out that a watch that counted my steps would be a very bad idea. I was a little embarrassed that he knew me so well.
Waiting also increases anxiety, and that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m waiting to see if a publisher is interested in my first novel. How many days will it take an editor to read my novel before replying? How many days would it take them if they liked it? How many days will it take them if they hated it? At what hour of the day will I know that I am waiting for nothing? Will I ever know?
This is a very long process – and I knew it would be. But knowing something will take a long time and actually waiting for it – day by day, week by week, sometimes minute by minute – is a very different thing. It makes me worry more about other things – like whether I have more or less hair than I used to and how much sugar I am eating. It makes me take longer walks than usual, and it makes me grateful to my brother-in-law, once again, because I do not have a fitness watch.
Instead, I just walk. I realize that whatever I weigh, it’s about right. I realize that, in reality, I have not been waiting very long for publishers to read. I realize that my hair is actually looking pretty good these days (a stranger even gave me a compliment!), and I probably don’t need to worry about going bald. And, after enough steps (although I cannot tell you how many), I realize, once again, what a lucky girl I am to be able to do all these wonderful things and have all these wonderful opportunities.
I’d tell you more, but I’ve hit 600 words – exactly.
Till next time,