Zero is the Johnny-come-lately of the number world. If you are a farmer counting your sheep or cows and can’t see any you are too panicked because they have all strayed to wory about how to write down ‘none’! It was merchants and beuraucrats who had to devise it. Originally you would have written a hundred and three as 1 3 with a space for ‘no tens’. But unless you were very carful it could easily look like 13. It is why we give small children squared paper for arithmetic (and sometimes I think I should have some too!) So people started drawing a space and 0 was born. giving 103 which is much clearer.
During my Maths degree I would look at a problem set for homework, get as far as I could from the beginning and get stuck; work back from the end and get stuck; then go to bed. By morning I usually had a line of the equation which was not obviously connected but by setting it as a ‘waypoint’ I would be able to find the whole solution. Then when my children were babies we had cork tiles throughout the ground floor of our tiny Victoran terraced cottage. If I was worrying about something I would get down on my hands and knees and polish them. John would come in and slip and slither to the back door then say ‘OK so what was the problem and what is the answer?’! I don’t have Maths problems now or cork tiles but the principle remains.
In X is for Xmas and other festivals (read it here if you missed it) I explained that I value having points in the year when I stop and step out of the routine to take stock, celebrate and have fun.
In the same way I need to do that during the day. As Rose would say ‘And breathe!’ But I find it incredibly hard to do nothing. My mind races with lists and reminders; I get up muttering ‘Ill just…’ I have tried to learn to meditate and I am getting better but it certainly doesn’t come naturally! Instead I need things which keep my body and the moment by moment part of my brain active so that the deeper parts can get on with processing what has been going on and fiddle around looking for solutions.
First thing in the morning I make myself a cup of tea using the kettle by my bed and sit enjoying the warmth of the duvet, the comfort of my pillows and allow myself to think about the day ahead. At that stage I can do it without the length of the ‘to do’ list snapping at my heels because I have all day to do it in (and I always fantasise that I will be able to do far more than I ever actually can) and none of the interruptions and unexpecteds have happened yet.
My walk with the dogs is when bigger problems or decisions get their chance. Yes, I am noticing the scenery around me paying attention to what the dogs are doing but they are on their leads so I don’t have to watch them really closely. Just putting one foot in front of the other is enough to create ‘mulling’ space.
In the evenings I knit, sew or crochet. Often I listen to a radio podcast but sometmes I get to the end of the evening and realise that I haven’t played anything. Of course that is sometimes because I need to count stitches or keep looking at the pattern but sometimes all I have done is rows and rows of stocking stitch or a flower of hexies. That rhythmic movement really works for me!
Pushing for solutions leaves me frustrated, adds to the feelings of panic, has me going round in ever decreasing circles. Stopping and putting it to the back of my mind allows me to be creative and if I can be patient the solution will reveal itself. If I can then let it simmer a bit longer before DOING anything an even better one may emerge.
So I need lots of zeros in my life – defined and contained spaces to stop me getting muddled.
Well, there it is 26 posts in 26 days. Thank you to all those of you who have stuck with me and those who have joined. A special thanks to those of you who have taken the trouble to comment – I have really enjoyed reading them. Normal sporadic service will now be resumed but I hope you will continue to keep me company.