Blessings # 26 – Z is for zero

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Sue

15 thoughts on “Blessings # 26 – Z is for zero

  1. Jasmine Dale April 20, 2020 / 11:44 am

    Thank you!!!

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  2. tidalscribe April 20, 2020 / 12:30 pm

    I love the idea of nothing not existing. I don’t have a maths degree, but I like the idea of maths as something that naturally existed before humans got to grips with it. I also wonder how far you can go with maths, into infinity? Working out how to send unmanned space craft to the edge of the solar system or how to measure millionths of a millimetre!

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    • Going Batty in Wales April 21, 2020 / 9:31 am

      As I understand it Maths started as something very practical – how many sheep have I got? How long did it take me to walk here? How big is that field – bigger or smaller than mine? I wss good at getting the ideas of maths as a child but made lots of ‘careless mistakes’ which I now know is because I am a bit dyslexic with numbers and tend to reverse digits especially if tired or stressed (and quite careless too!) But University maths is not about numbers but solving intellectual puzzles and games with symbols. Sometimes the ideas that generates prove useful to other scientists – modelling a pandemic or how to get your rocket to meet your space station. If you can stick it out through ‘a bath fills at the arte of… and the plug hole is … ‘ It becomes just fun in the end.

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  3. tialys April 20, 2020 / 12:53 pm

    Wow, is that 26 already? i’ve really enjoyed reading these thank you.
    I found the explanation of the ‘invention’ of zero interesting as I’d never really though about it before.
    I also like the ‘mulling space’ walking the dogs gives me and I keep mine on the lead too which I never used to but I worry too much if they disappear off into the woods. Not that they won’t come back but I worry about what are they chasing, will they do it any harm, will it do them any harm (we have wild boar around here a-plenty) which certainly doesn’t help with any ‘mulling’. So, even though they almost pull my arms out of their sockets occasionally, i prefer to keep them near me.

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    • Going Batty in Wales April 21, 2020 / 9:35 am

      I am rally glad you enjoyed the series. It was a fun challenge to set myself and has given rise to a lot of thoughts which I need to walk into order! I keep my dogs on their leads because as well as wildlife we encounter escaped sheep from time to time. They are expert at getting out of the field and clueless about getting back in. Orchid, the lurcher, would chase and catch a lamb anticipating a good dinner and Roo would round them up. So for my peace of mind they have to be under my control.

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  4. Rayna April 20, 2020 / 12:55 pm

    These Zero Times are so precious. And I really ‘get’ that extra pause when a solution has appeared to you, and still the opportunity is left for an even better version to emerge. It works!
    Thank you so much for the full alphabet, Sue, really interesting and inspiring! ❤

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    • Going Batty in Wales April 21, 2020 / 9:38 am

      Thank you Rayna! I have found it an interesting challenge and it has set me thinking too. I will be quite glad though to take the pressure off myself to write a post every day. I hope you find my future, more spaced out ones, as interesting.

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  5. Sue Joseph April 20, 2020 / 1:32 pm

    I have really enjoyed your Blessings blogs Sue. We have very different lives and the mere thought of maths to degree level is terrifying! I totally agree about thinking time and have so often found the answers to perplexing problems both professional and personal whilst sleeping or doing housework, cupboard cleaning works for me, this is particularly useful when trying to puzzle out how to do things one handed and opposite to what still feels normal. I am also addicted to lists and always over estimate what can be achieved. Those Zero times are so important thank you for reminding us of them and many other things in the course of your alphabet. x

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    • Going Batty in Wales April 21, 2020 / 9:40 am

      Thank you Sue. I am always impressed with how much you manage to do with only one useable arm. I had hoped we could get together this summer but who knows? I suspect that we will be encouraged to be a lot less sociable for a long time.

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  6. Laurie Graves April 20, 2020 / 1:41 pm

    Wonderful information about zero. Pausing, or stepping back, is important for many creative endeavors. I have really enjoyed your alphabet series. Every single one was not only a great pleasure to read but also for food for thought. I am sorry this series is over. But I will be eagerly waiting for whatever you write about next.

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    • Going Batty in Wales April 21, 2020 / 9:40 am

      Thank you Laurie. I have really enjoyed reading your comments and having your encouragement.

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  7. anne54 April 20, 2020 / 10:08 pm

    Calling it Zero Time is great; the marker, the place holder between the problem and the solution. Someone I read wrote that in that time ideas dance and collide, and the solution comes to the surface.
    I have enjoyed your alphabet too, although there were some I missed.This Z post is a clever way to deal with a tricky letter!

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    • Going Batty in Wales April 21, 2020 / 9:46 am

      That image of ideas dancing and colliding is lovely! I do online jigsaws sometimes when I am too tied to read of craft. Occasionally as I move pieces around 2 will click together and I sometimes think that is what happens in the darker recesses of my brain but dancing sounds much more fun! The idea for Z was a dog walk inspiration!

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  8. DawnGillDesigns April 21, 2020 / 9:27 am

    Well done!! I found my alphabet harder than I expected, I hope you enjoyed creating yours as much as I enjoyed reading it. TTFN, hugs, Dawn

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