Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Numbers Game

The days are rare wherein you have few opinions lurking about and those you do have are mildness personified.  This condition may be the result of you being a writer.  Of equal potential, because this condition is true, you may have been given extra nudges and shoves toward where you are today.

Days which begin with your opinion appetite tuned on low do not become productive work days until you either take control and form an opinion about something or some object sharing digs with you does not work as you believe it ought, resulting in a pithy opinion.

Such awareness of yourself brought with it the understanding that journalism was not the best possible career path for you, but that is of little importance to you because journalism was no more than a six or seven out of ten on your preference chart, which continues to use 1 as little or no interest and 10 being the highest achievable plateau.

At one point when you were recovering from having some cancerous tissue excised from your body, a nurse came by to ask if you were in any pain.  When you said, “Fuck yes,” she asked you to give her a more measurable index, say somewhere on a scale of one to ten.  There were two, possibly three days where you answer was11.  When all the cancer business had been put to rest, the need arose for you to trade in the right hip you were originally issued for a ball and socket of titanium, resulting in another kind of conversation with another nurse, this time when you assessed your pain level at a minus 1, which you meant in all sincerity, because there was a glorious non-drug-induced sense of not only no pain but a greater sense of comfort than before.

These matters were respectively eight and a half years ago (let people who’ve recovered from cancer tell you they’re so relieved, they’ve stopped counting) and seven years ago respectively, the former being the excision of cancerous tissue, the latter coming after your recovery led your oncologist to believe you would be around long enough to make the new hip a worthwhile enterprise.

When you are repairing yourself after such surgical interventions, you tend to think existential thoughts, one of them in your case relating to the scale or one to ten kind of metric.  In a real sense, looking about you, you could (and indeed sometimes do) visualize numbers all about you.  The new waitress at the Café Luna is about 9.5, for instance, which makes for a kind of algebraic equation because the coffee at the Café Luna is about a 6.5 or 7, while the coffee at Peet’s is an unquestioned 10, but while the baristas at Peet’s are splendid individuals, they are not 9.5 in the sense that the new waitress at Café Luna is.

You sometimes tell yourself that you spend time at Café Luna because they’ve sold so many of your recent book there, and because their salad Nicoise is an 8 or 9 while the best you can get at Peet’s is their oatmeal, which is a 6 or 7 while the oatmeal at Peet’s is an 8.  The barista at Peet’s often gives you more dried blueberries with your oatmeal, but the chef at Cafe Luna gives you fresh strawberries, and last week, there was even a fresh apricot.


The reach of your observation is that you are somewhat picky and choosy in your tastes, liking fewer things and people than you dislike.  In fairness to the two nurses who presented you with this one-to-ten pain scale, anything 4 or under you do not like, 5 you are a tad over neutral and leaning toward positive about.  You are not in complete comfort with the fact of the new waitress at Café Luna being a 9.5, but you are philosophical.

You are also aware that you find encouraging amounts of energy available when you write about something you think of as a 4 or less, a fact that causes you to appreciate the 7s and 8s and 9s of the world about you, animal, mineral, vegetable, and human.  At the market this evening, you bought a small bunch of broccolini, which was at least an 8 and, when done with a good olive oil and some garlic and a linguini, make an 8 or 9 supper.

Sunsets this time of year are 8s or 9s, a novel you just finished reading was an 8, and you had a wonderful conversation with a book designer who you rank at a 9.

Your dog is a 10, you’re working away at a course proposal for a class on noir fiction in which the subject matter is a 9 or 10 and the proposal so far is getting up to the 9 level because you’re thinking perhaps there is a book in this subject.  You would not wish to write a book that would come out as anything less than 9 and for which you saw a potential of 10.

The balance sheet for you has more things and persons and places as 5 or less, but there are 9s and 10s in orbit about you most days, and so you can say with accuracy that life is running 8 or9 with occasional glimpses of 10, and opportunities to work toward making projects and events 10.

Some days don’t seem to want to be more than 5s or 6s, but on balance such days are rare.  With a little nudge, say taking off on something or someone who is a 3 or 4, you get a little fire going in the boiler and before you know it, you’re on your way to 7 or 8.

1 comment:

Querulous Squirrel said...

As a therapist, the pain scale of 1-10 is also used for anxiety and depression. I remember asking a five-year-old how scary his nightmares were on a scale of 1-10 and he said: "One to ten? That doesn't go high enough. For me, it has to be one to a hundred." To a psychologists, they are both the same scale. To a little boy, and to a writer, well, they are a whole other story.