People Aren’t Like Numbers and That’s a Good Thing (Guest Post by Thea van Diepen)

mathI don’t like messy, hard stuff. I’m not particularly fond of struggle.

But I’m beginning to learn that the reason I relax when I do long division, or when I multiply two, three, and/or four digit numbers is because the thing I don’t like about messy, hard stuff is that I can’t control it.

Numbers are a way for me to control things, to control the outcome. If this and this, then this and that.

It always works, because numbers don’t lie.

But appearances do.

Things seem the way we want them to be, people that appear to be the best friends we could hope for but… everything cracks. Everything has flaws.

Everything that matters is messy.

And the thing that sucks isn’t that it’s messy, either. The thing that sucks is that the only way to really wade into the messy and solve anything,

the only way to look at it with compassion and treat yourself with love

is to let go of how things are supposed to be and accept what is instead.

To accept that you haven’t a clue what to do, only that something has to be done, and that you want things to turn out for everyone’s good, as much as possible.

To accept that you can’t fix anyone.

To accept that the only way you can heal is if you stop telling yourself that you’re broken.

To accept that, sometimes, people aren’t willing to deal with their behaviour that hurt you. They’re not ready to wade into the messy.

And you have to accept that you can’t make them do it.

Even if it’s the best decision they could ever make.

Especially if it’s the best decision they could ever make.

There are certain people I want to put into an algorithm. If I can just solve for x, maybe I’ll figure them out. Maybe I’ll figure out why I get triggered by them. Maybe I’ll figure out why they always say one thing and then do another.

Maybe, if I just run the numbers often enough, everything will make sense and I won’t have to be in pain anymore.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Messy things – they don’t make sense. I can’t tell sometimes if that’s my fault or the other person’s. But I know that that’s part of the problem; looking for someone to blame will never make our hurts go away. It’ll only make us think we need to punish someone for it. Until they’re punished enough, we hold onto the pain.

Except that’s the problem: they never get punished enough. And so we end up being the only one who dies inside a little at a time.

There are a few people in my life right now that I don’t know how to deal with. There’s a lot of pain and it’s all mixed up and confusing. I want to know why it’s there because, if I can figure out the cause, then I can run the numbers and work out how to solve the effect, too.

The problem is that picking which algorithm to use will betray my bias. And I feel like I have to be the perfect one in this equation. I have to be the constant. I can’t have real feelings, emotions, opinions about the problem, because I can’t risk being wrong and messing it all up.

The thing about math is that you can always find the right number, and you always know what the right number is when you’ve found it. There’s ways to check it, to test it. Divide a large number by a small number and, to check, multiply the answer by the small number. Voila, you have the big number.

I know what the rules are in math.

People are different.

I can’t help but wonder if the real problem isn’t that they hurt me

but that I can’t do anything until I stop trying to be perfect,

stop trying to be the one who solves everything right for everyone

without slipping up,

be the one makes everyone happy

so they don’t have to bear the burden – I, alone, will do it and they will have peace.

When did I decide that other people couldn’t be part of the solution, only the problem?

It occurs to me that the way I did math in school was the wrong way. I had to do it all. I had to be right the first time. I couldn’t release it to anyone else unless it was perfect (or at least as perfect as I could make it) (except it had to be perfect). It always had to be evaluated. And it didn’t matter what happened, every mistake was my fault. My responsibility. My problem to solve.

I had to be the one to fill all the holes. No one else was capable or willing.

And that is a shitty, abusive way of thinking.

People, unlike numbers, are smart. They make decisions. We make decisions. Other people are capable of coming up with solutions, of working together with me to find things I couldn’t find on my own.

And other people are capable.

And other people can forgive.

And I never had to be perfect or in control.

And other people’s problems don’t have to be solved for me to be happy.

Numbers are objects that we manipulate. And that’s good. People are active agents who manipulate numbers. And that’s good.

There’s someone who’s coming to see me tomorrow. I’m not a number. She’s not a number. We’re people.

So let’s talk.

Photo credit: Sam Sakaluk
Photo credit: Sam Sakaluk

Thea van Diepen hails from the snowy land of Canada and that fairest of cities, Edmonton, Alberta. She is, of course, completely unbiased due to her Bachelor’s in psychology (wait, that’s not how that works…) and is also obsessed with Doctor Who, Orphan Black, and nerdy language things.

Thea is the author of The Illuminated Heart, a retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, except with Norse zombies and a girl angry with God for the death (and undeath) of her brother. If she were ever to grow up, she wants to be boring so as to provide an example as to why growing up is a terrible career choice.

The Illuminated Heart
The Illuminated Heart by Thea van Diepen














Image Credit:

Stock image of math notebook by Scott S. (Flickr ID-scui3asteveo)


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