Me and Numbers: Sizing Up A Dysfunctional Relationship


I put on my favorite jeans the other day.  Joe’s.  Skinny leg, but not too skinny.  I got them almost two years ago and I wear them like it’s my job. 

But now I love them less.  As I was sliding my right leg in, I noticed the tag.  You know the one where the size is written in 6-font.  I always thought they were size X, but actually, the size was X+1.  For almost two years I loved these jeans for how they make my stumpy legs look almost longish and my C-section pouch look flatter than the Dakotas.  But I also loved them because they were “only” size X.  Now that they are actually one size larger, I love ‘em a little less.

Can we all agree that’s messed up?

From the same section of my broken brain comes this little gem:

I was running home from work yesterday.  It was brighter than high noon, even though it was 5:30.  The wind was at my back, I didn’t have on eight layers of fleece and Gortex.  I was blissing out and saying prayers of gratitude for the exquisite run after all the winter horribleness. 

I was also timing myself.  My first two half-miles were solid.  The next two I ran about 15 seconds slower, but the blue waters of the Lake and the sunshine glinting off the museum campus was so gorgeous I didn’t really care. I mean, I cared because I can’t not care, but I was still smiling and grooving along. 

As I turned to head the half mile back home, my thumb hit my stop watch function on my phone and erased all my “data” from the run.  Not the memory of the sunlight on the lake or the joy of my body moving through time and space.  But the numbers.  The splits.  The proof that I was keep up a 8:30/mi pace.  Gone.
And just like that, the run was diminished– less than what it was when I could look down and see the stats.  It became a French fry with no ketchup; a pizza with no cheese, or a wallet with no Costco card.

Again, can we all agree that’s messed up?

The question is where do I begin to fix this?


14 thoughts on “Me and Numbers: Sizing Up A Dysfunctional Relationship

  1. I would say to focus on the good stuff– the way the jeans make you feel, the memory of the gorgeous day that was yesterday… but I completely understand what you’re saying and when you find the ultimate fix, please let me know.

  2. I find I have a similar relationship with clocks, and an unexplainable belief that everything should end on the quarter hour. I want to spend half an hour on something, but it’s 10 minutes to the hour so I’ll only spend 25 minutes so the timer goes off at precisely 15 minutes past. That’s weird but I don’t seem to be able to re-wire my brain.

  3. It’s gorgeous today, too! I’m on the train heading down for some fun. I know what you mean by the jeans. It’s an illusion. Shouldn’t matter (however, it does) because of the way they make us feel BUT… I’m screwed up right with you. I’m not a runner for time but I won’t get off my spin bike for ANYTHING until I see the caloric output! I GET it. Hope you’re running today!

  4. It’s your lucky day! I happen to know the EXACT answer to your question. You fix it by noticing it. It’s really your lucky day because I can tell you’ve already been doing that. In fact, you’ve noticed a pattern! And then what did you do with it? You brought it to light. You shared it. You judged it as something you weren’t so happy with in your life, but you didn’t completely beat yourself up. Notice, pass judgment, move on. It’s genius. It’s what I think Wendy would tell me to do. It’s what I would do (right after obsessing over WHY I do this, is it my childhood?, is it the mean girls from 6th grade? and HOW do I stop, do I need more therapy? more self-discipline? more compassion? [please note how I always think I need more of something, which reveals an underlying sense that I’m not enough exactly the way I am], after I obsessed for a few hours, I’d email you in an effort to extend the life of the obsessing — breathe some new life into it with your input. But right after all that. I’d notice it, pass judgment and move on. Totally.

  5. I think you fix it by writing stuff like this. By owning it. Also, there’s no woman in the world that doesn’t obsess a little over the size of her pants, and no runner on the planet who doesn’t care, at least a little bit, about the numbers on the watch. You’re in good company.

  6. Building a life based on measuring (test scores, race pace, heart rate, weight, iq, class ranking, pages read, salary) it’s inevitable. As Carinn noted, the fact that you observed, called it out, and appealed for change means you’re on the way. Or not. I ran the other day and my phone died halfway through. I knew time I left, I knew time I returned, and I knew mileage precisely. But the app didn’t calculate the number for me. The ending was disappointing because the expected screen with expected graphic and expected processes didn’t mark the expexted ending. So? Habit. Back to my original comment about lifelong measuring. Habit.

    Nothing wrong with habits unless you think less of yourself because of the results.

  7. I would be upset about the jeans size too, which is why we’re friends haha, but I’m focused on making those numbers mean less also. Not easy. As for the data being erased, I get that, too because it’s an achievement – something to mark off the list as “done and won.” BUT, the fact that you recognized the the beauty around you was more important than the numbers means you did win : ) Hooray!

  8. that picture takes me back to a recurring nightmare I had as a kid, single digits coming at me out of the fog, like the stars at the beginning of Star Trek (before Star Trek aired, though), and just like this pic, single digits, and of different sizes . . . God, it terrified me. I think it’s why I sucked at math.

  9. Currently putting off buying new jeans for fear of the number (which is kind of crazy because I have several different numbers, different brands that all fit which is strong empirical data to defend the don’t worry about the number theorists). So I bought shoes. Very safe for the ego. And now I’m pretty jealous of your 8:30s because I’m not there. I quit watching my run numbers & I quit racing because I was losing sight of the good parts of running. Whatever the pace whatever the distance it’s better than not getting out there. Why is awareness so unsettling? Thanks for showing me it’s not just me. Maybe a few more runs & I can face the denim boutiques again.

  10. Don’t take your stopwatch on your next run. Seriously. And, maybe, just do the whole thing as a photo-walk. Take a picture or 2 to remind yourself of the scenery & the weather that you enjoy on your run?

    I am in the process of getting back into a shape other than round. But I refuse to weigh myself because the numbers make me neurotic, watching every little ounce that goes up & down. I go by how I feel in my skin, how my clothes feel on my body, to tell me that I’m being successful.

    Stay away from the numbers for a while- give yourself a chance to see if you like it, and if you find that the competition with yourself is part of that enjoyment? Then that’s just what does it for you, and you can go back to the stopwatch, knowing that you are just a competitive person!

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