More than a number
Photo used with Creative Commons license from user http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbowen/
Dear Evan and Lulu,
I was 16 years old the first time I made a deal with the devil. I was standing in my parents’ bathroom and the devil was lying on the floor motionless and calling out to me. It was peach colored and looked as if it had once been covered in sparkles that were dimmed from footprints and dirt clad shoes. It sat cold and silent with a shiny handle and it made mechanical noises when you stood upon it. My devil came in the form of a scale.
When on that scale at the age of 16 I watched its red line waiver back and forth between two numbers and my life teetered each direction with it. I wrapped all of myself up in those teetering numbers and I made myself a promise with my entire 16 year old heart. I told myself if that line ever passed 160 lbs I would starve myself.
I don’t take promises lightly, even at a young age, and unfortunately it was one I lived up to. As I grew and expanded in every sense of life, that line eventually found its way past those numbers. I starved the line. I exercised the line. I dieted the line, stuffed the line, purged the line, and did everything in and out of my power to will that line to move to the other side of 160. Eventually, with the assistance of many people who loved me enough to help, I forgot why that line ever had existed. I forgot that I once thought I was nothing more than a number.
There is nothing like losing function to part of your body to make you really appreciate what it can do. In January of this year I tore off a piece of cartilage in my knee resulting in 9 months of surgery, crutches, rehab, physical therapy, doctors visits, limited mobility, general crankiness and at times all out misery. I dreamt almost every night about running. About my body moving in the way it was intended to. Moving in ways that it could no longer even remember doing. I heard whispers in the back of my mind that echoed the devil I had dealt with years before. Whispers that tried to tell me I was just a number and a large, sad, lazy one at that.
To silence those whispers I started counting numbers of my own, the numbers that I choose to remember. Two. The number of times my body stretched to make room for the giant spirits the two of you would bring into this world. Thirteen. The number of miles my body once traveled when I forced it to finish a half marathon. Thirty-one. The number of years my body has continued to let me experience this life, regardless of what the scale says. Seventy-six. A rough estimate of the number of your soccer games my body has allowed me to watch. Three. The number of nephews I have that I want to play with till I’m old and gray. Fifty. The number of miles I want to trek with Mike when we visit Machu Picchu. Five. The number of times my body has successfully driven us to urgent care for Evan. Infinity. The number Lulu says she loves me to. All of those numbers added together make up more than 160. In more ways than one. The only number I want to add to any of those experiences right now is zero.
The number of times I hope you will think that you are just a number.