Tuesday, February 22, 2011


We all have our priorities...they vary from home to home. 

At the moment, I'm trying to focus on what it is my priorities are actually all about.  And, to be honest, they are really pretty simple.  I want my children to be healthy, happy and well adjusted. I would prefer for my children not be to harmed permanently or killed ever again.  I would like my husband to be able to enjoy a life of contentment with work that is fulfilling and compensated well, with friends that nourish and support him.  I'd like to know my home is not only safe and cozy but also functional.  I'd like more time to brush my sweet Ferdinand.  I'd like time to walk and talk each day with my best friend and lover; and I'd like to live a nice long life with him, preferably into our 90's as healthy and mentally in tact elders.  I need wholesome food, and the time to create dishes that are economical and tasty. I'd love to be able to pay my bills, and maybe even save a little from time to time... I'd also like to finish my degree. 

It's that last one that is bugging me today.  Finishing my degree.

What does that entail?  Well...I used to think that it simply meant that I would jump from hoop to hoop, easily passing courses, as I usually do, and that effort would one day result in a silly little piece of paper that proclaimed I had successfully jumped through all the collegiate hoops required to be a professional someone.

However...there is one hoop that is tripping me up.

One hoop that may prevent me from achieving my goal.

One hoop that threatens all my educational plans and mocks the amount of loan money I've taken out thinking I would be able to pay it back once I had my degree.

One hoop....called Linear Algebra.

As I write the word...I shudder.  Linear Algebra.  It sounds like a weird disease you wouldn't want to catch.  Linear Algebra.

I have a math disability.  This means that while I score in the 98th percentile for all other subjects, (a genius I tell you!)  I also happen to score in the 3rd percentile for math ability.  Not the 30th.  The 3rd.  This doesn't mean I can't do simple equations.  It doesn't mean I don't understand concepts.  It means that I can not compete with normal brains in the realm of upper level math.  Even lower level math is hard for me.  It's not a matter of practice.  I practice  and practice.  I always have.  It doesn't stick.  I can't keep it.  Not with a hundred problems...not with a million.  I've been tested on this.  I am an anomaly.  It's not just that "math is hard for me".  It's that my brain will NOT absorb math in a linear (or any other) way.  It will not KEEP math within it's neuronal boundaries.  I understand what I read, and can perform instructions.  I can not remember formulas, or applications, or....anything really...with numbers.

or letters posing as numbers. 

So.  As I write, which comes easily to me, I am stewing over the past four hours wherein an exam I took which allowed double time due to my disability was still, even with my most dedicated efforts, not passed.  I got a D.  Better than an F perhaps.  But not better enough. 

If I don't pass the class.  They will have me take it again.  The problem with that is this.  I won't remember anything I've learned in this semester, so it will be as if I am doing it all over again having never seen it before.   I. do. not. learn. math. 

And yet...it is required.

In spite of the fact that I am missing the limb required to perform the function.

It is required.

In spite of the fact that I will never...and I MEAN never...use math for anything other than my calculator buttons. 

It is required.  Even though it has nothing to do with anything I will ever do. 

And so...even though I am an honor student boasting A's and B's in every subject...I may not be able to get my degree. 

And so, I am brought to my knees.  Questioning priorities. 

I am two (math) classes away from my degree.  Two (math) classes I may be unable to pass.  Two (math) classes away from being able to work for a wage that would carry my family above poverty level.  Two (math) classes away from showing my kids you can do anything if you try hard enough.

And...I'm failing.


There really are more important things in life....

Things like smiling children...healthy babies...loving partners...good food....good health....quality of life.

Things like rainbows...flocks of birds...ocean waves...mountain peaks....ice cream.

Things like healing from loss...

Things like protecting the future...

Things like love.





In the history of the world, my having a degree is but a spot--less than a spot--in the cosmos.  It means nothing. 

And yet....

I cried this afternoon when I got my grade back. 

Because...it did mean something.  To me.  It meant that no matter how hard I try...some things will never change.  Some things are exactly as they are.  math disabilities.  dead babies.  brain injuries.  loss.  It's all permanent.  It never goes away.  I can reroute my life...I can heal from loss, and find a new normal.  I can try to have another baby and love the children I have with all my heart...looking away from the pain...trying to find the mom who believed in joy.  I could keep trying to remember math equations that will not stick...like a dog trying to chase a stubby tail.  I could keep trying.  and trying.  and trying.

But...there is a thing called learned helplessness.  And...in all honesty...when you try and try...and your efforts all fail, you learn that no matter what you do...you can not succeed.  Depression lies there. 

In any case...I will keep trying.  Because I have to.  Because I want to pass.  Because I need to pass.

I will keep trying.  Blind in an obstacle course with no instruction, I expect I will fall a lot.  I may never even find the way out.

I suppose I can smile about one thing though....my boys do not appear to suffer with the same disability I have.  They are as brilliant in math as they are every other subject.  So, when I smile at them and say "Sweetheart...you can be whatever you want to be.  You can succeed if you put in the effort."  I am not feeding them a falsehood.  They really can.  Nothing like a silly class will stop them.  The hoops will not be covered in spikes and fire.  They will be able to decide "hey...I'm interested in this...I think I'll learn it".  I've always had to ask..."What will have the least math?"  Not because I'm lazy.  Or stupid.

But...because I have a certain kind of brain. 


It's just math....

Just math.

My priorities are not calculated in an equation or ratio of importance.
They are more real than that.  More real...than numbers.  

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