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  • Writer's pictureAlice Wyatt

Adult Math

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Math has never been my strongest subject. I did okay through Algebra I but Algebra II baffled me. I wasn't even fazed by the " D " on my report card. The second half of Chemistry had me copying my younger brother’s homework. First and last time I ever cheated. I could balance two sides of a chemical equation, but the proofs were beyond me. When it came to homeschooling, the teacher (that would be me) and the students were in tears trying to solve story problems. If a train leaves Chicago at 7:00 pm traveling 150 mph and a train leaves New York City…. answer? “Let’s take the car!”

It is with increasing anxiety I realize LIFE is a story problem. Here is one that needs solving. The mirror (and my pants) inform me of increasing girth. I solved the pants part by shopping, but the mirror held her ground. Doing some elementary arithmetic, five pounds a year x 3 years = HOLY COW! FIFTEEN POUNDS! Those cute little love handles are going to be a pretty big deal unless I take action.

After some research, I downloaded a fitness app combining calorie counting, exercise encouragement, and motivational mentoring. Step on the scale each morning, log everything I pop in my mouth and cruise through all the goal-oriented, health-sustaining lessons they send my way. I learned a lot. One, I am a forager. Two, half&half is not my friend. Three, spinach requires a lot of chewing. My biggest takeaway has been MATH. Calories in, subtract calories out, equals calories left to run your body. Put more calories in than your body needs, plus lay on the couch reading a book = muffin top. Who knew?

Well, I suppose I knew but only in theory. Knowledge unapplied is useless. Having this clever little app on my phone brought it home. I could eat that, but did I really want to? The choice between Chunky Monkey ice cream and a cup of blueberries is very clear. Rather than feeling like I am denying myself things I want right now, I find myself empowered to make small choices that lead to long-term health.

How many of us stumble through life without doing the math? I have written many times about how I feel so much of my life just happened to me. While compared to many, life has been easy and very beautiful, I often felt like things didn’t add up. I would pour into relationships that bore no fruit. Yelling at kids never got them to clean their rooms, but that didn’t stop me from yelling. I wanted each day with my husband to be a clean slate, but I didn’t take the time to work through previous frustrations. I took my poor school math skills and moved them into my adult life.

  • Cling to bitterness = A life diminished.

  • Blaming others for your woes = No power to change direction

  • Anger = Broken relationships

  • Fear = Missed opportunity for growth

A wise person will look at the big picture. They will understand all choices, big or small, add up. Those additions 1 +1 + 1+ 1+ 1+ 1 become the sum of one's life. Knowledge is the key to solving problems. Knowledge is Power. You can slap that bumper sticker on your car, but it won’t do any good; you must apply it.

Michael and I have been pouring over long-term care insurance paperwork. Is it worth it? Will we need it? How long will we live? How well will we age? After every one of these discussions, we eat a big salad for dinner and skip cracking open that second beer. Our best bet for aging gracefully is physical exercise + eating well + low stress + strong family/community bonds. An excellent implementation of Knowledge is Power.

Sometimes I get tired, though. I don’t want to do adult math. I want to whine, complain, and pout when I don’t get my way. I want to tell people exactly what I think of them and still be considered nice. Eating well and moving my body is not nearly as fun as slouching in a big fat armchair with a big fat book and a big fat bowl of ice cream.

In times like this, it is important to remember life isn’t actually school. There is no teacher and no report cards. No one is making me do anything I don’t want to do. That Algebra II “D” isn’t going to follow me to the grave. Adult math is still a thing, though. There are a lot of choices to be made, and we have to live with the end result. Fortunately, I have found the impact of Forgiveness, and Grace are always greater than ( > ) Anger and Guilt, even though the latter seems to take up a lot more space in our world. A Positive Mental Attitude always balances out (=) discouragement, insufficient money, too little sleep, and a lousy work situation. And while everyone knows LOVE is the A+ in the real* world, we forget the only way we get an F is if we fail to try. (that was SO cheesy… but absolutely true!)

Yes, life can feel like a story problem, but happily, I get to write all the bits. A beautiful woman moves to the desert. She chooses to write, create art, plant green things, pet cats, and spend quality time with her friends and family.

Q. How grateful is she?

A. Very.

*Didn’t you hate it when your high school teachers said things like, “Well, in the REAL world..." Like life, from birth to 18, was a figment of our imaginations?

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Nov 09, 2023

It took me two years to get through high school geometry. Only finding a math teacher my senior year, my counselor, at NMMI who wouldn't fail a senior. YAY!

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