Statistics of Self-Caring

Posted on March 28, 2012


I had myself a little mental breakdown last week, over pounds and milk and cows and the probability a Jersey cow will produce more than an Ayrshire cow. The breakdown wasn’t just for me though, because Mr. Man also had the pleasure of partaking in this completely statistically predictable meltdown. How often I forget that things affecting me also affect those around me. Fairly standard thinking in the mind of an addict I suppose.

I’m coming to the end of my Statistics class right now, it’s at UCLA extension and we are on the quarter so thankfully, this final doesn’t coincide with my other four classes. Actually, to be 100% honest, when I start talking about Stats, I begin experiencing a trauma reaction, my chest tightens up, I forget what I’m doing, and words like “coincide” leave my vocabulary, leaving only words like “line up with” or “align,” neither of which expressions are quite accurate. I think this trauma stuff is more about imperfection than it is about Ayrshire cows. I try to remind myself of this on a daily basis.

Me in my head: “It’s not the Statistics you are struggling with Jennie, it’s your own humanity. Accept one and you’ll understand the other.”

Of course, it isn’t as easy as accepting my own humanity, standard deviation, confidence intervals and the like won’t magically become clear in my mind once I can look myself in the mirror, wrap my arms around my human shoulders and say, “Jennie, there are some things you will not be good at. Statistics is one of them.” It’s going to take this entire week of rereading each chapter, taking notes, redoing problems, and breathing, yes, yoga and breath-work, to get me through this final that accounts for 45% of my grade.

Never, in my academic career, have I thought, If only I can get a D+ on the final, I’ll pass this class and life will continue moving forward.

Frequently have I thought, If I can get 100% on this, then my natural state of “imperfectly perfect” will morph into “Perfectly Perfect” with capital P’s and all will be good in the world. Needless to say, I’ve received very few 100%. (And my ego here insists I inform you of how close to that I’ve come.)

So the other night, with the meltdown and the trauma reaction, the complete dissociation of my thinking and feeling self, Mr. Man stood witness to the abysmal hopeless thinking to which his oh-so-strong girlfriend can succumb. I said, “Look, it’s not even in English, it’s not in Spanish, French, German, it’s not in any decipherable language. I can’t type any of this shit into the Google and get an answer. It’s numbers numbers numbers numbers plus divided by times the square root of the sum of fuck fuck fuck.” He took the book away from me, pulled my hands from head and gently led me to the bathroom, where he started a hot shower. “You will stand in here for twenty minutes. You can cry or scream or dance or pee or do whatever you need to do to chill out. When you are done, you will come eat Kraft Mac-N-Cheese with bacon and Cholula, then you will watch Law and Order and not think about Statistics until morning. Then, you will forgive yourself for being so hard on yourself, and you will call someone and ask for help. Here is a fresh towel.” I sat in the shower in child’s pose, crying as the hot water pounded on my back. Then I turned everything off, the faucet, the bathroom heater, my mind, my feelings. I ate Mac-N-Cheese with bacon and Cholula, watched Law and Order, and was grateful to have someone with which I could be vulnerable (and crazy meltdowny).

No matter how far I come, I can always count on having to work on my inability to reconcile my self with the self I think I should be. I am always competing between selves, and always losing, because at the beginning and end of each day, I am only me. I will never be the perfect self I’ve convinced myself exists. It’s just impossible. It doesn’t mean I can’t try. But it does mean I can’t keep beating myself up when it doesn’t happen.

God, I fucking hate this class. But it came to me as an exercise in humanity. To restore my faith (in me). To demand that I connect to something higher (than me). To remind me that there are things in this world that I won’t be able to do perfectly, but that it doesn’t make me any less valuable (than me). That everything runs it’s course, classes and feelings and relationships and ideas, and if I keep showing up, I can at least learn something (about me). That everything will be and already is okay. Even if it’s not me.