2 + 2 In My Case = Dyscalculia

numberjumbleI am good at denial. I have a clear compassionate understanding of others but when it comes to me denial is a comfortable hiding place. But the nice thing about aging is that being vulnerable is no longer fearsome.  Owning up to who you are is intensely freeing.

For years my lack of mathematical ability, confused, confounded and shamed me. At last I understand why. It seems I am Dyscalculic.

Dyscalculia as defined by the Department of Education: ‘a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic  learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.’ (Literacy- Dyslexia)

For all of my adult life I have fudged my way through the simplest of arithmetic. I don’t connect with numerals logically or intuitively. I am all at sea when people start talking numbers. Whether the talk is tens or hundreds of thousands or discussion of temperature conversions from Celsius to Fahrenheit, or feet and inches to metres the value and worth of the numbers means nothing to me. I am powerless to contribute intellectually, as numbers are not like words where at will I can use, exploit and comprehend.

Like all people who have a form of illiteracy you learn to compensate and hide your lack of ability. I got by through the years, working and running a successful business, I protected my inadequacy with delaying strategies in any financial negotiations. ‘Let me get back to you,’ rolled off my tongue sweetly and swiftly if anything nearing finance was introduced in a meeting. If I had to speak of figures or percentages they were frozen into my mind with repetition and I desperately hoped no one would question them. Often I was caught out in my written work with constant peccadillos of reversing numbers but I bluffed them off as typos and blamed my high school geography mistress saying that she started my ‘bad’ habit by demanding map references be reversed.

Over the years I have hidden my shame of being ignorant. Only softening my self-bludgeoning with the rational that WW2 had severely disrupted my early education; after all I can do simple mathematics and others would never know the depth of my inadequacy. Guilt was another companion – I believed it was my fault, if I applied myself more at school I would probably be more capable.

Yes I can add up – very diligently and subtract ever more carefully and slowly. I know my multiplication tables, drummed into me as a child but I know them by rote and have no flexibility of giving an answer to what are 7 x 9 without reciting the whole of the table and if you were to follow with a 9 x 7 question I would still silently go through the 9 times table to make sure it was the same answer. Addition or subtraction always required sitting down with a paper and pen with infantile double upon double checks to make sure I had got it right. Division, percentages and other calculations are about as understandable as a black hole to me.

I have relatively mastered reading numbers in the thousands, providing that tens and hundreds of thousands have the prescribed comma denoting their worth but without that I am in a foreign land. If I have to talk numbers in a presentation I write them out fully (i.e. four hundred thousand) so when I’m under stress the numbers are not simply gobbly-goop jumping around on the page waiting for me to rope them in hoping they are in the right order. Over the last years with rising prices of property and lottery wins imagine my escalation of anxiety that speaking about millions and billions that are now commonplace. I simply will not document millions, I have absolutely no idea how many zeros are needed and if you were to tell me today, by tomorrow it would have no meaning.

Dyscalculia also affects me spatially. I could write books on getting lost by interpreting Street Directory maps and forget entirely me making sense of architectural or any other kind of plans they are like The Enigma Code.

No more pretense – I have faced my demons and taken ownership of my incapacity. I am no longer burdened with trying to be more than I am. I feel good, in fact very good indeed.

The flip side of this disclosure is that people that suffer dyslexia or dyscalculia are often found to be highly intelligent people. There is always a silver lining don’t you think?

 

 

In Memory

imagesDo you realise that death is sexy? No? You obviously have not been watching enough daytime television. I’m talking about the surfeit of ads for funeral expense cover. Advertisements with symbolic backgrounds of fluffy white clouds fading into the distance of verdant hills and valleys which feature folk who provide us with a specious ‘neat and tidy’ sense of their loss.  The superficial scripting invariably shows an actor place a forefinger softly to their lips as they stare into the distance, indicating their wistful remembrance of their Mum/Dad/Aunty/Uncle. The lead turns to the camera, pauses momentarily, before they warmly endorse the benefits of the deceased’s choice of funeral plan or funeral home. ‘It made it so easy for us at a time when we needed support.’ Action: a clutch of a lace trimmed handkerchief before once again staring into the distance.

Advertisers like to shield us from real grief, after all there is nothing sexy about raw, gut-wrenching grief is there? Their spin is that caring men and women will not leave their families burdened with the responsibility of their funeral needs. The message re-enforced with the use of strong minded and active geriatric parents in rude good health with images of them hitting a golf ball or driving away with the caravan in tow demonstrating that although they live life to the fullest they will always do the right thing by their families.

The subliminal message from these spin doctors is that death is a natural part of life and if you have done the right thing and organised your funeral plan your loved ones will be free of the burden of responsibility, and hypothetically allow them to manage their loss more conveniently. While those people that don’t buy obviously show no care for their families.

Recently in the mail I received a letter with the headline ‘What would your doctor say if he or she could see inside your arteries?’ It gave me descriptions of four serious silent diseases guaranteed to kill me but if I paid $199 NOW (saving $101) I could save my family heartache and despair. Early detection is vital it said – the same message that is drummed into us with every other scare-mongering health catch that drug companies like to promote.

Yes we are going to die, yes disease may manifest but aggressive marketing such as this is simply causes the vulnerable to focus on the negative. We need to come out of fear and trust in our own ability to act on our health when we think appropriate, not because some company is determined to make its profits from healthy people who may well will be swayed by fear to buy.

Personally I find this type of fear and guilt marketing pornographic. Its single aim is to shame people about the depth of their love of their family. Fear and shame our powerful motivators but we know that love is even greater. I’m sure most families would reflect their gift of love in organizing the last farewell gives them time to assimilate the shock of death and a bridge to the processing of their grief for the dearly departed.