I am not a numbers person – never have been. In fact, I’m about as far from a numbers person as one can get. A numbers person might say that if a numbers person is represented by the number 100, I would be represented by -100. Numbers result in the sum of all fears in me.
If I’m asked to math in my head, I’m seized by panic – even if it’s basic math. If given sufficient time and privacy and perhaps a pencil and paper, I could solve that basic math. However, if there is anyone present, waiting for the answer – if there is any audience to the calculation – I am paralyzed by performance anxiety. Any attempt to see the equation in my mind is prevented by a barrage of thoughts, usually centered on the belief that I’m the equivalent of a fool.
Instead of the numbers involved in the equation being tabulated in my mind, I’m adding up all of my inadequacies in an exponentially growing list of self-deprecating words and phrases. I am imagining that each of these thoughts is also crossing the mind of my audience.
To the audience: 169 + 565 = 734. However, in my mind 169 + 565 = “Um…5 + 9 = 14…carry the 1…um…quick, quick quick….how much time has passed?…um…I’m an idiot…can everyone else do this except me?… what’s the average speed for solving this in one’s head?...why don’t they just use the calculator on their phone?...we should have stopped attempting math in our heads once we invented the calculator watch…when was that anyway? 1980?...um…6 + 6 = 12 + the 1 we carried = 13… so far I have _34…how long ago did they ask me?
At this point minutes have passed – yes, minutes. Shameful, I know. You are likely judging me the way my audience does but you’re all right. It should not take me, a fully grown woman, minutes to do a basic math problem in my head. Only a fool would struggle with basic math, so I must be a fool. But I would contend that this is a legitimate medical handicap – mathematically induced performance anxiety.
What is the treatment for this condition? What is the solution to this problem? My solution is to finally expel some number from my mouth – any number that will put an end to this experiment in torture. I essentially vomit out a collection of numbers from my head that have been crudely constructed amongst the pyramid of shame in my mind. Inevitably, it is the wrong number and the audience, already horrified at the time that it has taken me to compute in my mind, is shocked silent. And I too am silent, now calculating the probability that I will ever see this person again.
Join Amanda in her writing experiment at http://www.wordsinwait.blogspot.com/