My mind has always been mildly obsessed with numbers. Words, too, but in a different way. You know that scene in “A Beautiful Mind” when John Nash, played by Russell Crowe, is looking at the coded numbers on the wall and pulling patterns from them?

Well, my mind is nothing like that. I mean it is, but it’s nowhere near that useful. It puzzles over numbers until it finds patterns, but in a far less amazing way. I’m not so good with spatial stuff or visualizing abstract imagery, but gimme a bunch of numbers and I’ll make connections between ’em all day long. Associate words or some kind of meaning with them, which is fundamentally what happens with dates, and they’re in my head forever.

So it’s probably no surprise that anniversaries and calendar milestones stick with me. Not all of them, of course, but the ones I’ve somehow deemed significant carry such weight that I can feel their impending arrival days or even weeks ahead of time.

November 5th: when my dad died. June 25th: when Karsten died. And the September double-whammy week: September 26th and 28th, the date on which I met Karsten, and his birthday, respectively. Hardly anyone knew the exact date of Karsten’s birthday because he didn’t like to make a big deal of it, but of course I knew. One of my favorite memories over the last few years was when the #HoH group staged a surprise blue-soul-patch celebration in the vague timeframe of his 50th birthday since I wouldn’t tell anyone specifically what date it was, only that it was coming up.

blue soul patch birthday
Les and Freeman sporting blue soul patches with Karsten (at right) at Karsten’s 50th close-enough-to-birthday party

But the thing about the calendar is it’s a fixed repeating framework for measuring time, whereas time itself goes on indefinitely. So every year, every date accumulates meaning. Those dates will probably never NOT mean those things to me, but as years go by they will also take on new meaning as new things happen on them.

Which means that every date has the potential for all kinds of associations, with all kinds of feelings. All at once, potentially.

Since I’ve been writing a book about loss and moving forward, I’ve been trying to put into useful words how it works, this pattern of triggers and reminiscences while creating new meaning. I’ve been a widow for over a year and a quarter. And for darn near all of 2013, I’ve been in a wonderful relationship with Robbie, a man I fell for hard and fast and am now engaged to. December 18th: the day of the photo shoot that brought us together. February 2nd: the date of the party that clinched it all for us.

But the calendar repeats and repeats, and the timeline of my many previous stories and significant dates will continue to weave through the timeline of my ongoing stories and dates. Grief isn’t a gradual fade; it’s spiky. It comes in bursts with triggers like sights and sounds and words and numbers. And for many of us, especially dates.

It isn’t strange at all, to me, that I am living from a place of genuine delight and happiness, and also feeling pangs of grief when the numbers line up in a certain way. If you’ll forgive me the hokey rhyme, the healing is in what you do with the feeling.

So here’s what I want do with this feeling, today: since Karsten isn’t here for me to wish happy birthday to, I would very much like to wish all my friends a happy day. I wish you inspiration and enlightenment, and a day full of creativity, curiosity, and great conversation, and, of course, a night full of partyin’ like a rockstar. And love, love, love all you can while you can. Life is short and sometimes hard, but love is like renewable energy. And the calendar is only a counting tool; it can’t stop time from moving forward and creating new meaning, and it shouldn’t keep you from doing so either.

Dates and Numbers
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10 thoughts on “Dates and Numbers

  • September 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm
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    Happy Karsten’s birthday. Happy rest of your life. <3

    (I still think of him as B-O-B sometimes. I am glad you are creating new joy in your life after losing someone who gave you so much joy for so long.)

    Reply
  • September 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm
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    Kate, your thoughts and communication of them touches my soul. Happy day and love to you.
    Leah

    Reply
  • September 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm
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    Numbers are big for me too Kate. Numbers and dates. Happy birthday Karsten. Tonight, I think I’ll go the route of great conversation and love, love, love.

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  • September 28, 2013 at 6:23 pm
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    Yes. Love all you can while you can. It is a renewable resource. Thanks for a beautiful post. And a beautiful mind.

    Reply
  • September 28, 2013 at 6:24 pm
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    I remember the day in the picture fondly. I was honored to be there and to share in the “blue” part. Much love and wishes of peace and happiness to you!

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  • September 28, 2013 at 9:11 pm
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    such beautiful sentiment – happy day to you Kate!

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  • September 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm
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    Kate, you sure have a beautiful way with words. In the midst of a loss of my own right now, and feeling a lot of… I’m not sure what, exactly. Lots of things. I’m inspired, though, by the idea of finding/creating the message/meaning of such an anniversary and having it become a bittersweet and intentionally net positive experience to remember. Thinking about what it was about Karsten that I admired, and want to be/have more of in my own life and having my remembrance(s) occur more like inspiration, gratitude and personal growth and less like regret and sadness.

    Reply
  • September 30, 2013 at 10:36 pm
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    Exactly……. “Grief isn’t a gradual fade; it’s spiky. It comes in bursts with triggers like sights and sounds and words and numbers. And for many of us, especially dates.” .. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Pingback:The Human Scale of Time vs. Time in Automation and Acceleration - Kate O'Neill | KO Insights

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