To be honest, I don’t really know why I started numbering the days of my entries when I finally came back to rice and coffee. I have thought about it repeatedly as I carefully count up the current number of calendar days since writing creation in grief. I have several theories on why I did this. Or why the counting continued to matter.
The first was that marking the passage of time somehow felt important. We live in a world where the mountaintops are widely public in a way they weren’t even a decade ago. Spend any time in any digi-verse around and you are only a few scrolls, clicks, or swipes away from “I DID THIS ONE THING AND THEN EVERYTHING WAS AMAZING!” “I TOLD MYSELF TO JUST KEEP GOING AND NOW EVERYTHING IS AMAZING!” In our culture, we don’t make a lot of space for, “You know, I tried really hard. I did my best. But everything is still kind of a mess” and “I did everything as right as I knew how, and still I failed”. We don’t have space for people stuck in The Valley for a season. I think it’s part of what encourages those feelings of intense isolation and abandonment. Who wants to post about still having a broken butt I-don’t-know-how-many-months later? Not me. (Well, okay…me, but it took me a long time to get here, so…).
So if you are in that Valley, in that broken place, time starts to lose meaning in a way. You can’t seem to get out of where you’re stuck. You can’t drop bread crumbs on the trail, because you’ve been walking for weeks in a circle that always has you sleeping in the same spot. And more than that, you don’t even feel like you can share about it, or if you did, no one would want to know. It is a really gray, unhappy place to land. But not all cultures are like ours, and not all people have only memorialized the mountaintops. In the Old Testament, in the Bible, there are tons of times when Israel raises monuments of remembering, when good and bad things happened. Usually, it was a big pile of rocks gathered from wherever they were, using whatever was around. They weren’t the elegant, neo-classical statues you see in any major western capital. They were literal. rocks. Not to impress outsiders, but to serve themselves–a “lest we forget” to the future. In a way, I think that was what numbering the days in these posts became for me–monuments. A pile of rocks. Nobody else may read it, or understand what it meant, but I would. I would know. Time has been spent and it was hard but it is not forgotten. I would remember. I would build my rock piles.
I also think counting days was a subconscious way to prove to myself I hadn’t given up. This year, I’ve had to give up on so many things I’d planned and wanted to do–races that were now training impossibilities, projects and hobbies that now felt overwhelming rather than fun, people I was simply too exhausted to reach out to. I’ve given up on a lot. That’s hard for someone who is not, by nature, a quitter. It rankles. But in this one way–this tiny way–I haven’t given up. Not on day two. Not on day ten. I am still committed to my declaration that I was not going to molder in misery anymore–I would create through it. I would give it voice. Sure, I don’t post every day (my very ambitious initial intention), but I do not forget. I have not given up on me or the process. I am still numbering days.
So it was strange, and frankly a little unsettling, when I started this post and realized I didn’t know the number of this day. I can’t easily add to my last entry in my head. Which begs the question–do I still need to do it? Or am I past that step and I can just keep walking, trusting in progress? I mean, that is the ultimate goal, I think. To just move forward, without the crutch of remembering. It is the mark of wellness. Of wholeness.
I walked away from this for a while to think about that. If I am ready to not know the number. And the answer is, I am on Day 19. For now, I am still making my piles of rocks.