Every morning I get up at 6.40am with my alarm. I put on my running clothes, clean my teeth and leave the house by 6.50am. I go for a twenty minute run, return to stretch and have breakfast and HAVE to get in the shower by 7.30am, to be ready to leave the house by 8am. If anything disrupts my routine – if the boiler’s been turned off, or the dishwasher needs emptying, or if I’ve misplaced my trainers – I panic. It wouldn’t matter if I was ten minutes late, as I leave a spare half hour. But I would feel like I’d failed slightly.
If, however, I manage to get ready quickly and leave BEFORE 8am, so get to the station and check the LED screen and it’s 8.08am, rather than 8.13am – I’m delighted. This happened this morning and alongside my delight I started to think about this obsession with time – and numbers.
You see, time is a monitored, but abstract, concept. And there are other abstract numbers that we obsess about. Like weight, for example. It’s not tangible; but it’s a number that will determine whether we feel good or bad about ourselves by telling us whether we’re the right or the wrong size. Of course, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are relative but, basically, if we think we’re overweight, we feel uncomfortable. I don’t own weighing scales, but I know that – like most women – if I stood on the scales and weighed less than I thought, I’d feel better than if I weighed more than I’d predicted. Even if the scales were faulty. It’s ludicrous.
And on the weight note, people also obsess about the number of calories in food. If the packet says 300 calories, they’ll eat that salad and feel self-congratulatory. If it says 700 – they’ll feel guilty. I know this because I hear my colleagues discuss calories every day around lunchtime. I don’t calorie-count, but when everyone’s banging on about it – you do start to pay attention.
Calories, like weight, shouldn’t be counted – it should be about feeling comfortable in your body and feeling comfortable in your size. But we’ve all lost sight of this because we’re told high calorie meals are ‘bad’ and healthy size is determined by weighing scales, not by connecting body to mind: listening to appetite, going with cravings.
Back to running. I’ve got the Map My Run app on my phone, which I switch on as I leave the house in the morning so that I can monitor the distance I’ve travelled. Every morning I aim for three miles and will run between two and three. If I manage three, I feel great – if I only do two, I feel slightly disappointed. But, again, it should be about running for fun, to feel energised, to breathe in fresh air, and listening to your body – stopping when you hit a (metaphorical) wall.
Another number obsession: money. We have this idea that the more we earn, the better we’ll feel. Having shitloads of money in the bank says to us nice holidays, better social lives, grander presents for friends and family, improved relationships, a swanky car, a bigger house, fancy meals in fancy restaurants. But do those things make you happy? Yes, worrying about money isn’t good for your health – but what about just having enough? It’s the same as calorie counting, weight-watching, mile-monitoring and watching the time; we have an idea about optimum figures and anything outside of that won’t be enough or will be too much.
I think there’s an obsessive compulsive number epidemic sweeping the world. We’re all wrapped up in numbers. It’s time (pun not intended) we started worrying less about numbers and more about being comfortable in our skin. But I think, perhaps, the ‘time’ preoccupation is necessary, to a degree, otherwise workers would rock up at midday rather than 9am. So I’ll stick to that one but relieve myself of all other number fixations….