Since childhood I have staunchly abhorred mathematics. I am proud to say my hatred was rooted in math’s rigidity, its reliance on strict equations, necessity for order, and blatant worship of the binary “right and “wrong”. I was an advocate of words because with words I could overcome any odds and end with a solution I desired,regardless of if the solution was ‘logical’ or ‘within possible realities’.
Within the fast, loose, and let’s be honest, tawdry grammatical laws of English, I am free to do as a I please. If I want something as ludicrous as eight Buffalo in one sentence, then damnit, I get what I want. To that end, I have not willingly entangled myself with math in years.
Recently, however, the hairs on the back of my neck have begun raise and I sense the suffocating tension that lurks around strict equations.
It’s everywhere. The formula. The answer. If you do x+y+z all joy on heaven and earth will be yours. Facebook tells us this. Politicians shove it down our throats, both republicans and democrats, if we vote for this person,peace will come on earth.
Freaking Instagram has formulas by the millions. Formulas for how to be thin, how to be rich, how to be adventurous, how to look like you’re adventurous, and the ever desirable “how to look as if you had no idea your picture was being taken when you really knew along.” Click on just a few links and you can plug in.
In this vein, I’ve noticed the world’s vast and varied formulas for wifehood.
Equation A: be ambitious and industrious, do not leave the workplace to the mercy of the weak minded men. Fight + win + conquer, all while rocking 6 inch stilettos and maintaining strong sex-appeal^10.
Equation B: be endlessly crafty and produce beautiful offspring. Hand-make everything + perfectly balance thriftiness with an exquisite interior eye + softly-lit pictures of my angelic anglo-saxon children.
If I follow either of those set equations husband + I will = happy.
The problem is that I don’t speak formula and my life certainly doesn’t fit within the perimeter of equations. Nor do I think anyone’s life can or should fit. We aren’t made to follow a single one-dimension linear pattern. That formula doesn’t allow for free will.
Existing in a committed relationship is strenuous and complex. No matter the relationship, friendship, siblingship, dating, engagement, parent-to-child, grown-up child-to-parent (*chorus of amens sung from around the world), we all struggle to balance our self with another person’s self. Mounted atop this natural struggle is the outside pressure to do your life well, monitored by the set formulas.
My relationship with Matt, my scrumptious husband, has always been just that, ours. We chose to date young. We chose long distance. We chose to write letters, read both Wendell Berry and Percy Jackson out loud, and own too many pairs of shoes. We aren’t stationary. We
Life is not a series of linear formulas, infused automatic steps towards happiness.
Life is a series of permutations. Reorder, rearrange, allow for mistakes, free will, and a little x-factor.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.