I can picture myself as a preschooler (back when preschool literally meant "before school"), discovering that I could count all the way to 100. What a joyful revelation!
Forty-some years later, counting is still an important part of my life. I find comfort and joy in numbers.
I love watching the balance on my mortgage go down--even though it moves very, very slowly. And budgeting night is something I look forward to every month. In fact, I've been known to use it as a reward for myself: grade 20 essays and I get to budget!
When I have a pile of essays to grade I make stacks of five or ten (depending on how long the essays are), and I give myself a reward for every stack (10 minutes to eat or watch television, for example).
To manage those really big jobs (like the senior research papers, which take about an hour each) I use a quota system. Once upon a time I thought grading 15 research papers in a week was a reasonable quota, but then my AP numbers grew from 50 to 150 (one year it was 168!), and I discovered I could do 25 or even 30 in a week. Meeting or exceeding that self-appointed quota helps me emotionally survive those tough grading weeks.
When a run feels unexpectedly difficult, or I'm in the final mile of a personal record, I start to count. Out loud. Sometimes I count to my old friend 100, and sometimes I count to four or eight, over and over again. At its most effective this counting moves into the autopilot stage. No longer audible anywhere but within my own mind, this counting can continue seemingly on its own. The steady rhythm soothes my mind and helps me focus on something other than the challenge my legs and lungs are enduring.
If I'm running with Tam, she knows this counting is code for "I'm hurting," and she often takes this moment to remind me in her gentle, confident way that I've got this. I can finish.
Perhaps this love of numbers explains why the run streak suits me. (Day 985 . . . and counting.)