Let’s See the Numbers

“Oo! I should probably put a new budget together!” I thought with unwarranted enthusiasm when we had a new and unanticipated and to-be-recurring expense appear this month.

Handsome supportive husband gifted me with a new hard drive for Christmas and it has LibreOffice Calc installed. I don’t, well didn’t, know how to use this. Is it like Microsoft Excel? With great relish I watched an hour and a half introduction to the software and I was off and running with the new budget spreadsheet. My inner briefcase-carrying child was in her happy place.

I was going to share this with you last week, but I thought, “I can’t just spring an ode to spreadsheets on them. I’ll lose them for sure.”

So I began a slow build up to the spreadsheet topic by explaining my writing process. In short, I’m given the topic each week and I’ve made a promise to my higher self to write on that topic. Clearly, its not my fault.

“Yikes, though,” I thought. “Spreadsheet love? Really?”

Anyway my explanation ran long and before I knew it I’d written a sort of blogging apologia. I didn’t think writers even did that kind of thing anymore.

I stand by it and it also leaves us on the topic of crunching numbers. There doesn’t seem to be an ‘option to pass’ built into this writing practice. The topic will continue to circle until there’s permission to land.

One would think an old English major with nary a marketable business skill would turn to poetry or the classics or meditation and prayer in times of change. These are great comforts.

For some reason though, numbers are where I can find quick peace. Counting money, totaling sums, working the numbers is my nervous tic. Well, a nervous tic. If you’ve noticed others, I beg you to not tell me.

Mind you, I can’t do the simplest calculations in my head. My brain has an odd etch-a-sketch quality that causes the numbers to disappear before I can finish tabulating them. But corralling numbers in a meaningful structure settles my nerves.

No, as a matter of fact, I don’t care for Sudoku. That is a number puzzle. It is my contention that puzzled people don’t like actual puzzles, in the same way mystified people don’t appreciate a mystery.

For a few years I owned a health food store which I ran with my mother. We weren’t there for the money and that worked out fine because the money wasn’t there for us. To keep the shelves stocked, the overhead paid and our bodies and souls together proved to be a challenge every single month. At the end of my first day of store-ownership I locked the door, walked to my desk, plunked down and cried and howled until my guts ached. Things improved, if only because my stress-tolerance grew.

Anyway, at the end of each day we would “cash-up”. Count the pennies, the nickels, the dimes and so-on entering the amounts in tiny “cells” on the tiny paper cash-up sheet. The end result would be a bank deposit equal to the cash register sales total. A simple accurate answer. What a beautiful thing. I recall on days that were particularly swirling with difficulties, working that little paper sheet at the end of the day centered me like nothing else could.

If you haven’t played in a spreadsheet lately, or ever, I invite you to share in my joy. Click that spreadsheet icon or get out a pad, pencil and calculator and look at the numbers in your life. You may find a little happiness where you least expect it.

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