Thursday, December 06, 2007

Math Pain

My old nemesis, Math, has sent me into a spiral of frustration and self-doubt. I couldn't remember how to figure a percentage. The formula had fallen out of my head.

"You have to help me with this!" I yelled to my Muse who was in the other room. She came rushing to me with a wet tea bag in her hand.

"What is it?"

"I can't remember how to figure out percentages."

She cocked her head and blinked at me a few times. "A what?"

"A percentage. What is 40% of 16?"

"How the hell should I know?"

"You have to know. You know everything."

"I only know important things."

I leaped up from my chair and recklessly grabbed my Muse by her bony shoulders. "This is important! Do you hear me? I have to know what 40% of 16.00 is or we're doomed."

"Calm down," she said, pulling herself from my grasp. "This isn't the end of the world."

"It isn't? Are you sure? I mean, if I can't figure out what 40% of 16 is I can't do the billing, and if I can't do the billing then we don't get paid, and if we don't get paid I can't pay the printing bill, and if that happens I lose my credit and Medusa's Muse will die! And that, my dear Muse, is the end of the world!" I stepped closer to her and she pressed herself against the wall. "So you'd better help me figure this out or it's over!"

Every snake on her head stared at me as we glared at each other, too startled to strike. My Muse looked confused, an expression I'd never seen on her before. Then she took a deep breath and said, "Having a panic attack won't solve anything. You need to calm down and let me think."

I stepped away and sat down in the chair, resting my head in my hands. "This is hopeless."

"Don't say that. You're just frustrated, that's all."

"How did I think I could do this when I can't remember how to do simple math? I must be crazy." I looked up at her and shook my head. "This is hopeless. I'm an idiot."

"Have you always had this much trouble with math?"


"Then that's the problem. I'll bet you froze every time you had to do a math problem, am I right?"

I nodded. "Tests were the worst. I'd flunk them every time. It took me three tries to get through Algebra, and then I think I only did because the teacher took pity on me."

"You're just suffering from Math anxiety. It happens to lots of people. You can't think because you're too nervous. So take a break, calm down, and in time it will come back to you."

"I don't have time."

"Then call Jane."

"Jane. Jane will know what to do. She knows how to do math. She was a book-keeper."

"Exactly. I'm sure it's a simple formula. You just need a reminder. It's been a long time since you were in school. A long, long, long time."

"That's enough. I get the point."

"Why at your age, it's a wonder you haven't forgotten fractions. Or multiplication, let alone percentages."

"Thank you. I get it."

"Jane is younger. She'll remember."

"You can go now! Thank you."

She smiled sweetly. "Have I helped?"

"Immensely. What would I do without you?"

"Glad I was here." She returned to the kitchen, swinging her tea bag, humming.

Jane reminded me how to do the formula and once I knew it I could figure out the rest. Even so, I had to redo the figures four times, never feeling confident I had the right answer. Math, my old enemy, had stripped me of my publisher self-assurance.


Brigitte said...

LOL! :)

katrina said...

oh,yeah. i can really relate. i've had similar thoughts and experiences. it's a cliche, but i do feel better knowing i'm not alone.