There is a weird thing I do. OK, that seems a little like a confession. It’s not – but it is a weird practice that I’ve never really questioned before. If I’m feeling tired, or a kind of out-of-the-ordinary tiredness has descended, it’s usually because I’ve been doing something out of the ordinary, or at least something has disrupted the norm. Not that I really have a ‘norm’. But that’s not really the point for this right now. I don’t mean the kind of tiredness that a nap or an extra shot in your coffee can solve, I mean the kind of tiredness that leaves you weirdly lifeless yet your mind is still quite alive. Alive with everything, but nothing really translates to words because of the energy required for that. So this weird thing that I do - when I feel this way – when I feel this kind of tiredness, I end up looking back and counting things. I used to document everything in paper diaries – to the point where up until about 7/8 months ago, I kept a paper diary *and* my electronic one, just so I had a paper track of everything (my tablet deletes most things once they’re done). Historically, I’ve counted miles travelled (when I travelled more than I do now, this was the thing that exhausted me. That and the long hours). Hours are another thing I have historically counted. Hours asleep, hours awake… you get the picture.
Before sitting down to write this, I was about to tweet, but it seemed a little like an out of context rant, which probably isn’t appropriate – and I don’t want to be *that* person (that person who wears a badge of honour for being busy). I had just calculated the approximate total word count for the amount of words I’ve read and marked over the past few days. 133,000 (approx). I deleted the tweet before I posted it and kind of caught myself for a moment. I was doing that thing that I do. I was counting and using it as a way to validate how I feel. As if somehow, assigning a number to my week makes my experience a little more credible. It counts. Those words count. Therefore, maybe my efforts and my time count for something.
So, 133,000. I don’t know – it doesn’t even seem that much, yet it is. I used to write about how many miles I’d travelled or how many hours I’d been awake for, maybe how few hours of sleep I’d had that week. It would seem like a way of (a) measuring a strange kind of success, and (b) trying to really communicate how completely and utterly stupid I have been, yet still keeping going. Sometimes I’d even calculate how many miles I’d run that month or how much I’d eaten in a day or a week. As a by-product, numbers in relation to bodies are interesting, particularly when your body is part of your work. Not any more, at least not directly – lecturing isn’t that kind of job. But body measurements – waist, hip, height measurements particularly are ones that, if you’re modelling, are particularly seductive and easy to track, but difficult to forget. That is a *very* different kind of regulation. One for another time perhaps. But I think it’s still about numbers and it’s still using numbers as a language – as a way of communicating something else entirely. A way of letting numbers do the talking, but silencing the actual ‘talking’.
Quantifying the self is a thing I resist. It goes against most of what I believe in. And, the funny thing is, I really don’t care about numbers, but numbers do regulate most of our lives – time, age, money, miles, etc. So I guess, in part, quantifying my energy levels and mood sort of does validate what I’ve done and where I’m at. Yet it doesn’t work. I did a podcast not long ago where I spoke about how challenging it can be to carve out time for yourself, or create spaces that are not regulated in this way – that aren’t monitored – that we don’t have that consistent ‘you should be working’ thing. I said doing that is resistance in itself. It is really an issue. Society – at least the one most of us live in, and institutions, particularly outcomes driven ones, don’t produce nice, balanced contexts in which it’s easy to stop, or in which we don’t have to evidence some sort of outcome in some way. No wonder I produce a ridiculous figure, to myself, when I am ready to stop for a moment or two. Thanks to all these essays for reminding me of this little facet of life and this strange method of resistance. I’ve actually stopped, for a little bit, to write this.