I hate math. I also dislike, detest, despise and disdain it. Always have.

From birth through high school, it was mostly a low-grade loathing, but things reached a crisis in college. A calculus course started out well enough, with an A on the first test. Unfortunately, the second was a B, the third a D, and I barely passed the class. Then and there, I resolved to live a life free of arithmetic in all its forms. 

Up until now, working in long-term care has offered me a refuge. I’m able to use words, not numbers, and quote smarter people’s computations. In my personal life, I’m no longer so fortunate.

Through no fault of my own, I’ve become increasingly ancient, and as a result am forced to do more math all the time. Every decision lately seems to involve an unwelcome calculation. 

Would I survive to pay off a new 30-year mortgage? Could this be the last car I’ll need to purchase? Will I live long enough to use the six giant tubes of toothpaste and pallet of toilet paper I just bought at Costco? 

Now, simply existing requires me to consult actuarial tables like a sailor poring over a nautical chart. Worst of all, every answer carries with it a bonus sense of foreboding and doom. 

So here’s a frightening question: If these existential calculations are already taking over my life while I’m still working and living independently, how much more tyrannical will this mortality math become once I’m a resident in one of your facilities?

It’s a horrifying thought, for you and me both. But I derive comfort from long-term care residents I know who routinely muster the will to look past whatever challenges might await, and simply seek to find meaning in the present. 

You know them too, people of mystifying strength who are somehow able to push aside the burning temptation to do the math. They embrace the moments, without pondering how many are left. It’s their superpower, and whenever I’m ambushed by the realization that maybe I’m not immortal, they’re my primary source of inspiration. 

We’re so fortunate in this profession. We have the world’s greatest resource of wisdom and resilience right in front of us every day. We provide the care, and in return, they offer the positivity and perspective.  

Just ask them the secret to accepting whatever comes next. They’ll probably tell you it’s easy, just mind over math.