I confess – I love numbers. No, I am obsessed with numbers. More specifically, I love looking for patterns, commonalities, random sums that can be derived from a birthday, a song, an address. And of all things numerical, eleven holds a most special place in my heart. Eleven has been woven into the tapestry of my life through the years, even when I had other plans. It was my number in high school by default when my first choice was taken. 11/11 became my wedding anniversary thanks to delays in acquiring a fiancée visa and the unpredictable beach weather of November in Michigan. I am made stronger by one whenever a set of ten is recommended in the gym because I will ALWAYS add an extra rep to end on eleven. My first three marathon times each depreciated by eleven minutes, after which they increased in a most unorganized numeric fashion, leading to my hiatus (well the number part, and tired legs) from said distance.
For those who spend any length of time with me, this obsession borders on insane, but I would beg to question how one could not love a number so sleek – odd and prime, maintaining itself as the bookends of each sum as it is exponentially multiplied (go ahead, I’ll wait while you run through a few) and in light of how many wishes have been cast in the two moments each day when 11 appears not once, but twice in succession on the digital clock (perhaps my only lament in keeping my phone clock on military time is limiting this experience to once daily!).
From this obsessiveness, I have learned to draw appreciation that in finding these patterns or random appearances of this number that has come to be a part of the scenery of my life, I am also spotting joy throughout the day. Seeing and rationalizing a context for the number gives me a moment to be grateful, to be thoughtful, to relate a special memory to a person or time and share that experience with those around me. My biggest has adapted to my awareness of all things eleven and is always excited to point out when he sees the number somewhere. We share a smile when it is part of his math problem or in a game he is playing. While initially it made me nervous that I was passing on a bit of my crazy, I have come to see this as an opportunity to share a moment even when we are apart during the day and realize it is him knowing me and pointing out something he hopes will bring me joy.
I challenge you to pick a time of your own (I happily share, but do not mandate the use of, eleven) and invite someone you love, to share in a moment with you at that time each day even, and especially, when you are apart. This could be just in thought or a quick call, to serve as a means of strengthening connection.
It was a happy moment for me in Lord of the Rings when elevenses became a known entity and what a way to celebrate my most favorite number – a second opportunity to eat breakfast! Those might easily be two (clearly on the list of my top 11) favorite things. As I contemplated this post, writing on 5/11 (which happens to be the half birthday of 11/11!), however, I saw elevenses in a new light. Perhaps it were the circumstances of the day – time spent remembering a life well lived, though ended too soon, sharing stories and memories of kindness, compassion, love and relationships. It struck me that elevenses represents much more than a chance for more waffles, frittatas or quiche – it is an opportunity for self-reflection. That instead of a quick check for a full belly, elevenses can serve as a reminder to pause and check for fulfillment. To take a moment before the day gets too far-gone and ask – am I satisfied? Or am I running on empty? Are the things I am doing serving the greater good of the world? Of my community? Of my family? Of me? Or am I spinning my wheels? Do I have time for those I love or the activities that bring me joy?
What if during those sixty seconds while 11:11 displayed on the clock, we simply paused. We gave ourselves a moment in the chaos of the day to just be.
To let go of the hectic morning.
To energize against the afternoon lull.
To calm the anxiety of the evening rush.
I have found meditation to be personally very challenging, but think that even I could muster 60 seconds, or perhaps 11 slow deep breaths, at least once a day to accomplish this and perhaps, with time and practice, extend the quantity or quality of the reflection.
May elevenses encourage us to be more engaged and aware within and around ourselves each day rather than saving reflection for the eleventh hour, which leaves much less time to change course, strengthen relationships, find the joy.
And now, I am taking this opportunity to show appreciation for my biggest knowing me – beyond sharing my number-awareness, he recently noted (in the “book-about-mom” he wrote at school) that if he could buy me something, it would “be more things for working out.” In the same book he noted that he likes it most when I am able to pick him up from school. Given the accuracy of his statement about me, I am not taking his request lightly. This means making sure I arrive early because, while he may support my love for all things eleven, his own value for numbers is reflected best in his awareness of the clock – and in this case, even eleven couldn’t save me if it were the number of minutes I arrived after the bell has rung!
May the eleventh be with you – in whatever way brings you centered in self, closer to others and clearer in path.