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My Obsession with the Number 23

A good number of people have asked why I seem to be so obsessed with the number twenty-three.  I’ll devote a few paragraphs here to give you the condensed version of why the prime number has become a big part of my life.  I don’t expect anyone to claim any significance the way I have, but will ask for a few minutes of your time to give you some background.

For twenty-five of my twenty-nine years in the public school classroom, math was one of the subjects I taught.  To be honest, I never really was that good in math, but my struggle to understand concepts I believe helped me to reach those that were going through similar struggles.  It was the “I’ve been where you are and know how you feel” mentality.  So it suffices to say numbers have always been an important part of my life.

About eight years ago, I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life and to be honest, not a whole lot of anything made any sense.  Separation and eventual divorce, recovery from addiction, and general upheaval has a way of doing that to you.  A fellow teacher, noting that I was really struggling, suggested I take up the hobby of numerology.  While I wasn’t a person that put a whole lot of store in what the numerologists seemed to be implying, it did peak my interest.  Somewhere along the way, I discovered the number twenty-three kept showing up over and over in my life.  That was the seed it took for me to study the number even further.

During my “investigation” I found out that both of my parents were twenty-three years old when I was born.  I was conceived in 1958 and those digits sum to twenty-three as well.  My son is twenty-three years younger than I am and my daughter was born on my sister’s twenty-third birthday.  Needless to say, the beginning of life is important to all and the presence of those numbers at my life’s beginning was too obvious to ignore.  * Note – I can say with some certainty that I was conceived on October 9, 1958, but I don’t want to raise your skepticism too early.

I also took a look at my birthdate in its numerical form:  7/6/1959.  If you sum the first four digits, you get twenty-three.  If you sum the last two digits, you get 14.  Since I am a person of the Christian faith, I began to look at the 23-14 combinations I could find in the Bible.  The first reading that seemed to have significance was Numbers 23:14.  It was there I found the name of the church I attend, Mt. Pisgah.

The next significant passage came from 2 Samuel 23:14, which contains the name “David” and “Bethlehem”.  David is the name I was given at birth and Bethlehem is the name of the town where Mt. Pisgah is located.  The most puzzling verse is Matthew 23:14.  In most translations of the Bible it’s not listed.  The Gospel of Matthew goes from 23:13 to 23:15.

So what did I take from all this you might ask? In a time during my life when not a whole lot was making any sense, I turned to God to find meaning.  I was fortunate enough to be raised in a home where church was an important element.  But it wasn’t until this difficult time in life when any of it began to take hold.  The different scriptures gave me assurance and bolstered my faith to the fact that God knew exactly what was going on in my life.  He had been there at the beginning and I had no reason to question He was still with me now.

So each time I see the number twenty-three, it’s like a “wink from God” that says amidst the chaos of my life, He is ever present…. He always has been and He always will be.  Now do I sometimes carry it a bit too far?  Perhaps so, but it’s something that I’ve held onto during the darkest valleys of life and I’m not about to let go.  I know some may think it’s pure nonsense and insignificant, but then it was God talking to me through a language He knew that I would understand and pay attention to.

And that my friends is the short version.  There are a lot of other situations that the number has kept showing up.  I just have to smile and know that there is One that knows me and will always have my best interest in mind.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Thirty-Eight

It’s been a long journey for all of us, the Covid pandemic. There have been its darkest days, periods where it seemed to be losing its punch, and then the appearance of variants and a roller coaster ride of case numbers. Until this point, I’ve been able to dodge the Covid bullet, but many will say it’s something we’ll all contract at some point.

My wife tested positive for Covid this past Tuesday. She had tested herself on Saturday evening when she wasn’t feeling well and got a negative result. Tuesday’s test, which she took after continuing symptoms, was positive. Even though I didn’t have any noticeable symptoms, I thought it best to do a rapid, at-home test and got a negative test result. We socially distanced from each other as much as we were able to, but I figured I would eventually come down with the virus as well.

Since last Tuesday, I’ve taken for rapid, at-home tests and have also taken two PCR tests offered by the local health department, all with negative results. I’ve had a really sore throat over the past several days and actually thought I’d contracted Covid, but according to all six test results, such is not the case. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the coming week. My wife tested herself this morning and now is virus free, so that’s also helpful.

During the coming week, I have quite a few commitments and appointments to work with, so I have had to come up with some alternate strategies should I contract the virus. I deliver Meals on Wheels on Monday morning and will take a rapid test before heading out for deliveries. I have an appointment to get my car worked on Tuesday and will likely drop my car off to have the work done. Wednesday I have a doctor’s appointment and if I haven’t tested positive by that point, I’ll have him check to see if I perhaps have strep throat or something else causing the throat pain. I also have a therapist appointment on Wednesday and will call him to see if it’s still okay for me to keep that session given the past week’s events.

Covid has definitely caused us all to make changes in the way we live our lives. Even though I’ve not contracted the virus, it has caused a lot of changes in my perspective on the importance of taking care of myself. I think we’ll likely see a rise in case numbers when school goes back in session in two weeks and I do have an interim assignment for the first eight weeks of the school year. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to steer clear of contracting the virus and take the necessary precautions, but am excited about being back in the classroom again.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Thirty-Seven

There was a time in my life, over twenty years ago now, when I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life. I was struggling with a lot of life changes and wasn’t really sure what to do with my meandering thoughts and ample extra time. One Friday night, I went to the local movie theatre and saw the movie “Signs.” This movie introduced the concept of synchronicity and my perspective on life has never been the same.

The movie “Signs” starred Mel Gibson and was, at least on the surface, a story about Earth being invaded by hostile alien forces. While the plot line was obvious to most viewers, I picked up on something else that the movie offered. That premise it presented was that there are no coincidences, no random events. You’ll have to view the movie yourself to find out what it was about the movie that made that obvious to me. I’ve included my favorite scene at the bottom of this page.

The world of synchronicity opened wide for me and I began to read all I could about it. From the early works of Carl Jung to more recent studies, all I could devour made total sense to me. More importantly, it showed that during a difficult time in my life, even the not-so-fortunate events could have a plausible reason for occurring as they had.

I began to search in my own life for examples of “chance events” that were a part of my story. As a math teacher, it seemed that numbers held particularly interesting clues as I dug deeper into my life’s narrative. I then realized that the most important events in my life, from the year of my conception to my present situation, had synchronicities woven throughout. There was no doubt in my mind that there were connections, even with those parts of my life that were what could best be termed “bad.”

I’m reading, or should I say, rereading a book, The 7 Secrets of Synchronicity, and am making a concerted effort to be more mindful of synchs that occur during the course of my day. Every day is an adventure and as I make note of the synchronous events in my life, I’m reminded that indeed, it’s all woven together and there are no coincidences and a Power much greater than any of us who’s the master weaver of all of our lives.

“There are no coincidences” scene from the movie “Signs”…

100 Days of Writing – Day Thirty-Six

Today is a milestone day for me in many ways. It was twenty years ago today that I began my journey of abstaining from alcohol use. That’s a total of 7305 days in all. August 10, 2002 also marked the beginning of my involvement in the recovery community, of which I am still a member. Over these two decades, I’ve realized so many things about myself and life.

The road certainly has not been an easy one. I thought in the beginning that I just had a drinking problem. As it turns out, I also had a thinking problem. I thought at first that if I quit drinking, everything else would fall in line. Such was not the case. Stopping drinking was an essential first step,,,, it had made my life unmanageable. My therapy sessions and outpatient rehab taught me the important strategies needed to stay away from that first drink. Actually working on the twelve steps has given me important life skills needed to live a joy-filled life.

Continued therapy and attendance at various recovery meetings have been vital parts of the recovery process. I also am in hopes that the experience, strength, and hope that I’m able to share is of help to others. I have learned that in addition to my alcoholism, I have codependent tendencies that proceeded my alcohol use. Learning to deal with these issues is also a life-long proposition and takes lots of work and practice.

Much has changed in my life over the past twenty years. Some of the parts of the journey have definitely not been easy. But I’ve found many blessings along the way, including those of the spiritual variety. I have had a spiritual awakening that has given me a new perspective on the way I live my life and have no regrets about any of the choices I’ve made along the path.

Such is my life and I’ve been blessed with much.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Thirty-Five

“Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

Big Book of AA, page 417

Life is definitely not always easy. People, places, and things many times are not as we would like them to be. One part of being able to live a relatively happy existence is to be able to accept the world as it is and people as they are.

Many times, at least in my mind, I have a certain picture of the way I’d like the world to be. I’d like people to act a certain way, I’d like places to be as I’d like them to be, I’d like situations to be as I think they should be. And the fact of the matter is, most of the time the world is not going to align with these expectations. And these expectations can fester and become resentments.

Best I can figure, people are doing what they feel is the right thing to do at any point in time. And since they have a different reference point than I do, chances are it’s not the same thing I would do if I was in the same situation. I can question people’s motives and actions, yet I’m sure at least in their minds, they’re doing the right thing. And who’s to say that I know what’s best? I sometimes struggle to know what’s best for me, so why would I think I know what’s best for anyone else?

Just for today, I will try to stay in the present moment and be acceptive of what others choose to do. In some cases, I may find it necessary to alter my course and take action, but much of the time things will proceed just as they are intended to, with or without my permission.

It’s also important, at least for me, to have continued faith in my Higher Power, who does see and know all. My lack of acceptance in any situation may be due to a lack in my own faith life and nothing more.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Thirty-Four

Asking for help. It can be one of the most difficult things we do in life, but often it’s literally a life-saver.

I found myself in what I consider to be the worst days of my life. My addiction to alcohol had been one of the primary reasons for my marital separation and eventual divorce. The brick wall of “hitting bottom” hit me square in the face and I didn’t know what to do. As I looked out the back window of my home, I cried out loud, “My God, what have I done?”

I then took what was perhaps in the biggest step in my eventual recovery and that was to grab the phone book and turn to the yellow pages to look for some help with my plight (In fact, I still have that page from the book, complete with markings of the first few places I called). At that moment in time, I realized that I had a problem that I couldn’t solve on my own and needed some professional help. I eventually got that help in the form of counseling and outpatient rehab using my employee’s assistance plan from work. That fateful day was nearly twenty years ago and I can honestly say that reaching out for help was one of the most important things I’ve ever done.

Why do we find it so difficult to reach out for help when our lives have gotten beyond our own skill set? I’m thinking a part of it is that we’ve been trained that we’re supposed to be skillful enough to handle everything on our own. I think this is especially true with the male gender, although not limited to it. A part of our self-esteem and ego are wrapped up in being able to figure out solutions to all the problems we encounter. But we also need to realize there are those times when we can’t do it on our own and need outside help.

The road of recovery, especially that first year, was far from easy. Treatment for alcoholism and the break-up of a twenty-three-year marriage were difficult from the outside. But I found along my path plenty of trained counselors, therapists, and the like that were more than capable of helping me maneuver through those difficult days. Without them, I have no doubt, I would not be sitting at this keyboard sharing my thoughts with you this day.

I also feel that a part of the reason we go through life’s hard times is so we can be of service later down the road when we encounter others who are going through similar situations. We can share our experience, strength, and hope with others and help them to see it is entirely possible to get through what we’ve got to get through. But of course, none of that is possible if we don’t take that important first step: Reaching out for help when we realize we can’t handle it on our own.

David Lee

Random Writing – Another school year is ready to begin and another interim position will be underway

Another school year will soon be upon us and I’ve once again accepted an interim position for the first weeks of school. It will be my forty-second year in the classroom and my thirteenth after retirement. Year forty-two is getting ready to get started.

The assignment I’ll be working in to start the year is an eighth-grade science position. I’ll be working at the same school I retired from in 2010, so it’s back to familiar surroundings. I’m really looking forward to beginning the new year and am already making plans for those first few weeks.

Substitute teaching is not an easy proposition, especially over the past two years with the pandemic we’ve been experiencing. I really like interim positions, which in this case will likely be the first eight weeks of school. Although it’s been a few years since I’ve taught eighth-grade science, I’m getting great help from the teacher I’ll be working for, as well as her husband, who also teaches the same subject at the same school.

I have, like in past years, had several “teacher dreams” over the past couple of weeks. I could probably best call them “teacher nightmares,” because they almost always feature a classroom that I’ve never been in before with students who don’t seem to want to listen to any of my instructions. I’ve found that such nighttime mind wanderings are normal for teachers before the start of the school year.

So the start of the new school year is at hand. Who knows what challenges I’ll be facing, but as always, it’s my choice to continue to teach and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Thirty-Three

Smoking Cessation Continues….Day Twenty

It’s been nearly three weeks since I’ve smoked a cigarette and although I’m still dealing with cravings and urges to smoke, I haven’t given into those and remain smoke-free.

My last cigarette was on Monday, July 18th at 5:05 a.m. I’ve been using nicotine lozenges to replace some of the nicotine I was taking into my system and will have an ultimate goal to not use those as well. But first things first….

I think a part of the success I’ve experienced is the fact that I’m also on a new medication for my ADD. I started taking it on July 13th and it has helped curb some of the anxious thoughts that lead me to smoke nearly a pack a day. While I still have cravings and have contemplated buying a pack of cigarettes, I haven’t given myself permission to do so.

My breathing has notably improved and I notice on especially warm days, I don’t struggle as much. I’m not around anyone who smokes on a daily basis and that has helped as well.

I have a support group to help with my continued recovery. Most noticeably, my wife Lisa, who has never been in judgment of my smoking habit, but has been my biggest supporter. I also have a group of friends who are former smokers and they have been sharing some of their experience, strength, and hope.

Another big key, at least for me, has been the “QuitNow” app that I’ve downloaded on my phone. It helps me keep track of my time away from smoking and that’s great motivation.

Today’s numbers from the app: 19 days, 11 hours smoke-free – 389 cigarettes avoided – $113 saved from not purchasing cigarettes. It also has a chat feature that allows me to share and hear from others who are attempting to quit smoking.

It’s still one day at a time…this much I know. I’m so very grateful that I’ve been able to stop for the time I have and am looking forward to many more smoke-free days ahead.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Thirty-Two

Smoking Cessation – Day Thirteen

I’m entering day thirteen of my latest effort to quit smoking and although the cravings and urges are still there, I’ve not found it necessary to light up a cigarette since July 18th. The nicotine lozenges have been a real asset to curb the craving for nicotine, especially when first waking in the morning and after meals. I’m also trying a prescription medication for my ADD, which I started taking five days before my last cigarette and I feel this has also been helpful.

I know there is a physical component to quitting smoking, the addiction to nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes. Still, there’s also the psychological component, which has a lot to do with a mechanism I’ve used to curb anxiety and stress. I’ve also realized it’s just a habit,, something that I’ve done in the past, especially at certain times in the day and I’ve found many times I don’t actually have a craving for nicotine, but think of smoking just because it’s “what I do.”

I’m continuing to use the “QuitNow” app on my phone, which helps me chart my progress. It tells me this morning that I’ve avoided 265 cigarettes since I first stopped and saved a little over $77 from not buying cigarettes. It’s a true revelation when I see the number of cigarettes I haven’t smoked. When you’re smoking one at a time, a pack a day, the numbers seem low. But when you see the cumulative count, it’s quite mind-blowing.

I’ve also noticed some of the side effects of smoking have lessened or gone away altogether. While I still cough quite a bit when first laying down to go to sleep, overall the respiratory effects are much less. I’ve also started becoming aware when there’s someone around me who has been smoking, smelling the odor on their clothing. Just another reminder of what others may have experienced when around me before I took my last puffs.

I’ve also used my twelve-step program to help with my cessation from smoking. I play the tape forward and ask myself, “What’s activating this desire to pick up a cigarette?”, “In what way is my smoking selfish and self-centered, as well as being inconsiderate?” There are also others in my recovery groups who have kicked the habit as well and sharing my experience with them has also been helpful.

It’s still one day at a time at this point. I’m proud of myself for taking the measures to get healthier and extend my life. Perhaps the fear of what could result from continued smoking is the best motivator of all. Getting a “clear” result from my CAT scan and knowing I can’t change my past consumption, but surely can work in staying stopped is a key.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Thirty-One

Fear – The Evil and Corroding Thread…

I went to a meeting with some like-minded friends this morning and as I was the meeting chair, I had the job to come up with a topic. I had thought about it for quite a while and thought the topic of “fear” would be an excellent discussion point. I took notes as my friends shared and made a list of the most important ideas that I heard. I’ve also included some thoughts of my own along the way.

  • Most all fear is ego-based. I hear something I didn’t want to hear or am not getting what I want.
  • Fear is often not based in reality. Fear is most often based in negativity.
  • Acronyms for fear: F*%) Everything And Run and False Evidence Appearing Real
  • A paraphrase about fear from Mark Twain: “Everything I worry about didn’t happen, so it works!”
  • There are rational fears and then there’s panic.
  • When considering our fears: “Is this the hill I want to die on?”
  • Lots of fears are self-centered
  • Fear keeps me from being present in the moment.
  • Lots of fears come from or are based on past experiences.
  • Worrying doesn’t change anything.
  • Fear can either motivate or paralyze us.
  • Fear is a lack of faith.
  • Fear is a liar.

And then there’s the reading from the Big Book of AA, on which our discussion was based:

“This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It is an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble.” (P. 67:2, ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’)