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 Sixty-Five

My simplistic take on addictive behaviors…

There are those times in my life when addictions of one sort or another have found their way into my life. Upon examining my behaviors in hindsight, I can see where many of those habits came from. I think we all want ways to feel better,,, to cope with what life has sent our way…and when we find something that offers some relief, we become fixated on whatever that might be.

For myself, there have been two destructive substances in my past that I turned to for the illusion of relief from life’s problems and stresses. It was at age 43, twenty short years ago, that I came to the conclusion I am an alcoholic. When life had become difficult, which seemed to be most of the time, I thought I found some relief in drinking. And when a bit of alcohol made me feel “better,” I reason more of it would make me feel even better than that. That seemed to be the case, if only for a short while. Then the addiction to alcohol took hold and destruction ensued. It took outpatient rehab and work in recovery groups that continue to this very day, to battle that addiction.

Another addiction I have fought is smoking cigarettes. While I didn’t start until age 35, it too became a way for me to deal with the stressors and anxiety in life. And while it too seemed to offer temporary relief, that never seemed to last too long and I’d have to go back to seeking relief that seemingly only could be found by lighting up yet another. It wasn’t until this past summer when a good friend informed me she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, that I decided I needed a definitive lifestyle change. And so for the past four months, I haven’t found it necessary to smoke a cigarette. It’s been a daily battle, but I’m pleased with my progress.

Life still has many ups and downs. Just because we cease to participate in addictive behaviors does that mean we’re given a free ride. Instead, we need to find tools that we can use to face life on life’s terms. For myself, the twelve steps of recovery have been invaluable. I’ve also done a ton of reading that has given me insights on how the human mind works and how best to deal with the ups and downs in life. I guess you can say I’ve become addicted to reading,,,,and I consider that to be a good thing.

So for today, I’ll practice accepting life on life’s terms and be willing not to try to use anything that is destructive to me and my health. And above all else, pray to God for guidance, wisdom, and strength to face whatever difficult parts of life lay ahead of me.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Sixty-Four

“An attitude of gratitude on this day…”

A lot has changed in my life over the past year. As I have gotten older, the number of changes I experience seem to multiply. And while some of the changes are seemingly for the better, there are others that seem to be for the worse. I am reminded on this Thanksgiving Day that I should be grateful for all of life and the opportunities it affords me.

With a myriad of changes, our lives evolve into different “realities” and those things we thought were permanent become parts of our past. Some of those changes are ones that I had direct influence over and some of those, I didn’t. But regardless, I’m faced with looking at life from a different perspective and figuring out how to deal with each evolving part.

On this day, I am grateful for much, and in particular, that attitude of gratitude I have been able to find as a part of my life.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Sixty-Three

2022 has been a year of many changes in my life….Lessons to be learned and carrying forward, putting those lessons to use. In reflecting, what are the lessons that have presented themselves?

This past year has been one of a multitude of changes in my life. As we approach the last month of 2022, it’s a time for reflection on lessons that this year has presented. Hopefully, the lessons we all have learned will guide us to a good beginning when the new year commences.

Change is an inevitable part of life. It seems that the older we get, the more changes we experience. And while many of the changes can be for the better, some seemingly are for the worse. The main question we ask ourselves is “What lessons are these life events trying to teach me?” In quiet reflection, we ponder on those lessons and move forward, trusting that we’ll be given the guidance, wisdom, and strength to make wise choices in the future.

As the last days and weeks of this year continue to roll along, I’ll be asking myself what the main lessons are for this past year. And in quiet reflection, ask that these lessons be used to make this upcoming year one that will be best for all.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Sixty-Two

Life has several different ways of slowing us down…and getting sick is just one of those.

There are times when life can be rather hectic and we can find ourselves running here and there, to and fro. It’s all a part of modern life and it seems a faster pace is required for most all we do.

But then again there are those times when life can slow down dramatically and we have a chance to take a short break from it all. Such has been the case with me over the latter part of this last week. Beginning late on Thursday, I started feeling fatigued with a few chills. I attributed it to getting a flu shot at the doctor’s office on Tuesday.

Friday morning rolls around and I’m not feeling much better, but not all that bad. I go to have coffee with a friend and then to a meeting. Returning home, I helped my wife with some cleaning chores around the house and then laid down for a bit. When I awakened, the symptoms had gotten quite a bit worse. The rest of the day Friday and most all day Saturday were spent in bed, resting, and taking OTC meds to battle the symptoms.

Come Sunday morning and feeling even worse, I decided a trip to the urgent care might be in order. I got registered online and was seen in a relatively short period of time. Three swab tests revealed no evidence of covid, the flu, or strep. The FNP diagnosed it as most likely a viral infection and prescribed two meds for me to take to lessen the symptoms.

The bottom line is that I’ve had to slow down a lot since Friday and I’m thinking despite not feeling well, that’s not totally a bad thing. There’s something to be said for not feeling like I “had” to be doing something all day long. I even called and canceled a sub job I had scheduled for today and that is pretty much unheard of for me.

Hopefully, I’ll be feeling better tomorrow. I don’t like being bed-ridden, but know it’s best for myself and all those I might possibly infect with whatever it is I have.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Sixty-One

“Fear – the evil and corroding thread that weaves its way through the very fabric of our existence.” – AA Big Book

Fear is a part of our lives that can rear its ugly head in so many different ways. I know for myself, it’s played a major part of my thought life, especially over the past year. Fear is usually, at least for me, trepidation about the future, which is largely unknown. From the time I wake up in the morning, it permeates my thought life and can indeed be maddening at times.

I think we all tend to want to rid ourselves of fear and all those other uncomfortable emotions that are a part of our mental framework. We look for “outside us” sources to soothe and relieve us of the mental wiring that causes us to lean towards emotions like fear. I know for myself, at one point in my life, I thought that alcohol was the answer to my fear and anxiety. This proved to be a short-term solution to a long-term problem and led me to disastrous results. Smoking was also a go-to in an attempt to ease my fearful emotions and that didn’t offer much more than the likelihood I would live a shorter life.

I know today that I must seek within myself and my spiritual life for a lessening of my fearful thought life. Just this week, I have sought for and received assistance from mental health professionals to aid in this goal. I must remember that there is a God of my understanding who is here to guide me and lead me. I need to remember the phrase “change a thought, move a muscle” and look to keep my mind focused on what I CAN do and not those things that I have NO control over.

Writing this blog this morning is one of the avenues I’ve taken to turn down the volume of the fearful thoughts I was having when I awakened. I also wrote three prayers in my journal that address and ask for relief from the fears I’m feeling. My hope is to take each moment of this day as it comes and to do those things God has set before me and not get caught up and obsess about whatever fears may present themselves.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Sixty

“You cannot push the river.”

I was reminded of this quote today in a counseling session and it really hit home with me in my recent mode of thinking. If we are at a point in life when we feel like we’re swimming upstream against the current, it’s likely because we’re going against the natural flow of things. It’s much easier to let the flow take us where it may and not be in such resistance to its path.

This is, at least for me, not an easy proposition. Thanks to our egos, we like to think that we know what’s best for ourselves and everyone else. The outside world needs to see, accept, understand, and follow through with our perspective on things. If they choose to do so, then all is well. But if by chance they don’t, which is bound to happen from time to time, we can get all out of sorts.

For today, I have to understand that not everything in the world is going to play out the way I think it should. And while it’s important to share my viewpoints when they’re asked for, I don’t need to think things are necessarily going to go the way I think they should. While some resistance is helpful and perhaps even needed, I must keep in my that too much of that is not helpful or healthy.

And on this day I will remind myself if there’s too much resistance in any of life’s situations, I may need to change with the present currents and go with the flow.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Fifty-Nine

Shared reading and comments – From Tiny Buddha’s Inner Strength Journal by Lori Deschene

15 Things You Can’t Control (And what you can control instead)

  1. You can’t control what other people do. (You can control whether you participate in their behavior or enable them.)
  2. You can’t control how other people see you. (You can control how you show-up in your relationships and how you see yourself.)
  3. You can’t control how other people treat you. (You can control how you internalize and respond to their treatment.)
  4. You can’t control whether other people like you. (You can control how true you are to yourself.)
  5. You can’t control what other people think, feel, and believe. (You can control how you engage about your different opinions, feelings, and beliefs.)
  6. You can’t control how other people internalize things you say and do. (You can control your intentions and how you respond whey you unintentionally hurt someone.)
  7. You can’t control what happens to other people. (You can control how you show up for them when things get hard.)
  8. You can’t control your thoughts and feelings. (You can control whether you attach to them, identify with them, or act on them.)
  9. You can’t control things that have already happened. (You can control what you do in the present.)
  10. You can’t control everything that’s going to happen. (You can control how you strengthen yourself to handle the unknown.)
  11. You can’t control the outcome of anything you do. (You can control your efforts.)
  12. You can’t control your body aging. (You can control how well you take care of your body and how you think about it.)
  13. You can’t control all aspects of your health. (You can control the preventative health measures you take.)
  14. You can’t control the inevitability of you getting hurt. (You can control how you treat yourself when you’re hurting.)
  15. You can’t control the fact that there’s suffering in the world. (You can control whether you contribute to it or help alleviate it.)

100 Days of Writing – Day Fifty-Eight

I’ve always been fascinated with numbers. From a young age, I was drawn to them and what they represented. Now, many years later, I still notice numbers, regardless of when and where they appear. Today reminded me of my fascination with numbers and their possible meaning.

Today I rolled into the McDonald’s drive-thru for my to-go breakfast while heading to work. I noted that the truck in front of me had a “23” as a part of the four-digit numerical suffix. For those who are unaware, the number has special meaning for me and I am always looking for its appearance as a sign I’m on the right path. I even decided to take a picture of it for my records.

When I was pulling into the school parking lot, the car in front of me, driven by a school employee, had the numerical suffix 8384. If you add those four numbers together, you once again have a 23. Just as with the previous siting at the drive-thru, this was a sign to me that, at least for today, I was on the right path.

Our school football team had a game scheduled for today and the players were wearing their game jerseys in class. In one class, I noted that one jersey number, 21, was half of the other player’s jersey number, 42. Soon thereafter, I added the to numbers together and got 63, which is my age. Upon further pondering, I reminded myself that I was in my forth-second year of teaching, which corresponded to jersey 42. Once again, I thought this was so neat that I decided to take a picture of the two jerseys side-by-side.

What does it all mean, this fascination of mine? Some might call it an odd obsession and I’m okay with that. But if my spiritual journey has taught me that the Universe tries to give me confirmation that I’m on the right path, what better vehicle to use with a former math teacher than numbers? From the numerical “coincidences” that I noticed today, I came to the conclusion that, at least for today, in the time and space I was in, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I’ve learned not to question what is brought before me and I’m convinced there’s a lot more going on in this Universe than might be noticed by many.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Fifty-Seven

It’s been a good long while….

It’s been a good long while since I’ve posted any writing in this arena. My interim teaching position took a great deal of my time and energy, but now that it’s done, I can come back to write from time to time.

The interim position went well. I was fortunate to have a great group of teachers to work with, as well as a fantastic group of kids. While it was difficult to say goodbye on Friday of last week, I’m enjoying some actual leisure time away from the classroom for a while.

Today I went for a walk and took my camera along with me. I got quite a few good pictures showing the changing colors as we are in the midst of the beginning stages of fall. I also went to Barnes and Noble, where I read and wrote for the first time in a long while. It’s good to get back to my established routine and be able to look forward with the knowledge I don’t have to work any more than I’m led to.

As the seasons change, I’m sure I’m going to be changing some of the daily routines I have. The nights will turn darker sooner and then of course, there’s the lower temperatures to deal with. But for at least the time being, I’m going to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather and all it places before me.

David Lee

100 Days of Writing – Day Fifty-Six

I saw this quote just yesterday and was reminded that both faith and fear share a lot in common. The basic premise for both is that we’ve chosen to believe in something that we cannot see. Sometimes that’s a bit hard to wrap your mind around until you consider that all that we can see in the physical world is made up of tiny particles we cannot see.

I can find myself in situations that call me to choose faith or fear. I’ve realized that my choice, in this case, can often be based on past events. Do I let the outcomes of previously lived moments determine my take on what’s occurring today or do I live in the present moment and take life circumstance as it is occurring? How much control do I have over letting things in my subconscious mind dictate what I’m looking at today?

For me, awareness is always key. I live in the present moment as fully as I’m able to, without referencing the past. I know past events in my life can serve as learning tools, so I don’t think it’s always wise to completely dismiss them as useless occurrences.

For today, I’ll choose to trust the process and have faith that things are moving along exactly as they should, with or without my liking or permission. There is so much in this world that I absolutely have no control over and it’s not beneficial to waste my time attempting to manipulate people, places, or things to my personal preferences.

I have a Higher Power, whom I choose to call God, that I will look to this day for guidance, wisdom, and strength to face whatever situations I might find myself in. I realize that faith in Him is a big part of what’s brought me through so many difficult times in my life and it behooves me to recall those times. I also realize that fear will crop up from time to time and although I need to notice what those fears are trying to tell me, I don’t need to needlessly obsess over them.

“Keep the faith and trust the journey” has become my mantra and today I’ll choose to live this way.

David Lee