264. Fractions are not my friends

A math teacher colleague used to say to his eighth grade students, “Fractions are your friends”. His science buddy retorted “Decimals won’t deceive you”.  And the kids didn’t know what either one meant. The science guy had no use for fractions; they were a thing of the past, annoying anachronisms. “Real scientists only use decimals and the metric system. Fractions are like Roman numerals and Greek myths, for God’s sake!” he was heard to pontificate. Meanwhile, the crafty math teacher gave practical examples of fractions, noting that you can always convert a friendly fraction into a decimal, but you can’t always convert a dicey decimal into a handy fraction. And little kids can cut a paper pie into quarters with a crayon much easier than they can find twenty five hundredths of a pie.  See, fractions start with one; decimals are based on ten. Tomato, tomahto, tomato hawk… if you ask me. Fractions fracture; decimals decimate.

In my current business (the practice of functional mental health) fractions mean something very different. I believe everyone has issues–situations and episodes in their lives that present obstacles to overcome.  Death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, parenting problems, a head injury, having a child, moving, retirement, chronic illness, etc. These issues can suck the energy out of a healthy person and create a time of dysfunction. Some folks, however, seem to attract issues like a bug light attracts mosquitoes on a humid summer night. They are fractured by the onslaught of meteor shower insect issues. Other folks are remarkably resilient and hardly wobble when hit with just as many unexpected problems. Nurture and accidental combinations seem to account for a lot of the different reactions folks display in regard to the hurts and challenges in their lives. Some suffer well; most don’t.

Pathologies are another thing. They are categorized and measured by the DSM5, the  Adjustable Bible of Behavioral Health. ADHD, BIPOLAR DISORDER, OCD, BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER, PTSD, and hundreds of other disorders are described in the pages of this manual. These disorders are not merely situational, although some are driven by situations. Nature has a lot to do with many of these babies. But strangely enough, many DSM5 pathologies have no definitive cause, no source. As much as the mental health community would like uniformity and precision, and after millions of studies, it’s not there yet. Just look at the history of homosexuality, once considered a disorder, now considered a viable and legal lifestyle. Whoops.

The final category that I consider is character. It’s not listed in the DSM5 because it requires a moral position from the diagnostician, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a slippery slope to step upon. But let’s face it:  some folks are just bad, selfish, lazy, etc. because they choose to be. They don’t have any more issues than the average person and they don’t meet the criteria for any pathologies. They come from all sorts of family backgrounds and cultures and settings. And they choose to be dysfunctional. It’s easy in the moment or the short run. It’s easy if you have no purpose or meaning in your life or a moral compass or loved ones or a reputation or an education. However, in the long run a bad character’s life cannot end well without transformation.

Anyway, the point of this post is fractional people, broken folks… no matter how they got broken. I see them often individually. When someone knows he/she is a fraction of a whole, that’s okay. The client can work toward increased consciousness and wholeness. We call it integration, which comes from the same root word as integer, i.e., a whole number. Wholeness and health have the same base meaning as well. Oddly all of these terms point to “ONENESS”.

So a half of a man walks into a bar and starts chatting up a 2/3’s chica. It’s very exciting for both of them because their parents were also fractions, and in this bar there are mostly integers hanging around and a few square roots. Half man says, “I love the way the light glimmers off your long eyelashes. I’d love to buy you a drink and pursue a common denominator.”

Two thirds replies, “I’m an uneven fraction, Halfsie. I go on and on and on irrationally. Even men don’t get me. Odd men bore me.”

Half man, “That’s a real turn on for me, Baby. But if we get together, you’ll have to even out. Square up. Ya know?”

Two thirds, “You complete me, is that what you’re implying?”

Half man, “Something like that. Plus, we’d have a little extra.”

Two thirds, “Let’s hurry up and get married and have six kids. Three for you, three for me and one left over that we can adopt out.”

Half man, “Not in my world, you repeating digit head!”

Two thirds, “Oh, we need counseling to reconcile our love. Say you will, Half man.”

Half man, “Whatever it takes to solve this equation, Baby”.

Later in my office the fraction couple come in and explain their histories.

Half man, “Yeah, my first wife cheated on me with a mixed fraction. Told me I was nothing more than an inflated decimal. Point Five O. I gotta tellya, that hurt.”

Two thirds, “I don’t want to sound like a Disney princess here, but I think we have more than enough to make a whole number, Doc. Just do the math.”

Doc, “Well,  guys, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but when fractions hook up they don’t add up. They multiply.”

Half man, “What are you trying to say?”

Doc, “It’s like this:  1/2  x  2/3  =  1/3.  You don’t add fractions in marriage, you multiply them.”

Two thirds, “Don’t be silly. Why, that means we’ll make each other smaller than when we were alone.”

Doc, “That’s right.”

Half man, “But love is like glue, aint it? I mean, it can hold us together?”

Doc, “In a sappy pop song, love will keep you  together. But in reality you will have to face the law of diminishing returns.”

Two thirds, “Diminishing what? ”

Doc, “Economic theory, dear. It proposes a maximum efficiency is reached at some point, and anything added after that point actually results in less output.”

Half man, “That’s ridiculous. How could my fourth kiss diminish my third kiss?”

Two thirds, “If you didn’t shave or brush your teeth it could. I mean, theoretically.”

Half man, “So you’re taking his side now, huh?”

Two  thirds, “I was just saying…”