This morning I gave Russ a card that said, “I love you unconditionally, like 85% of the time. Happy Anniversary.

The fact today is Valentine’s Day, and our anniversary was almost a month ago, is an accurate summation of our marriage: a little late, sloppy, with a lot of sticky humour and finger-poking as we circle each other in the kitchen like naughty children on the playground about to skin their knees, grinning with affection and a hint of malice.

I laughed when I picked up the card in the store. As much of a yoga-babbling, philosophical writer that I am, only my good friends know my unbridled verbosity is the flame at the end of a short match stick. The writing process starts with friction, otherwise known as life, creating heat as it claws the chamber that traps it, only to shrink in blindness meeting its first light. Still, some of the words come to life, breathing on their own for the first time, like slippery tadpoles in the stagnant pool of the amphibian nursery. But the ember inevitably wanes, leaving only a charred shadow of what is yet to come, an uncertain death of verbiage, before there can be any more life.

I hang on. I don’t want to let go. I love my little darlings, even the ones I hate, and the ones that humiliate me. But when I am spent, so are they, the capoeira dance entangling us lost without momentum. We get lazy. I have many flaws as a human being, some I know about, some I’m still greeting reluctantly, and some I may never meet. What’s clear is my inability to resist whittling the bark off trees when there isn’t another word to be found, and any residual thoughts have spun themselves vacuous into a reductionist flywheel. 

Trying to accrue any order or meaning from life is a relentless pursuit. When language fails me in this mission, I rely on the oldest story in life, written with the simplest of characters: that of numerals. The numeric sequence, and all its permutations, are the true soothsayers of this universe. When I can think no more, they prop up what is left with the gift of  their truth, surrounded by what is leftover: chaos.

My Anniversary card, turned Valentine’s card, reminded me of the Pareto principle, which I often contemplate, because it is often encountered. Do I notice this dynamic because it happens, or does it seem to happen because I’m primed to notice it? It makes me laugh every time it crosses my mind, despite the underlying frustration of watching it play out. 

Seeing the card on the shelf, I congratulated myself, and Russ, for having surpassed this widely-recognised economic concept in our relationship by 5% on either side. Of course, the 80/20 rule can be viewed a variety of ways, like looking through a kaleidoscope. It just depends on how you turn the cylinder casing. I did consider Russ might have a different opinion of what the Pareto principle, or even a 15% vs 85% split, might mean to him and our relationship when he opened the card. 

And he would be right, whatever he thought.

He is usually, 85% of the time.

Numbers may not lie, but human manipulation leaves them vulnerable to varying interpretations, much like everything else in life, even chaos. Is 80% of the experience good? Or is it the other way around? I guess that’s up for interpretation, too. Maybe the answer really is to “eat, shred and love.” I like all of those things. Just like writing. They are all my little darlings, even when they hate me, and humiliate me, and burn me before flickering out. It doesn’t matter. I love them.

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