Out of Your Prime

As magazines, newspapers and TV specials wrap up 2013, a salient theme has emerged: it was a very bad year.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll, Obamacare issues, congressional gridlock, mass shootings and natural disasters contributed to our nation and world’s bummer of a year.

“Put simply, most Americans are happy to see 2013 go,” states the poll. More than half of respondents – 54 percent – said 2013 was a “bad” year for our world, while 15 percent termed it a “very bad” one.

On a more personal note, 41 percent stated it was a “bad” or “very bad” year for their families.

20131230-085141.jpgI definitely fall into that camp, as do many of my friends and relatives. Sure, we are reaching the age where health problems start to dog us and our parents begin to “age out,” but in my realm, the issues were more widespread, including accidents, divorce, job loss and disaster (did I mention that a 120-foot tree fell on my house, crushing the garage and cars inside it?).

I believe there is a good explanation for this. Please bear with me for a moment as I share my “prime-number theory“:

(First, a disclaimer: I am no scientist, and prefer empirical data to surveys and statistics. So, take all this with a “grain” of salt.)

Anyway, I think it’s clear that the world likes balance, and mathematicians are awed by the numbers behind and in our universe. However, it seems to me that the prime numbers — those that can only be divided by 1 or themselves, such as 3, 5, 7, 11, etc., throw us off. In my estimation, those years of life represent major transitions.

Consider these facts: at age 3, most kids are potty-trained and gaining independence; at 13 (a year with plenty of its own negative connotations), children enter the crazy teen years, but they haven’t yet moved to high school. Seventeen-year-olds start to feel like adults, but are too young to drink legally, vote or enter the military.

This year was, for many, a double-whammy, as the calendar date was prime and also included an unlucky 13. Many of those marking prime-number years themselves experienced extreme transitions.

In my own family, my oldest brother, at 59, retired early and began a new chapter of his life.

One of my sisters, nearing the end of a prime-number year, faced a health challenge.

I, also in a “prime” year, had a whopper of a time, with a hiking injury that led to surgery, lots of family drama and the tree issue.

In my nest, three of my four kids endured prime number years (19, 17 and 13), and all faced major transitions that brought stress and tumult.

In fact, I had two 17-year-olds: my second son was 17 until June, and during that time chose a college that is across the country and quite challenging. My third son turned 17 last week, and is already sensing the unrest ahead.

Before you poo-poo my theory, don’t forget about the “seven year itch” that plagues many marriages. An article on Wikipedia states that “the phrase has…expanded to indicate cycles of dissatisfaction not only in interpersonal relationships, but in any situation, such as working a full-time job or buying a house, where a decrease in happiness and satisfactions is often seen over long periods of time.”

Of course, we can counter my doom-and-gloom perspective with thoughts about the 17-year cicadas that, according to several studies, benefit from rearing their heads n prime-number years.

“Cicadas that emerge in prime-numbered year intervals…would find themselves relatively immune to predator population cycles, since its is mathematically unlikely for a short-cycled predator to exist on the same cycle.” Researchers call this a “successful evolutionary strategy.”

Nevertheless, for now I’m going to stick to my own theory that after the prime-number year 2013 goes up in flames, we’re all going to feel better out of, not in, our prime.

– Linda Williams Rorem, 30 Dec. 2013
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  1. Marilyn Williams says:

    Are you aware that 2013 is not a prime number? It is divisible by 3.

  2. I couldn’t agree more! There are too many number related synchronicities not to raise a glass to the close of 2013 and start of 2014…fourteen is a pyramidal number, too: solid and balanced 🙂 Wishing you and your family a fantastic New Year!!

  3. Rev. Ann Rosewall says:

    The image of a burning calendar truly warms my heart! 2013 was indeed, a year for the flames. Your ability to step back and give a new way of looking at the year is encouraging. I like being able to pin the calamities and tragedies on the ever-so-rare prime number year; It frees me from feeling over responsible (one of the many reasons I subscribe to Permission Slips!), and from blaming God (who promises to love us through the most difficult times).
    I’m thankful that my daughter is now 21 (divisible by 1, 2, 5.5, 3, 7, and 27, offering room for improvement). Now if we can get through being in the prime of our lives (53 y.o.) we’ll be home free.
    Love you! Happy NEW Year! Ann

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