Thursday, 8 December 2011

Statistics - Playing the Numbers Game

At school I always excelled at maths, it had to be one of my favourite lessons of the week. The branch of mathematics I found most interesting was probably STATISTICS.

Statistics put my love of numbers into context with pretty graphs and pie charts to boot. 
That’s probably one reason why I make a point of looking at my blog stats so often. Far too frequently I like to assess just how many people have been reading my words. Is it more or less than last week? Which posts get the most views? And so on.

Yesterday after posting my thoughts on the Military Wives Choir I added it to their Facebook page as well as my own. I went and had tea with the boys and thought little more about it. Well until an hour later when I went back to the laptop to see if there were any comments, usually one or two friends will have clicked and said they “liked” it. Which brings a little smile in the knowledge I’ve been read.

Utter amazement slowly registered as I looked at the steep incline on my blog stats graph; my blog had been read by over 1000 people in less than an hour!  Usual figures are about 40 views per day. Big shock and very interesting graph.

I discovered on Facebook that the Military Wives had re-posted my blog giving it even greater prominence and they had asked people to read and re-post it themselves.

(For people not of a technical nature, who don’t “do” the Facebook thing this is like word of mouth on a massive scale.  Imagine telling your neighbour something and them ringing half a dozen friends and each of them doing the same and so it snowballs…)

I am humbled that my story has spread in this way. It has always been my ambition to get it “out there” so to speak and I would love for my writing to be published in some form. I voiced this in a comment on the MWC Facebook page and almost immediately half regretted it.

What if people think I am using them as a way to further my own goals? Would there be a backlash to my request for anyone in publishing to come forward? What right do I have to turn their story into my own? I never set out to but I long for my story to be heard too. There were lots of mixed emotions dancing around my head when I went to bed.

You see that is the other reason why my blog statistics interest me so. We all want to be loved and want to know that we count.  Numbers are a concrete way of proving our worth. One thousand people reading my blog surely can’t be wrong?

But statistics on their own can be deceiving and twisted for their own aims. One of the first things we learnt in our statistics O level was a quote

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics”

Behind each survey carried out and stack of statistics are real people with true lives and sometimes heartbreaking stories.

Numbers by themselves only tell a fraction of the truth.

We’ve all read the stories of the casualties of wars, the numbers of dead or injured. How often is it reported just how many personnel arrive home safe from a tour of duty? Then there are statistics of how many people die from heart attacks, even if the overall figures are going down, I haven’t checked,  there are still many affected and left behind...

The Military Wives have highlighted what it is like to live in their world and the difficulties they have to face. The hurdles I encounter as a widow are in some ways similar. The common ground where our stories meet in that they deal with universal emotions of love and separation. 

I have had such wonderful comments for the piece I wrote yesterday. They have truly warmed my heart and filled it with love. Some were from the choir members themselves. One said

“please always take the message to be your own - that is what it is for - we were just privileged enough to be the carriers.”

That for me summed it all up nicely. I would like my own writing to carry a message of hope as well as being an honest account of the ups and downs of life since Andrew died. If my words can reach out and help people in even a fraction of the way the choir has touched so many lives I will be very happy.

Because in the end the statistics and the numbers are immaterial as long as by sharing our lives and our stories we can remind everyone how special that simple little word "love" is.

Please remember to give your loved ones an extra special hug this Christmas.  Love really does make the world go round.

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