Steadfast yet Coercive is my Friend
I put utensils in the dishwasher, without thought, without plans.
This is significant, as not all forks have their tines pointing towards the ceiling. Not all knives have the cutting edge down. Silly to some yet not inconsequential. I dare say, “To mix the spoons amongst the other silvers is somewhat delicious.” Odd I had the desire to say such in a somewhat proper manner. I might be trying to create order by using those words; create the illusion of it, order. Something upon which I know I will think.
Ruminating thoughts of creating order, creating a certain peace in the midst of the continual chaos of a full life is a difficult place from which to steer away. “I do not have the papers in their proper place,” is a remark I shudder to make, so I catch those perceived mistakes before my hands are off the file. To believe I have reached that point takes time, and much time in my mind’s file cabinet.
I have one important note which cannot be overlooked in an attempt to clarify my experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Should there not exist the time to order and manage according to my inner friend’s voice, I simply and regrettably leave the object or issue in an associated stack or grouping, real or in thought only, until I can give it its deserved time. With a family of six children, homeschooling the youngest four for the past 14 years at this point, dealing with the demands of a complicated life, which we all do, this type of organization is often left to eat away at me. It can reach and has reached the point of paralyzing me and restricting my movement.
While breathing and dreaming, I have sorted all aspects of life. I have built an Organizational Bible,of sorts. This is my link to correct perspective and peace. It is my safe haven.
It is not a minute, minuscule effort to see the world with eyes not blurred; my vision is blurred with all there is to see, hear and touch. The undefined, hazy mix has been and still is, to a large extent, a reality that causes me much stress and anxiety. Defined. Distinct. Genuine. True. Pure. These are adjectives that I have tried so diligently to see become a reality, amongst all, within all, within the entirety of living.
As it may be obvious, much, much, too much time is used in the endeavor of order. Too much is used in the effort of reaching a perceived perfect. Too much is spent in the effort of achieving rightness, as subjective as rightness is. Too much time is lost trying to break life into pieces to see how the whole is formed. As it is a method to attain these conditions, I find divisions in life and separate one from another. The divisions in these aspects of life are carried down to the smallest coin, the oldest toy in our home, the seemingly most useless piece of written information. Thoughts are spent, recently, trying to create a straight line between the political parties in our government, cleanly delineating the two, three, or more. Black and White. My rational mind knows it cannot be done, but my sidekick tries to force the issue. The order of clothing in the closet, or drawer, by type and by color, and divisions beyond, causes much stress until I have righted them. Photographs and albums now also in digital form as a means to store and share has muddled my outline of living. Add slides, movie film, video tapes, CD’s and DVD’s we have recorded, and cataloguing becomes an all-consuming endeavor. Every newsletter from a charity, political campaign or college must be mentally processed before it can be used or tucked away, neatly. Thoughts of religion consumed me for a period. The questions we all ask about our purpose in being alive, being human, would seep into my dreams, and nightmares.
To do what I have tried to do is not possible. I at one time was proud. I believed using my brain in this way helped me explain the world, life, and keep all intact so to speak. I did eventually learn it was an effort to control any anxiety or hurt, or fear. I am learning still; it does not eradicate negative emotions; this coping mechanism buries them and gets stronger with each burial.
I am learning each thought does not live alone. I am learning each item, each word I encounter does not fit neatly into the deep and far-reaching outline I have created. I have touched a tiny seed of letting go. I have felt that seed move from plant through the wind to the soil. The wind is freedom. The momentary exhilaration of not employing my own self-employed rules is somewhat new.
And it simply, purely is exhilaration. Though short-lived, I have experienced this brief, breakthrough moment on occasion. To me it is a breathtaking sight. It is very awkward to live in a new pureness, one of pure feeling, emotion and not logic. Little movements of breaking free are things of no usual consequence to those without this same invisible entity that resides in me.
It is heavy and busy and demands constant care. It is intrusive. It holds its own mind and controls mine.
To remove it and its decidedly arrogant stiffness is done slowly so as not to shock and awaken.
If movements are too large, its heart beats rapidly and fear takes room in its mind. This separate, but very much connected life lurches then forward to ruminate and press order. It sees no sense in the world without tremendous thought.
I feel the pressure to return to my lists and my alignment of….
every thought, spoken word and object.
To place a flower in a vase, without thought as to how this action fits into its place in my life, is at that moment tense. To dress unrestrained by the order in which I bathe my body and feet, fingernails and hair, apply lotions and add jewelry provokes an underground anxiety. For years, from the age of nine forward, I have organized and straightened. It became something of which I was proud, as if I had it “all together,” knew where I was from and where I was going. This desire grew into something much more. These obsessions and the resulting compulsions (actions or ruminations) took on a life of their own. My husband and I argued about whether what I was doing actually made a difference; was it necessary? I would argue that my thoughts and my rituals made life better, more organized. I argued nothing would slip through the cracks. Something did slip through the cracks. Me.
I was suffocating. The oxygen meant for me was being used by the entity that had been controlling more and more of my thoughts and actions. I, at this time, still did not see that I could be or should be separated from this presence. I believed it was me; I was it.
Through a residency rotation with psychiatry, my husband met a patient, a boy. This teenager was suffering with OCD and anorexia. Now this was during a time when OCD was not a catch phrase for casual organized behavior, as it is often used today. The term was just beginning to walk out of hospital environs and into mainstream media. My husband, upon meeting this young man, began rather quickly to see that I was living the same life, in some respects. After months, years of denial, I came to understand that my thought processes were not normal. Very difficult it was to see this and accept it. Even more difficult to change. I do now have to admit that it was a very small start to a grand, new way of life. Again, I didn’t see it at that time.
Through therapy and medicines, I still struggle but am living life now more than I ever did before. I am learning that no thought or word stands alone. No item dwells in a lonely place. No bits of information are solitary. All musings, beings, objects affect others beyond themselves. Just as the wind has taken the seed and the seed disturbs the soil, every action or non-action weighs in on another. This is the freedom I desire. I desire to move and drift and find joy in the interaction of all in life. To see and accept the amazing play between circumstances and objects, action and consequence, this is my aspiration. I want to accept the hazy mix, the interplay. It is in this home I want to stay, where my coercive friend is not taking any of my oxygen.