Referring to an earlier post

Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards. —
Soren Kierkegaard

I managed to delete my Google alerts from June 28 through July 20. I have a light enough workload today where I may be able to get through depression news from this weekend. I’m a procrastinator, of course, so I don’t read my Google alerts until I have time to actually click on the links and read them thorougly enough to write about them. I’m working on letting go of things that I haven’t looked at in an effort to manage my time more efficiently. Delete, delete, delete.

My husband used to joke that I have OCD. I don’t think it’s particularly OCD-ish to alphabetize my CD collection (digital doesn’t satisfy my need for a nice copy of a CD liner). Besides, instead of haphazardly trying to guess where that darn copy of Madonna’s latest album is, I can simply go straight to the M’s and find her Madgesty’s latest between American Life and GHV2 along with Music, Ray of Light and Something to Remember, respectively. And as for artists with first and last names? Well, they are classified by last name. Gloria Estefan can be found under "E" and Sheryl Crow can be found under "C." Why do I do this? Because my brain thinks of last names first. My brain doesn’t register that Sheryl Crow would be under "S." It’s not a system that works for everyone and I wouldn’t chastize anyone for have Sheryl Crow under "S." Bands with more than one word go under the letter that their names begin with. For example, Green Day is classified under "G" and Stone Temple Pilots is classified under "S." Bands that begin with "the" such as The Beatles or The Mamas and the Papas are classifed like other bands without the use of "the." Again, it’s not a system that I recommend works for everyone. My mind thinks "Beatles" first before I consider looking under "the." It’s not a strict system, but it’s organized enough so that I don’t waste time looking for music I want to hear.

I’m big on organization. But I’m not neat. Yes, it is possible to be messy and organized. Organization is a system that works to a person’s advantage. Have you ever found a person that had a desk so absolutely cluttered but knew where everything was? Believe it or not, that’s organization. It’s a system that may not work for the majority of people, but it works for that person. Most people are rattled by clutter.

I’m an externally neat person. At work and at school, I had no trouble keeping my workspace relatively neat. Sure, it’d get messy during the day while I worked, but when I went home at night, I made sure that papers were in place and the desk space was clear so no one feared looking for something if I was away. At home, I’m internally messy — organized but scattered. I liken myself to a slow-moving storm: I leave damage and destruction on one table before moving to another. It’s a bad habit that I am trying to break since I’ve gotten married. I’m hoping that I can keep my clutter and scatteredness in one area (the loft) in our new apartment. My goal is to have such minimal clutter in the living room area that it can be cleaned up at the end of the day or that I can stow it away quickly and easily.

So my latest obsession has been organization and attempts at neatness. Not particularly a bad goal. One day, my husband told me about how one of his friends is so anal about his CD collection, that he will spin the CD around in its case until the imprint on the CD is readable to the viewer (as opposed to opening the case and finding the CD writing upside down and facing away from the viewer). Hearing this, I thought it was a good idea to have the CD imprint facing me when I opened the case: it’s good readability. I immediately set on a task to rotate all my CDs in their case to have the imprints facing my right-side up. I quit halfway through but made sure from then on that I fixed my CDs right-side up in their cases. My husband thought I’d joined his friend in the OCD CD crazy bin.

When my husband and I moved from Kentucky to Philadelphia recently, I began taking mass transit daily. After getting off buses and trains, I walk straight home from the train station and head for the bathroom to wash my hands. I’ve taken mass transit all the time in NY and never had a compulsive need to wash my hands. Ever. Something about Philadelphia seems dirtier than NY to me. So I wash my hands every time I come home from mass transit. (But not when I use it going to work.)

The other day, I opened the bedroom door with an unwashed, mass transit-riddled hand and went into the bathroom to wash my hands. I promptly removed a Lysol cleaning cloth from underneath the sink and decided to remove germs from the doorknobs on the bathroom and bedroom doors. My husband watched me, quite disturbed. I argued that I might be developing OCD out of nowhere. He thinks that I am so worried about mental illness that I’m bringing OCD on myself. But it’s not a compulsive need to clean doorknobs all the time —  it was just that one time. (and besides, when was the last time you cleaned your doorknob? can you imagine how many germs must reside on doorknobs and remote controls?)

The next morning, we went to a diner for breakfast. I watched him try to organize a bowl with tiny half-and-half milk cups and butter haphazardly thrown in. He was doing it out of sheer boredom and then stopped. Once I saw that his work fell apart and noticed, "Gee, the milk cups and butter do look better organized," I set out to organize them myself. He took the bowl away from me and insisted why I needed to organize them. I just felt the need to. It looked nicer and prettier organized. He argued that it didn’t matter and that it would be messed up in the end anway. I argued back that I was bored and that organization, no matter what, looks better. He reluctantly gave in and let me organize the milk cups and butter. The endeavor was a remote failure but I became satisfied with a decent, doable result. As I placed the milk cups and butter away from me, I noticed the haphazard sugar holder with packets of Splenda, Sweet n’ Low and granulated sugar sticking out unevenly, not facing the same way. I thought back to Friday and my task of getting the Post-It tape flags to face the same way in the meeting room I’d set up and thought the sugar holder could use the same touch. I headed for the sugar holder and my husband pulled it away from me. Like a kid wanting a forbidden toy, I begged, pleaded and whined. He stood his ground firmly this time, saying "No." Every time I looked at the haphazard sugar holder, a little feeling in my brain went off that made me annoyed. My husband holding out on me wasn’t helping. He insisted that "every time I give into it, I feed the need." I argued that it wasn’t a big deal, that it was just something for me to do and it would look "so much better." He still said no. The food arrived and the annoyed, unhappy signals in my brain continued to go off until I finally broke down and cried. I was too distraught for several minutes to eat and simply couldn’t understand why not being able to fix a sugar holder would send me into a state of such unhappiness. My husband, completely taken aback by my emotion, said nothing for most of our meal. I was still in no mood to respond and stared at my food while eating it. He apologized for making me cry, but if everything had to be done all over again, I know he’d still hold out on me with the outcome being the same. He also apologized for joking about me having OCD. Not good to joke about mental illness with someone if you know they have a history of mental illness.

I take that back. Just don’t joke about mental illness with anyone at all. You don’t know anyone’s history. Telling someone they’re schizophrenic is far from funny.

So I’ve put myself on a new mental illness watch: Tracking my random instances of OCD. I prefer to think it’s simply my perfectionistic self spreading into other areas of my life.

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