Saturday, August 07, 2010


Have you seen those new reality documentaries on TV about people with obsessive-compulsive disorders? One is called Obsession, (people with really weird obsessions, like incessant hand-washing) another is Hoarding: Buried Alive (people who can't throw away anything) and a new one is about people who hoard animals (the woman with 97 cats).

Oh my gosh, I love with these shows! I'll admit it.

I think many of us have a secret fascination with people who are much more screwed up than we are. "How can he DO that?? Why doesn't she just throw something away?" are things we might proclaim while watching these programs. 

I've mentioned it before, but I think I have the opposite problem of hoarding. I'm a little bit obsessed with getting rid of things. I don't know why, because I'm not an exceptionally neat or tidy person. I've no need to keep things hugely organized. I just really really don't like superfluous "things" or "objects" in my dwelling-place.

Here's an example. The other day, I decided to go roller-blading, something I hadn't done in over seven or eight years. I thought I had placed my Roller-blades on a certain shelf in my closet, but they weren't there. So, I just assumed I had tossed them down the trash chute.

You see, tossing things down the trash chute is something at which I'm a bit excessive. If something's taking up any space in my apartment and I don't use it, then it goes down the trash chute -- clunk, clunk, clunk - 50 floors down. It's very satisfying to me.

(Turns out, I hadn't thrown them away. They were in the "Roller-blade section" of my storage bin down on the 20th floor.) 

Clothes, cooking utensils, appliances, electronics, you name it -- If they're not needed, then it's clunk, clunk, clunk. Dress shirts, ties, food items, some grown-up things and a tuxedo all recently got "chuted."

Big deal, right? So I have a "thing" about not having clutter. (Yes, I could donate these things, but I haven't the diligence or discipline for making those arrangements. Besides, those "things" would be "here" and "around me" until then. Brrrrr-shudder. We can't have that.)

The anti-clutter thing is minimal, really. But after watching Obsessed, I realized that I did actually have a bit of OCD after all.

Ever since I was in the fourth grade, I've always known in the back of my mind where my mother was in relation to me (what direction) and I'd never leave a pen or pencil facing in that direction. I felt that if I did, something bad would happen to my mom.

I've always had a really good sense of direction and seem to have an innate sense as to which direction I'm facing at any moment. (North, South, East, or West).  When I was sitting at my desk during the 4th Grade, I faced east. My mom was teaching high school in a classroom to the south so I always kept my pencil facing north, to the left. If I didn't, something bad would happen.

Somehow, I felt responsible for my mom's well-being. For the life of me, I really don't know how that came to be. Both my parents were supportive and loving. Nothing traumatic occurred. Maybe I was kidnapped by a Bigfoot who threatened my mom and I blocked it out. Or maybe I was just a weird kid.(My mom laughs a little too much at the little boy on "The Middle.")

Forty years later, sitting at my office desk at work facing north, I do not leave a pen facing southwest toward Texas where my mom lives. It's not like I would freak out if I was forced to leave a pen facing southwest, but it would make me uncomfortable.

Fortunately, this is not an endeavor that has taken up a lot of my mental or emotional energy over the years. I just automatically know what direction I'm facing at all times (in case I might indirectly cause my mother's death, you know) which has very often come in handy.

I never get lost.

I come out of a subway in New York, Toronto, or Chicago, and boom, southwest is "that way."  If I accidentally drive into St. Louis from East St. Louis Illinois (which I often do) and I'm halfway to Memphis, I know I'm heading south, in error, and need to turn back northeast. If I'm sitting at a banquet table at the convention center in Peoria, I automatically don't leave my pen in the ten-o'clock position. That's southwest.

So, maybe this little obsession has served me well over the years.

In my years working as a substance abuse counselor at an in-patient treatment center back in the late 90s, I've certainly come across worse things. (Lots worse.) Like the guy who spent 18 hours a day obtaining and eating women's hair. There's just no upside to consuming hair 18 hours a day. Not as far as I can tell.

My obsession may take up, maybe, twenty or thirty seconds out of my day. You may see me flip a pen around after signing the credit card receipt at dinner, but that's about it. My mom is alive and well.

At least if you're with me, we'll always know that Houston is "that way."

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At 8:42 AM , Blogger Mom said...

It would be so satisfying to drop trash down a 50 story chute.
Know which way Houston is could be important someday. You are OCD, but we need a little of that to keep life interesting.

At 1:23 PM , Blogger Folding Tables said...

Hey nice work i like keep it on ...thanks for sharing
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At 1:52 PM , Blogger JACKIESUE said...

hey you've kept your mom alive all these it must work..
I have a thing about the number seven..or things in when I arrange things on my walls or shelves, the will all add up to a multiple of 7's...when I'm watching tv and there are a bunch of people on tv i count to make sure there are at least 7 if not i kind of nod my head which means I'm counting me to make the seven and if i nod twice it means I counted the cat to make one would notice it but me..well, and Dexter the cat who gets pissed because he wants every thing to be in multiples of six..stupid cat.


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