Tag Archives: OCD

The Perfect

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We’ve all searched for it, like the Holy Grail. The perfect _________. At first, I thought it was just one particular thing in which I sought perfection. But then I realized perfection was my standard for many things.

For me, it started with the perfect purse. With SO many important features, perfection in a purse is hard to come by. Is the strap long enough, but not too long? Will that shade of blue go with my coat? Are there enough compartments? Are they the right KIND of compartments? Are the compartments easy to get into? Does the purse have a flap, a snap, a magnet, or does it zip closed? Is it large enough for all of my stuff, or so large that it will be too heavy to carry when it’s full? Do I have another purse too similar to this one to justify buying it?

When you finally find the perfect purse, take it home and fill it with your stuff, you discover it is NOT perfect. That flap is annoying! There is NO handy pocket for my keys! This keep slipping off of my shoulder – it will NEVER do! My wallet doesn’t even fit in here! Aarrgghh!

So now you discover you need a new wallet that will fit into your new purse. And the same search for perfection begins. Will the credit cards all fit? Is there room for my checkbook? (Yes, I still have one!) Is it too bulky? Will everything fit? And most likely, when you fill that beautiful new wallet, you will discover it, too, is NOT perfect.

I could go on and on – coats, jeans, cars, houses – in every purchase, I seem to seek perfection. Even in choices for vacation spots, restaurants or radio stations, I want it all! But we never get it all. Perfection is NOT attainable. For those of us who are perfectionists, or with even just a hint of OCD, we will forever be in search of that Holy Grail of WHATEVER. And it always seems to end badly, too. Either we are overwhelmed by the choices and cannot make a decision at all, or we end up with a drawer full of wallets that just aren’t “the one” in a room we really shouldn’t have pained that shade of blue, in a house with a too-small kitchen.

The Lists Have Taken Over Again

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I know I’ve talked before about how compulsive I can be about making lists. But recently, I’ve been able to give up some of my list-making, which is quite contrary to my usual obsession with the small sheets of paper loaded with bulleted items. I’ve found that I can do without the weekly chores going on a list…the ones that you repeat every week, like laundry, cleaning, etc. I was pretty proud of myself for getting to this point, and it actually lowered my stress level about getting things done. Imagine! Less stress! YAY, me!

But I’m getting ready to go on a short vacation. Just a few days at a cabin up north. Pretty simple planning…no planes or trains…just an automobile. No fancy clothing needed, and just me, getting in the car and driving up there to relax for a few days. Easy, eh? Well, not so much.

It started with the list of things I needed to do before I go. Then the list of things I wanted to bring along to do…puzzles, books, writing materials, camera, coloring materials, etc. Then the foodstuffs for cooking in the cabin. And I couldn’t neglect a clothing list. Then I had to create a list for my house/pet sitter, because I’m sure she couldn’t find the cat food on her own, without my detailed directions, right? Oh, and speaking of directions, there’s the sketch I had to make of the route to the cabin, even though I have a smartphone that can guide me right to the door! Hey, I can’t help it if I’m a visual person.

And I’ve already revised these lists several times, as I change my mind about things, remember something, or if I’m not quite happy with the organization of the lists. And each time I add something to one of the lists, it causes me to adjust at least one of the other lists in some fashion.

Yes, I’m totally hooked on the list making again. And how much stuff does one person need for just a few days? Why can’t I just toss a few things in a bag, get in the car and go? What would that even be like? Are there people that can do that?

Creature of Habit

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I am a creature of habit. I guess we all are, to some extent. Our routines are often determined by work, family, pets, and other responsibilities. Fortunately, some of our routines are for pleasure, as well. But I also love spontaneity. Spontaneity is fun. Spontaneity keeps me young. Spontaneity is important. Burt sometimes I find myself actually scheduling spontaneity! Isn’t that a kick?!

When I find myself in the midst of some daily routine, I hear that voice in my head saying, “You are in a rut. You are becoming your father. You are doing the same thing every morning.” This scares me. But it is me. These are the times that I start scheduling spontaneity. Shake up those routines. Would it hurt if you made the coffee after feeing the cats? Could you fathom taking your pills after brushing your teeth?

If I scheduled some spontaneity, I could possibly, with a period of adjustment, get used to the changes. But then wouldn’t those changes become my routine? To break my habits, wouldn’t I have to do things differently every day? That would be truly spontaneous. Just whatever comes into my head to do next. Follow my heart. Toss caution to the wind!

But then my OCD tendencies would kick in and I’d start to fear that I’d forget something I should be doing. I don’t know if I could deal with all that random behavior. How would I ever keep track of whether I had completed all of the required tasks? I’m sure without a schedule or list I would miss something.

I guess I require a mix of structure and spontaneity in my life. Maybe the chores have to be structured, but the fun can be spontaneous. Let the dog out, make the coffee, put the eggs on to boil, feed the cats, let the dog in, make the bagel. Pack up for work, make sure the coffee pot is off, make sure the stovetop burner is off, run through your list in your head to make sure you did all those things, close the garage door as you drive out, look back to make sure you closed the garage door as you turn the corner. Yep. Gotta have the routine for that stuff.

But when I get home from work, watch out! I could actually do something different when I get home, and not just hit the sofa to relax. There is room for spontaneity. Until bedtime, when the routine kicks in again. All those things I must do before going to bed. Only those few hours free of scheduling, and then it all goes to hell again.

I guess this is why we go on vacations. So we can get away from our routines and responsibilities, even if just for a few days. No schedules. No task lists. No rules. But shouldn’t I wash the sand off my feet before I enter my Bali bungalow?

Stress Maintenance

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I recently quit a job I’ve had for 7 ½ years. I had been unhappy there for a long time, and there were many things about working there that were making me crazy. The stresses got to the point where it was no longer healthy (or any fun) to stay. After MUCH agonizing (did I mention I really have a hard time with big decisions?), I weighed the pros and cons, and decided to put my future in the hands of the Universe. As it turns out, I must have deposited enough good karma into my Universe account, because three days after turning in my resignation, I got offered a job. Things like that don’t usually happen to me. But my timing was apparently perfect, the stars aligned, and BANG, I did not have to start eating the dog’s kibble after all.

 

After turning in that resignation, I experienced immediate relief. A huge load had been lifted from my shoulders, and I was ecstatic (even though, at that point, I was worried about my future income source.) I knew I had made the right decision, and have never regretted it. And when I started my new job, I knew right away that I would be happy there, and it felt wonderful to work with a great team, doing meaningful work that made me happy. I was stress-free! YAY, me!

 

Right away, though, I discovered that the new job is fast-paced. I had to learn a lot on the fly, and I found myself surrounded by a team of really smart, really driven people. I went into high gear, asking lots of questions, taking lots of notes, and diving into all sorts of new tasks. My brain was engaged, my memory was challenged, and my skill set was expanding by leaps and bounds.

 

An interesting phenomenon was emerging. I thought I had quit my old job to reduce stress, but I wasn’t so sure that my stress level was any lower than it had been at the old job. It was a different kind of stress…challenging, energizing, and exciting, but it WAS stressful. Then I started thinking…even after having gone from a very negative, stressful situation to a much more positive one, I still felt stressed. So, I wondered, do we all have a “minimum stress level” that we strive to maintain, no matter what the situation? Do we push ourselves in whatever spot we land until we feel that surge of stress? Does it drive us? Do we NEED that stress to survive?

 

Thinking about my friends and co-workers, I quickly realized that there are some of us who operate at a high energy level, and others who are much more laid back, and seem to have a very low energy level. I’m probably one bubble off from OCD, so I tend towards the high energy level when it comes to thinking, overthinking, and obsessing over detail. But I have had co-workers who are the exact opposite…they seem to have no worries, no deadlines, and no standards of quality. I make lists, I organize my lists, I re-organize my lists, and I even write things I just finished on my list just so I can cross them off. And while I’m obsessing over my lists, those other types are cruising Facebook, talking on the phone, and even painting their toenails!

 

I realized that stress is not always a negative thing. In my case, stress gives me a certain sense of satisfaction. I think we each settle into the level of stress that is comfortable for us…I need to obsess, and they need to relax. Excuse me, but I need to go make a list of possible nail polish colors to use to paint my toenails, followed by a chart of pros and cons of painting them.