Embrace the OCD

I will admit it. I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I like to shove things into corners, to stack things meticulously, to prevent disorder. It’s as futile as it gets, resisting. I like to spend hours in our family’s tea cabinet, sorting out the different leaves and dried flowers. I’ll know in an instant if someone has been in my room. Others may not, because my kind of OCD looks chaotic. Only I can understand my own mess – I make a place for everything and put everything in its place.


I don’t sort M&Ms into colored piles or clean every spot from a surface like the OCD archetype – far from it. I hate cleaning. I don’t put things equidistant from a point, or arrange them in ninety degree angles. My organization has a logic incomprehensible to other obsessive-compulsives, save myself. The pencils and pens go in this cup, the highlighters and markers in this one, and the colored pencils into the third. The tape and the paper clips go together. Always. The white-out tape sits in front of the stacked stamp and stickies. Always. And my alarm clock sits slightly to the right of the desk’s line of symmetry. Always. My placement is organic, but it must be there. I don’t appear OCD at first glance, but I undeniably am.

The bonus to this, however, is that I can find anything quickly, and as it appears, without trying. I get things done, because I can’t wait till I can put my working materials back where they came from and restore order. This has also proved priceless in my early dabblings at art. It’s not so much that I am creative, but rather that I won’t stop until the paper looks like what I had in my mind. But there is nothing like the disappointment when I turn from a project, task, workout, or piece of food, incomplete. And so I had a plight. I was so focused on the product that I forgot to enjoy the fixing process. Until my zeal for music began.

My OCD for violin did not hit me until I was well into high school, and good intonation never felt so good, but I still knew I would never become a Heifetz, even if I went about practicing my whole life. Bummer. Maybe I should lower my bar, I thought to myself. I should only become better than what I was before. Then, for the first time in a decade, practicing made me happy! Because I wasn’t focused solely on an end, but rather simply striving to be more, the means became far more enjoyable. I delighted in progress itself. With this epiphany, I applied it to other things in my life as well. In reading a book, instead of being anxious for what lies written on the next page, I revel in the expectation. When learning, I’m no longer wholly impatient to transfer the information into my brain, because the acquisition of new facts couldn’t make me happier. When I go to sleep at night, I don’t worry about the next day, but I thank God for giving me the moment for the present and hope for the next.

You see, I have embraced my OCD, for I am happy when I have something to set right or strive for. Happiness is not the same as satisfaction. Satisfaction is unattainable, because perfection isn’t either. But happiness lies in the process. OCD is not a disorder, it’s a quest for order. And a quest is all about the journey, not the destination. So, if you have a pen that’s in the wrong cup, don’t be frazzled; smile as you put it in its proper place.


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