"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: OCD

awareness . . .

"everything's coming up roses!"

“everything’s coming up roses!”

The other night, we watched a dated movie (“Somewhere in Time” – 1980) of Christopher Reeve asking a stoical librarian to dig out old magazines in order for him to see a photograph of his old love. Now, we can “Google” topics, creating an instant research network for just about anything that we’re interested in learning more about.

After the first breakthrough a couple of days ago, I’ve had a few more. I had been reading about some OCD tendencies that I have myself. I was astonished to come across an exact description of worrywart anxiety that I have experienced for decades. Some companion behaviors were right there too. I was relieved to learn that there are some simple ways to smooth the rougher edges of OCD behavior. The basic one was awareness. A common, natural compound taken in moderate amounts might also help.

When I look around me, it appears that everyone has bits of something. There’s no longer a red line between us and those who are depressed, bipolar, manic depressive, Aspergers, OCD, borderline or are agoraphobic some of the time. Stress exacerbates behavioral oddities and normalcy reappears when things calm down. I wonder if this seesaw effect makes it harder to see patterns over time, especially if we think of ourselves as “normal.”

OCD is an anxiety disorder manifested by questioning relationships, constantly seeking reinforcement, hoarding, compulsive spending, a cycle of behaviors all directed at feeling less anxious. Like an octopus, tentacles of fear tighten so that anxiety becomes heightened, not decreased by OCD behavior. That’s an irony I didn’t understand very well until now.

At least, paring things down, turning off the spigot of spending (including food we can’t keep up with cooking before it spoils) may help. Relationships may be improved just by ceasing to question them ceaselessly. It’s a big sense of relief to think things through and finally make more sense of our world, such as it is. If you haven’t tried it yourself recently, I’d highly recommend it.

un-hoarding, part 2 . . .

I wanted to note that I’m writing this post on what’s called “Black Friday,” a day of shopping frenzy stirred up by merchants for us to acquire more and more things, hopefully ones that will make the recipients (including ourselves) happier. I’m not against shopping and acquiring stuff so much as I want to be more conscious and intelligent about my own motivations. That is why the book that I talked about in the last post has been so helpful towards developing these self-insights.

I found that I had to wade through half of the book, stories of hard-core hoarders and the author’s experiences with them before I came to what appeared to be the heart and nuts and bolts of the book. There Read the rest of this entry »

kindred spirits. . .

As a self-described loner, the number of friends I have can be counted on one hand. Most of them are loners too, a few even more reclusive than I am. They are all artists of one kind or another. Their eye, hand and spirit are usually mucking around in what they are making, the instruments they are playing or what they are reading and writing. It takes a lot to go it alone. They share an insistent curiosity that seeks out what sparks their interest, incapable of just letting it lie there.

G. said about me once, “the difference between you and other people is that you pull the trigger.” I guess he’s right. My father was like that too (“My father, myself“.) When he decided to make all of our living room furniture from scratch, he taught himself how to do it. One of our neighbors wrote to me when he died that she still remembers that about him and the simple maple furniture he made for our house. There was a wooden chair in the shape of a Mies van der Rohe chaise lounge that I wish one of us had saved.

During his African violet phase, our entire basement was suddenly filled with aisles of artificial growing lights and metal carts with layers of trays lined with potted flowers. It seemed like an odd choice of plant for him. Later, I remember that he also liked gloxinias and christmas cactus plants. When each “phase” was over, it clicked shut, just like that.

I wonder where these obsessive urges come from. I find myself doing the same thing sometimes. They feel like a binge to me. Whenever I come upon something that resonates with me, I feel it right away. It’s not just what appears on the surface but something else I feel a kinship with, an energy submerged within.

That’s the experience I had on Saturday night when G. and I watched a DVD about Margaret Leng Tan. Born in Singapore, she is a pianist living in Brooklyn who built a following through her performances playing John Cage’s compositions on pianos and on toy pianos. Her dedication to forging her own path and her sense of presence bowled me over. The energy of her performances, her large piano hands, her crisp haircut and the four dogs that kept her company stayed with me long after the documentary wound to a close.

The next day, I downloaded “The Art of the Toy Piano” on I-Tunes. I was glad to find the gorgeous blues-y Satie piece by Toby Twining played concurrently on piano and toy piano. I scrolled through twenty-four pages of toy pianos listed on eBay but didn’t see anything that compared favorably with her collection of eighteen toy pianos. I sat down at my piano and sightread the Beethoven sonata that Margaret adapted for Charles Schultz’s Peanuts character, Schroeder, that was featured in the film. I read about John Cage again. I took out “Wake Up and Cook”, a Buddhist cookbook which describes Cage’s preference for making brown rice the macrobiotic way with spring water that he drove miles to fetch in empty water jugs he brought from home.

I even wrote an e-letter to Margaret because I felt her life was so inspiring and poignant at the same time. Miraculously, she wrote back! She says she now has six dogs!

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