Every day while I am at the gym, I work out on the treadmill and step very carefully, guaranteeing each time the logo on the belt wraps around my foot will land in the same spot. If it starts to come up a little faster than I expected because I have increased the speed, I change my gait so my foot will land squarely in the middle of the logo.
When I shower, I pump the shampoo dispenser eight times, not seven, not nine, but eight. Occasionally, if I am feeling a little spunky I may change it up and pump it only four and do half my hair and then pump it four more and do the other half of my hair. When my shower is over, I put five pumps of lotion on each leg, five on my stomach, and five total for my arms. If the count is off in any way, I feel like the rest of my day is completely off.
It is not like I am superstitious, or as if I believe I will have bad luck; however, if my “counts” are out of sorts for any reason, I feel completely out of sorts and in a fog, the way you do when you are walking around in the naked dream. You know the one I mean, when you are naked, but you cannot figure out why and you keep going about your regular tasks but feeling out-of-place.
I do other things, like count stairs when I walk, count words when boring people talk, and I spell words frontwards and backwards, especially words that have eight letters in them, just for fun. The counting and spelling are mostly a sub-conscious soothing mechanism I do mindlessly when I am stressed, nervous, bored, tired, or trying to keep my mind from thinking of things that will send me over the edge.
When I look as these few silly little nuances of my personality, I don’t even let them bother me anymore, they are so much less of an interference in my life than some of the other things I used to do. When my children were little, I saw myself on video throwing a class one conniption fit because every single teaspoon to a tea set of theirs was not in place. They were 3 and 4 years old at the time; on the video they were staring at this crazy woman throwing things out of a closet looking for a plastic Little Tikes teaspoon.
Even if the video was not enough to make an impact on me to notice my annoying idiosyncrasies, I watched my older sister later; she was screaming at my five-year old nephew. He had been playing with his collection of over 500 Matchbox Cars and one was missing. She was irate because a very specific car was missing and she wanted to know where it was; I watched as she berated this waif of a boy over a missing $0.96 car. I was stunned as I saw myself in her; she knew exactly which car was missing, but he could care less.
Another sister, same disorder; same uncomfortable feeling whenever I am around her. She cleans her house incessantly. As a guest in her home for longer than an hour, you will become witness to vacuuming, counter wiping, and a constant barrage of orders to everyone who lives there.
As adult children of alcoholic parents, I realize our chances of obsessive compulsive disorder is higher than the American average; and there are four children in my family, other than my brother, the three of us girls have had major issues with the disorder. However, after witnessing the effect my sister’s behavior has had on their families, I have made a conscious decision, to try to control my outward conduct as much as possible.
I described it this way the other day to my brother-in-law: if it is so unbearable it affects other members of the family, it is no different from being an alcoholic. Both of my sisters have let their condition poison their relationships. I am certain I have been guilty of that as well.
Today, though, my counting hurts and annoys nobody… except maybe those of you reading this.