Monday, September 19, 2011

Cleaning House Makes Me Happy!?

I am admitting something on this blog.  It is something that I often don’t admit publicly but most people who know me will not be surprised by the news.   I inherited it from my parents and I have even passed it on to my son in some small ways (though maybe not as much as I wish I had).  It is hard to hide and even harder to explain sometimes but I will tell you anyway.  I have OCD (or CDO with the letters in alphabetical order as they should be).   OCD is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It is defined in my life as needing everything to be in order, wanting every place in my life at home and at work über organized, and being personally and systematically ordered in the things I do.  My sock drawer is organized by color, I have files for everything and know where they are, and my digital calendar is color coded for different types of events for each person in the family.  Sometimes it drives my family crazy.  And truth be told – sometimes it makes me a bit frazzled as it affects others.  But it is my life.

It also made me annoyed at times when I was younger and living with my OCD parents.  I would take my tea glass into the living room to watch TV or something.  Later I might go into the other room for a minute and when I returned my glass was in the dishwasher.  My Dad would threaten to leave us if we were not in the car when he was ready to go – but I do not remember if he ever really left us.  It was not always a lot of fun but they taught me to keep things in order, that on time meant being there five minutes early, and to make sure I got things done on time.  I am grateful in a way since there are a lot of things about my OCD that are very helpful in my life.  And my OCD is not debilitating – like it is for so many who deal with the condition on a daily basis.  I pray for those afflicted in ways that keep them from accomplishing all they could in their lives and for those who have overcome OCD to live full and productive lives.

But for me it is still a persistent way of life.  I get up and do thing in the same way day in and day out.  My house has to be clean and organized or it makes me cringe – and living with others who do not have OCD means I do cringe on occasion.  In academia it is a bit odd to have an organized office, but my desk has nothing out on it unless I am currently using it.  Some of my colleagues are well known for piles of books and papers in their offices to the point that no one can even visit and find a pace to sit.   I know it’s a bit cliché, but some of my professor friends make it real on a daily basis – and I love them for it (even if we cannot have a meeting in their office).

But the need for order sometimes causes conflict.  My 12 year old son and I have very different ideas about what a clean room looks like.  He thinks as long as his piles are not falling over it’s ok.  He thinks as long as the clothes are near the hamper it’s alright.  He thinks a messy desk is the sign of an imaginative mind.  He thinks the fact that all of this drives me crazy is reason enough to keep it the same.  I guess that is more a part of being 12 than it is a reaction to my OCD but it is more than likely a bit of both.

The debate in my house is about whether my needs should supersede his.  The debate is one that comes up often.  Part of me wants to teach my son the same things my parents taught me – about order and being responsible.  But part of me wants him to be his own person and create his own style.  Right now – unfortunately the OCD side of me wins more than the other side. 

What does it mean to pass something on to the next generation?   I hope it means passing on the good things.  So what I want to pass on to my son is not just flashes of my OCD.  I want to pass on compassion, love of others, faithful living, joy of life, good humor, enjoyment of reading, love of learning, care for the earth, and kindness to all.  If my son gets this from me I will be one proud and happy Mom.  I will also be happy if his room is clean but I’ll take what I can get.  

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