OCD Logic

My parents divorced when I was five;
I swore never to eat another tomato.

IΒ  line up condiments and cutlery, never
step on the cracks, and everything

must
pair.

I will check that the stove is off,
once, twice, thrice and again.

I will touch wood lightly
four times, before speaking.

a place for everything
and everything in its place

the house is neat and clean,
but the weather outside is wild,

the house is neat and clean,
and inside I am calm.

I grew tired of matching the colours
of pegs on the line,

so now I use
a clothes dryer.

I will not eat a tomato;
my parents are still divorced.

_________________

Note: The ‘I’ is the sum of many people (my poems are not always just about me). OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

30 thoughts on “OCD Logic

  1. Gabrielle, this is the best poem, by far, that I’ve read on your blog. I reckon the last line should be ‘my parents are still not together’, but that’s just my opinion. Absolutely fabulous. In fact, I’m a little jealous 😦

    1. Thank you Maxine πŸ™‚ I’ll give you 5/5 for that comment – haha. I don’t think it is one of my best, but thanks anyhow. Regarding the last line – I think it needs to end with the emphasis on the final syllable to make it sound harder – the word together has a feminine ending (therefore softer) – what about ‘but my parents are still apart’ which also has a hard ending.

  2. aloha Gabrielle – why is it. that this OCD logic. makes so much sense? you must know it well. it is indeed sensical. in OCD logic as well as my own. yeah, i can understand the “I” of and in the all of us. powerful poem – that catches it’s own tail and yet keeps on spinning.

    1. Thanks Rick. I think humans can understand the logic because it applies to all of us – we all experience anxiety and we all try to control things or explain/rationalise things in an effort to control our world (organised religion is a perfect example of the desire to control existential anxiety, of which we all suffer, even if we might not admit it). Some so called OCD things like not stepping on cracks, are so common as to not be at all pathological and according to my Dad who is a historian – the desire not to step on cracks has its origins in a survival instinct (it was beneficial for humans NOT to step on cracks because they may have indeed been dangerous – a snake for example – you were putting yourself in real danger by stepping on cracks or dark lines). Most people and animals will develop stereotypical behaviours or OCD if they are put under enough stress. Animals in zoos will repeat behaviours when stressed – elephants will pace up and down etc.,

  3. i like apart more than divorce there in the end.
    i like your choice of topics Gabe. and I wonder to which degree we all have a small OCD, or at which point a silly habit turns into a diagnosed one?

    1. Thanks Dhyan – I think you will find my answer in the above comment reply πŸ™‚ OCD behaviours lie on a continuum, as do most behaviours and it is the degree to which they interfere in our daily lives that make them worthy of a diagnosis – someone who take half an hour to leave the house will have a greater problem than someone who just has neat cupboards, for instance. It is important, however, to keep an eye on OCD behaviours because they have a habit of creeping up on you and taking over your life.

  4. I had to read this four times exactly to make it an even number of times read and the last four lines I had to read four times as well to make an even eight in the reading, not that I’ve ever had OCD or anything πŸ˜‰ Well, maybe only the light switches and the lock on the door, but only during times of extreme stress when I needed to be able to control something. You’ve written a gem here my dear. πŸ™‚

    1. Hahahaha – thanks Val. Anyone would have got a bit OCD if they had had to put up with what you put up with Val and as I said above, most people and other animals will exhibit OCD behaviours if put under enough stress – in fact, they may save your sanity. One of my best friends was diagnosed with OCD (she is the one who won’t eat tomatoes). I do the peg thing and the cracks and the … – haha.

  5. There is good poetic reason to match ‘tomato’ and ‘apart’ at the end, but I agree that the hard and less ‘connected’ word ‘divorced’ shocks and so better expresses the anger. GB, you are really producing some gems!

  6. ‘so now i use a clothes dryer’ (suggested to me there is some relief found in breaking an old routine) then at the next step it is the first two lines rewoven but morphed enough to keep the voice from feeling overtly pathological, enough to feel the pattern, but not be engulfed by it or perhaps even suggests the use of it to an advantage, such as suggested in ‘the weather inside is calm’. of course it is a degree thing. like how often is the weather calm everywhere else? or, how much degree of obsessing is worth how much degree of calm?
    or cant we just accept calm for what it is and not quantify it since its just a pleasant feeling, then, how much calm should there actually be. i wonder if theres any laws on it.
    like if you can be tested for degrees of calmness. i could go on and on…..

    1. Hahaha – you can keep going if you want tipota πŸ™‚ That was me with the clothes dryer, but now with ‘going green’ I just use an indoor clothesline with no pegs πŸ˜‰ There are always more than one solution to a problem and avoidance has its place – haha.

  7. Oh, marvellous, Gabrielle! I have an aunt who matches pegs on the line and she has been tidying her house for 40 years – has newspapers from the 1960s because she has to read them before throwing them out…

  8. In many ways you are like an actor because I can feel you stepping into the shoes of the people you write about. You just got it with this one.

    One of my dearest friends has OCD and it is at times, extremely distressing for her. She has also said she gets tired of matching the colours. That line made me quite teary because I know the pressure the OCD sufferer is under when they do things like that.

    Bravo, Gabrielle. Bravo!

    1. Thanks Selma πŸ™‚ I wanted to go to acting school when I was younger – haha (it is a bit like that). A lot of energy is expended by people with OCD (and people with ASD which has many OCD features given the obsessions and rituals that they often have) – it can be very tiring for the person, tiring in a real all of body way – you can understand why they might want to just curl up on a couch or in bed and stay there for as long as possible.

  9. Gabrielle,
    Your poem is so evocative, and so true.
    A question – do you have a particular way of using your clothes dryer that replaces what you might feel when you matched up the clothes pegs on the line? I am trying to understand. My Son has Autism and OCD. Regards, Eileen, Jay’s Mum.

    1. Thanks Eileen (and thanks for stopping by). No, the clothes dryer is just so different that there is no OCD involved – removing the pegs is like removing the temptation for an addict (out of sight, out of mind). Some people with OCD, especially those with ASD will change to a new form of obsessive behaviour they are stopped from doing their preferred one -this is called the pop-up effect – eg., if they can’t chew on their pen, they will pull at their hat string (also like an addict who can’t smoke will start to do other oral activities like excessive eating or chewing). Most obsessive behaviours are rooted in anxiety (that is why OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder) and addressing the underlying anxiety is the preferred method of treatment – though very difficult (and many shrinks will just opt for the bottle of pills, imo).

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