** this was originally posted in 2012, but I thought it was good enough to share again. Enjoy! **
First of all, let me be clear that I have never been diagnosed with OCD, nor am I really sure that the tendencies that I have would even be classified as OCD, but that's what I call them, and that's what I've been told by others, so until I get another explanation, there ya go.
I've always enjoyed a good list. To do lists are my forte. At work, I'm known for "the list". At home, I have a chore list, a grocery list, a meal planning calendar, a daycare planning calendar, expense tracking worksheets, and even gift giving lists. All tracked on Excel.
Oh, how I love Microsoft Excel.
They all started innocently enough. Other than the To Do List (which I've used since I was way younger than anyone should use To Do Lists), they all came about after Jena was born, as tools to help me manage what seemed like an overwhelming amount of responsibility.
I love a list. I believe lists can be invaluable tools.
And I've been thinking a lot about tools lately.
You see, a few months ago, on a Friday, I had brought my chore list to work for some reason. When I left that evening, I accidentally left it on my desk. I remembered just as I pulled in the driveway.
And nearly had an anxiety attack.
I mean, how would I know what chores to do if I don't have my list?!? How will I know what needs to be done?!?
My list, it's organized by regular chores & special one-time chores. It's a matrix in order by date-last-completed, so I know exactly how long it's been since I've done what. I check them off as I go. It tells me what to do next.
And here I was, on a weekend where Jason wasn't gonna be home, and I would have all kinds of time to get housework done, and I didn't have my list.
I can't explain to you the kind of panic that set in. I can also tell you that I knew exactly how crazy that sounded. But it didn't change anything. I was completely hobbled without that list. I think I did manage to put one load of laundry in that Friday night, and Saturday morning I took Jena and drove to my office to get the List.
And yes, I knew exactly how crazy that was. But it didn't change the fact that I needed that list.
And I've been thinking about tools ever since.
Okay, not like constantly ever since, but... you get the idea.
And then, a few weeks ago... I did a load of laundry, and didn't check it off on the list. And unlike my usual remember-within-a few-minutes-and-run-to-the-kitchen-to-mark-it-off, I didn't even remember until the next morning.
I can't tell you how big that moment was, when I realized that I wasn't having anxiety over not recording the fact that I did a load of laundry.
Yes, I know exactly how crazy that sounds.
I never did check that load of laundry off.
I did check off the next load. And the next. And various other chores.
But it was different. I felt different.
I felt... like I was on the edge of something big. I was either going to have a breakthrough, or a breakdown. And in those moments, it felt like it could go either way.
Next thing I know, we needed groceries. But I didn't have time to get my grocery list together. You know, put it together in Excel, in order by aisle, look thru my paper coupons & mark the list accordingly, look for online coupons & mark the list accordingly, check the flier for discounts & mark the list accordingly... it takes time, and I hadn't had time to do it yet. But we needed food.
So I went grocery shopping.
Without a grocery list.
Without one single coupon.
Without knowing what was on sale.
There was something liberating about that trip to Kroger.
Like, really, actually freeing.
I felt free.
I was lucky enough to be by myself, and I dawdled in each aisle, perusing items & prices for what my family would want versus what was reasonably priced. It was probably the least draining shopping trip I've ever had. I dare say I felt energized leaving that store.
And I haven't marked a single chore off my chore list ever since.
Now, granted, there are times when I worry that I've missed a chore, when our house is a mess and I think "maybe I really did need that list".
And then I remember that our house was a mess before, and maybe it's a teeny tiny bit messier than before, but... if so, not by enough to really notice.
I can see when the hamper is full and laundry needs to be done. Or the sink is full and dishes need to be done. Or the garbage is full & needs to be taken out.
Mental note: clean the bathroom.
Why? because it needs it
It's not that I didn't see these things before, it's that I was handicapped by the very tools I created to help me. Or rather I was handicapped by my dependence on these lists.
Let's say the living room floor is dirty.
my reaction then: "yuck. The floor is dirty. I need to do laundry so we have clothes to wear, and then if I have time, I can probably do one or two more chores. But I can't sweep the floor until I straighten the living room and pick up toys & things. I'll have to see if anything is higher on the list than "straighten the living room" and "sweep floors"."
my reaction now: "yuck. The floor is dirty. I need to do laundry first so we have clothes to wear, but then I should have time to do one or two more chores. Maybe tonight I'll pick up the living room & sweep the floor."
See the difference? Of course you do.
I'm thankful for my lists. I think when I started using them, when I was truly overwhelmed, when I was fighting PPD, when I was struggling with so many issues, I needed them. I needed tools to help me handle the everyday tasks that others take for granted.
Tools are great like that. Tools are meant to be used when one is lacking in the ability to complete the task by themselves.
Think about it. I mean, if you could hammer in a nail with your bare hand... would you ever buy a hammer? Probably not. You need the tool.
But somewhere along the way, my tools became my crutch.
I am better now. I am stronger. I am healed.
I am not perfect. Far, far from it. But I am ready to stop depending on my tools, and start depending on myself.
I am free.
Right now, I am not using any of my lists or calendars for home. None of them. I may reinstate one or more of them in the future (after all, I am a little concerned I'll forget to buy laundry detergent on my next grocery trip), but for now... I'm content to toddle into the world, finding my way again, figuring out how I'm gonna do this, how am I gonna manage these tasks. I'm happy to be in a new phase of home management, redefining how I will manage my home. I will make mistakes along the way, I am sure, but I also feel quite confident that in the end I will be doing a better job than I ever was before.
As always, thanks for checking in.