We just returned from a wonderful adventure in the Montana winter landscape, we played in the snow and the rivers (yes IN the rivers - and I am still warming up). I'm now settling in for a month of art creation and reflection and observed my patterns and rituals to get ready for such tasks. While many of those tasks involve cleaning and organizing - it's a bit more than that. I've created a daily choreography, a literal and metaphorical 'house cleaning' that is a necessary part of my art practice.
"For many, 'OCD' has become synonymous with words like 'clean' or 'organized'—qualities most would say are good. When OCD is seen as something 'good' rather than as a devastating illness, it’s stripped of its reality" [...] "OCD isn't cute" (Fatima Tipu). There's a large difference between being obsessive and having a disorder. My family has tossed around the term for decades, and I remember my dad telling me about a doctor he visited who tossed a bunch of pens an pencils on the coffee table to see if it bothered him, my dad replied, "it's your office so it doesn't make any difference to me." He had his orderly nature at home though, and that detailed perfectionism faded as he became more afflicted by Lewy Body Dementia, but for the years until I moved out I grew accustomed to the routines and precise order he deemed important: The way the ottoman had to be perfectly lined up with the couch, the incredibly challenging way he'd finish eating first and try to clear and clean the dinner table while my mom grasped onto items to finish her meal. The obsessive way he'd clean the kitchen counters and look at them under the light for any areas not gleaming in cleanliness. And most importantly, the post-it notes marked all over the house reminding him (and us) of tasks done or not done. He'd check the doors repeatedly, and even drew arrows above locks to confirm which way was locked and unlocked. Anxiety and fear are at the root of this disorder and that festered out in my father's life as years passed. The dementia compounded it. In a few brief conversations, he shared stories of the years he worked for Howard Hughes in the late 70's. I can't imagine that didn't have an impact on my father's meticulous and obsessive nature.
It's no wonder I began creating patterns of my own; a daily choreography that confirms balance, safe passage, and tranquil creative exchanges. I often associate it with superstitious tendencies, and still hold onto one particularly quirky habit I've had since I was about 10: lifting my toes up for every tar line or crack that crosses the highway - resulting in strong and agile feet, but there's a deeper ritual there I just can't let go of. I'm discovering how to use this all towards my art and art making, and to plan ahead. Since childhood, I've let go of some and added others, I like to think my routines are more practical now (highway toe agility not included). My spouse is patient with me, and helps me achieve my 'to-do' lists. Like the article below, I've observed the inclination to adopt a playful cultural script regarding OCD - because it's 'side effects' are largely seen as a perk, and the true nature of those that suffer from this disorder in a major way are not seen as seriously. I think we can all relate to being obsessive, and being compulsive, but it's the last word, 'disorder', that's important to measure.
I'm becoming more at ease outside, where I'm free to explore and play, the impulse to find order melts away. The more time I spend outside, the more I'm aware of my patterns and choreography; the more I observe the creative organization and patterns of the natural world around me. Leaf patterns, seasonal changes, migrations, bodily response to elevations and temperature. In sum, my choreography changes. I've changed.