Bits and Bobs…Lists

I originally planned to write about my great experience with yoga yesterday–90 minutes of pretty intense stretching and balancing and how it left me feeling pretty centered and ready to rock.  I was even going to dazzle with some general thoughts as to the reluctance to try yoga (it’s weird, you fall down all the time, the “ohms” are obnoxious, I hate Buddhists) that I’ve heard from friends and family and try to convince my three loyal readers that yoga is not a cultish, hippie-dippie deal but an intensive neuro-muscular shakedown that leaves you feeling great.  Not to mention the Eastern religious/philosophical overtones (yin and yang, inner peace, body and spirit connection) are really no different form our general western ideas about “good stress” and “bad stress” (or “Eustress” and “Distress” if you’re feeling pretentious) and even connected, inherently, with a general assumption about the nature of Judeo-Christian “grace.”  I was literally planning the post in my mind during the “ohms” at the end of the workout but when I got up to go upstairs after finishing, I stubbed my toe on a weight and ripped open my big toe.

Serenity down the crapper.

Then, today at work, I reached for a pen while I was at my desk and tweaked my back. So now every time I walk, turn, sit or stand, I look like Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast.  I blame the yoga.  Fuck yoga.

I’ll probably try it again next week, back permitting.  At least I got half a day off work.

I’m going to try and post a video here.  It’s not really a video, just a new song by James Blake and Bon Iver, but it’s beautiful and thought other people would like it.  I should probably just listen to this than try yoga again:

Hope that works.  What is James Blake (or Bon Iver–could be either–or both, I imagine with the autotune).  “I’m in Buffalo?”  “I AM a buffalo?”  “I’m Mark Ruffalo?”  “I get fluffed a lot?”  Weird, but like I tell my kids, the words aren’t all that important.

I have another essay I’m pretty proud of, but it’s a little long, so I’m going to put it our in three parts, around a thousand words a section.

“Lists” (Part 1)

My wife and I went to see David Sedaris read in Dayton about two years back, and on the way out, we ran into Ms. Wilson, my elementary school guidance counselor.  She still held the same job, it turned out, so I figured, even hoped, that after twenty-five-years of kids after me as well as the ten or fifteen before I went to Northmoor Elementary, she would have no clue as to who I even was.  She’d probably remember Emily, I thought, whose parents taught in the same district and had just recently retired, but I wouldn’t have to submit to the small talk.

No such luck.

“Matt Lykins!  I can’t believe it!”

I had to introduce my wife.

“When Matt was in fourth grade,” she told Emily, “he always carried a little notebook around to write all of the things he had to do that day.  Isn’t that the funniest thing?”  Her tone was nostalgic, gentle, teasing—the kind of thing one hears from an aunt or older cousin at a family reunion (“…and when I turned around, there he was, holding a pile of his own shit!  The things kids do…”).

But did I detect?  Why, yes I did—the telltale whisper of concern.  The hope that whatever happened to be fucking me up in fourth grade was made shut of and done with.

Em nudged me and giggled.  I pulled the little Moleskin I always keep with me out of my jacket pocket.  “Oh,” she said, “well I guess you’re still really organized!”  She looked for an escape, found it, and exited stage right, into the evening.

A reasonable assumption: it’s remarkably easy to impress your fourth grade guidance counselor.  How hard it can it be?  “Hey, I’m not a meth addict…anymore!” or “I’m only mildly interested in foot-fetish pornography!” or “I’ve never made two cats fight to the death in a steel-ply garbage bag!”

Another reasonable assumption: there are only two or three things that bestow a deeper feeling of failure than that of disappointing your elementary school guidance counselor.

All of the above can be summarized as a slightly exaggerated but emotionally true way to introduce the fact that I make a shit-ton of lists[1].

When I was twenty-three, I spent three months in an Obsessive-Compulsive stupor.  It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time my wife had a chance to see my craziness in all its glory.  I’d spent a good deal of my early life in the same panicked daze, but my parents[2] had never sought out the help of doctors or professionals.  My wife had no such illusions.  I’m sure she watched what I was and realized that, a year-and-a-half into our relationship, there was no fucking way she could spend her life with such a fucking nut job.

Romantic love, unlike familial love to a great extent, has limits, as well as a clearly defined exit strategy, and those limits were what she ran into and used to get me right in the head.

The less I write about my escapades in the world of OCD the better; it’s a particularly grueling hobbyhorse for the reader or listener.  I would watch my parents’ eyes glazed over as I, in that particular state that only a fanatic or a teenager is unaware of[3], rehashed every tick and quiver that might mean that I was an irredeemable human being.

To unpack things quickly, as a thumbnail, I will say only that I went to my physician, was prescribed a particularly unpleasant and effective anti-anxiety medicine[4], and went through two or three months of therapy that were completely worthless in that the only thing my young wife and I could afford at the time was an hour a week with a doctoral student at the local university.  I remember that I was particularly unnerved when the PhD candidate mentioned that the sessions would be taped far classroom use, as teaching tools.  I’m sure I’d signed off on it, but in practice I felt violated.  I kept trying to work my full name into the session in an attempt to null the tapes since they revealed my identity, but she finally told me that it didn’t really matter.  I quit shortly thereafter.

Regardless, I’ve been relatively free of the kinds of crippling fugues OCD wrought on the early parts of my life.  However, I see it everyday, specifically in my maniacal need to record every task that needs to be completed for the day, and the equally dutiful line-item veto I exact as each task is crossed off.


[1] I should say now that I originally conceived of this essay as a list.  It seemed cute.  But I happen to be a teacher, and it seemed like the kind of thing that a teacher would do to impress the reader with his cuteness, so then it seemed glib.  Then it seemed needlessly stupid, if not redundant.  What is writing, in general, if not a list?

[2] And I should say now that I don’t blame them at all.  Perhaps saying even that much looks disingenuous but it’s the truth.  They come from a time and a culture that distrusts psychiatrists and embraces prayer.  They did everything they could, including spending a large portion of their free time listening to my increasingly unhinged fantasies.  It’s not like they didn’t do anything.  I have children now and I know a good part of your day is spent worrying about your kids and explaining and rationalizing away their eccentricities.  You do what you can, and hope they turn out all right.  I’m all right now, sort of.

[3] I was both.

[4] Heartburn, insomnia, excessive sweating, and the almost narcoleptic quality it endowed me with when mixed even slightly with alcohol (despite my doctor’s reassurance that mixing the pills with booze would have no ill effects) was only the beginning.  Quick tip: never tell an Obsessive-Compulsive that anything they are ingesting will lead to impotence.  Even if one’s chemical make-up makes such a thing impossible, it will lead to impotence.

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