Read Part 1 here: Stickers on the Floor: Productivity in the Home, Part I
I rearrange the items on the kitchen counter 10 times until I get it exactly the way I want it. While doing so, my daughter is watching the last few minutes of a cartoon before her bedtime. Lights dim and her voice soft. It’s getting late. I can tell her “5 more minutes” then I reach for her storybook filled with stories I knew as a child. As I read, I can’t help but let my mind wander for a moment on the dishes in the sink or the stuffed animals on the floor in front of the TV. And then…Snap out of it. Be in this moment with your little girl. Blonde curls wrapped around my finger. She is lifting her movie star lashes to me. I feel a small layer of guilt settle on me.
While she is asleep, I’ll rearrange the items on the dining room table. The presentation is everything even if it’s just me seeing it. I begin to calm and feel centered. I can’t help but think how beautiful the silver napkin rings match the silver in the thread of the napkins. Silver lining napkins.
I do not have OCD, but I will fold the towels a few times before I get the perfect fold, and, while I contemplate the tri-fold, the socks are dangling from the basket – all a mess. Clutter here but tidiness there. Nothing matches, but, in my mind, the productivity of something in the house is what drives me to stay upright, to feel normal. If I don’t hold something in my hand and position it where I want it, I don’t feel alive.
My home is not top-notch clean, but I have to keep the mania at bay. My kitchen may be sparkling, but the rest of the house is in disarray. I keep things off balance just slightly, because just as I move on to the next thing the energy tap runs out. I’ve squeezed all I can out of it like the toothpaste that you think still has a little left. But it doesn’t. And, while the little girl and boy sleep, I gleefully tackle the stacks of books, lining them all up into a literature tower of happiness. I manage my lotion bottles by corralling them into their holding pen, artful box of gray and pink. Children’s blankets folded neatly by their books in the family room. My house feels alive. But my bed is tossed about like in a storm, a mesh of sheets and pillows. I can’t even look at it. Among all this, I still find time to write – my selfish joy. The computer humming quietly when I pull the little boy’s door closed. Stars glowing on his ceiling. In the quietness of the house, I sit and write or I stand and rearrange. Doesn’t matter what I do as long as I do it.
Somewhere along the way, accomplishing these domestic tasks has become my way of coping and recovering. It has also become my way of managing any mania I am experiencing. Medication doesn’t seem to be the only way to actually wrangle it. I’ve come a long way, however. It wasn’t long ago that I could not manage anything. I would sit and stare into the vastness that is my small living room. Lifting the clothes out of the dryer felt like an impossible mission. Now, I find myself feeling like I’ve run a marathon, accomplishments misting all around me like glitter. If I can stand, I can make the kids’ lunches. If I can walk, I can move the clean clothes to the bedrooms. No piles of laundry mocking me, mounds of shame. One small thing at a time, at least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m still working on that one. Some days I’m angry that I don’t finish what I expect myself to do. Other days, I am somewhere between happiness and pride that I’ve gotten this far doing what I’ve been doing. The house smells like dryer sheets and silver linings.