You never forget the bad things that made you feel good.
There is something inhabiting me peripherally, a sticky, tentacled monster, whose arbitrary grasping and releasing results in my habits, attachments, and obsessions du jour.
Anything could consume me – a task, an author, a recreational activity, music, a scenario of events. The fact that I feel compelled to quantify characteristics of obsession and attachment is in itself symptomatic.
I procrastinate like any proper human, with repetitive, useless tasks such as picking up my phone every few seconds and manually checking my multiple emails accounts and my four thousand social media profiles. Sometimes I do this on my phone even while sitting in front of the computer. But the rest of the time, I’m obsessed with something that involves productivity of a singular nature. It could be exercising excessively for a couple of months straight, or reading a two-thousand page book in two extended sittings, or indulging the urge to fill, sand, and re-stain every surface of wood in my apartment.
Certain obsessions ravage entire days and invade dreams, others are a gentle companion – not unlike human relationships.
Some obsessions, piano playing for one, are recurring, like an on-again, off-again affair.
Sometimes the Monster’s attack is a one-time deal. Overdosing on Sweet Lady Jane cake slices of every flavor in one visit pretty much ensures never setting foot in that cake shop again. Other times, an obsession retreats into a dormant state and a second merely covers it like a blanket. For example, I might abandon the study of Russian and pick up the study of guitar. The language and music bug don’t wander too far for too long.
Although an obsession can last between twenty-four hours and a full year, most average about two weeks, because they’re often creative projects. Unless they’re entire seasons of TV shows.
There are obsessions that leave no trace, like the foolish notion to take an automotive course so I could understand my car. Others have staying power and settle into the domain of hobby: hiking began as an obsession with health and my failed attempts at regular exercise. I forced everything on myself, the gym, at-home leg lifts, ballet, weights, and finally found what stuck – hills, open air, canyon views. At those times, I thank my Monster.
Be it cake, my car engine, or some guy, the obsession’s eradication is as sudden as its propagation. But my Monster’s release mechanism operates on its own accord. This can be problematic, say in the middle of writing a play, which would then remain indefinitely unwritten.
It sounds as though I’m forgoing accountability by keeping the Monster separate from myself, you say? Tell that to my Monster, and it’ll wrap its tentacles around you until you’re convinced otherwise.
If my latest preoccupation is unproductive and forces me to take preemptive measures, its addictive properties are telltale in the withdrawal I feel. I once had a gossipy but oh-so entertaining friend with whom I talked every morning on the phone while I sprinted about the kitchen making coffee and cleaning up. Eventually it became distasteful to me to have my psyche infused with constant doses of other people’s foibles, fetishes and general fallibility. So I severed the daily chatter, and not surprisingly, the friendship faded soon after. My Monster didn’t take kindly to having had no say in the release, and retaliated. I was saddled with weeks of withdrawal in which I dragged my feet through the kitchen and didn’t bother cleaning up. To this day, I miss my chatty gossip queen like I miss cigarettes. You never forget the bad things that made you feel good.
Speaking of smoking, either I tricked the Monster or it tricked me – I forget which – with a usurping obsession that dealt with my chronic longing for cigarettes: Rather than be pestered by a constant state of smoke deprivation, I became transfixed with the constant state of unbreakability – the not giving in.
The productive obsession du jour and orbiting attachments give focus to me, the host creature. It’s the Monster’s way of creating something to look forward to at all times. If the Monster neglects its duties, the host creature finds a vacuum within herself, and likens her daily navigation to sleepwalking, or having severely blurred vision. A lapse between two obsessions can be particularly vegetative. If I’m obsessed with my apartment, I decorate it, clean it, have dinner parties it. If the obsession releases, motions towards home-making are reduced to none. That my belongings continue to be freakishly organized is because simulating control is a lifelong hobby. If I am obsessed about a date, I wear wrinkle-free clothes and brush my hair. If I am obsessed with a book, I suffer a sense of loss when it ends, so that when I start a new book, I resent the new characters for a few chapters for not being the old ones.
If I’m obsessed about my future, I do everything right.
So, I suppose, the next order of business might be getting the monster to love balance?
Two constants about the Monster:
One, there must always be an obsession present for the host creature to function properly, or at all, since often the mode of functionality is synonymous with the obsession itself.
Two, while an obsession can co-exist with several unrelated attachments, there can only exist one obsession at a time, by virtue of its nature.
Preoccupations of late of varying degrees and duration include: editing footage, Raskolnikov, font design and history, snow, organizing upward of five-thousand photos, Russian, succulents, Hergé, a douchey dude, decorative pillows, coastal roads, Tsar Nicholas II, drum rudiments, modern Rome, and olives.
Having an obsessive personality doesn’t need to be counterproductive if you channel your Monster and make it work for you. As propeller towards activity on my part, obsession is at worse a personality glitch, at best, anti-depressant and speed rolled into one. Either way, when I’m not obsessed, I am depressed, and when depressed, I stay in bed.
I’d rather be obsessed than take pills.
Image source: Julia P (autumn_bliss) via Flickr.
Originally posted on Black Box Warnings
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